Let's discuss the capture of the Shikoku prison escapee

This week’s featured article


A fugitive who eluded thousands of police officers on a tiny island in the Seto Inland Sea for more than three weeks was finally caught Monday 70 km away in the city of Hiroshima, police said.

Since 27-year-old Tatsuma Hirao escaped from a low-security prison in Ehime Prefecture on April 8, the police had been searching for him on Mukaishima, a forested 22-square-kilometer island between Honshu and Shikoku with a population of around 20,000.

Hirao was quoted by the police as saying he swam across a narrow channel at some point to exit Mukaishima and reach the mainland.

According to the Hiroshima Prefectural Police, which has jurisdiction over Mukaishima, officers questioned Hirao on a street near Hiroshima Station after receiving a call from an internet cafe at around 11:30 a.m.

After he was captured, Hirao reportedly said he was “tired of running.” The police said he was carrying around ¥20,000 in cash.

The authorities began looking for Hirao on Mukaishima after a stolen car linked to him was found there. Though security was tight at police checkpoints and a massive search was underway, the narrowest point between the island and Honshu is only about 200 meters wide, making it possible to swim across despite a strong current.

According to the police, several thefts were reported during the search on Mukaishima, where the forest cover and hilly topography hampered their efforts.

The search was also complicated by the fact that the numerous vacant houses on the island were off-limits to police searches without permission from the owners. In many cases the owners could not be identified.

Hirao escaped from Matsuyama Prison’s Oi shipyard in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, last month. The shipyard is a rare open-type prison facility without constant supervision of inmates. Prisoners sent there must have a clean record devoid of escapes and suicide attempts. Oi shipyard has seen 19 other people escape since it was established in 1961.

Hirao began serving his term in December. His sentence was to last until January 2020.

While insiders at the prison said Hirao was “a model of the model inmates,” he reportedly told the police that he escaped after “becoming disgusted with a relationship” at the prison.

First published in The Japan Times on May 1.

Warm up

One-minute chat about something you want to escape from.


Collect words related to prison, e.g., crime, police, rehabilitation.

New words

1) fugitive: someone on the run, e.g., He deserted the army and lived as a fugitive.

2) elude: to escape, e.g., You can’t elude the NHK fee collector.

3) jurisdiction: legal power, e.g., The case is under the jurisdiction of the Japanese courts.

Guess the headline

Shikoku p_ _ _ _ _ escapee caught in Hiroshima after t_ _ _ _ weeks on the run


1) Where did Hirao escape from?

2) Why was the search on the island difficult?

3) According to Hirao, why did he escape?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you do to keep your things safe?

2) What do you think about this story?

3) How do you think the prison system in Japan could be improved?


当初の見込み以上に長期化し多くの人員を 投入して世間を騒がせた大逃亡劇が終わりました。

逃亡期間中、潜伏の可能性がささやかれ不安に包まれていた地区にはこれでやっと日常の暮らしが戻ってきたことでしょうが、この 一件はそのような日常の暮らしの中にある 課題をも浮き彫りにすることとなりました。



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