The cameras had been massed outside a Tokyo detention center for hours waiting for the shot, but when ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn finally emerged, he was in disguise and almost unrecognizable.
The first hint that something was afoot came when a cart was wheeled out of the detention center, with stacks of blankets piled up high.
Photographers began snapping and cameras zoomed in as the blankets were piled into a black van parked at the door by police and people in civilian clothes.
Were these Ghosn’s things — and where was he?
And then suddenly police officers started to file out of the building, all wearing standard issue dark caps as well as the medical face masks commonly seen in Japan during cold and flu season.
The phalanx of officers seemed to suggest that Ghosn would soon be emerging behind.
But who was that? A short man wearing a light blue cap unlike the others. His work jacket was a similar dark hue to those of the officers, except for some bright orange reflective stripes.
Could that be Ghosn?
A cacophony of camera shutters clicked as the man calmly strode the few steps from the detention center doors, but most of his face was covered with a medical mask.
He turned slightly, and his eyes were visible behind a pair of dark-rimmed glasses. Only a glimpse, but enough to confirm that the fallen auto titan was now out of detention.
He could hardly have looked different from the man who flew around the world on private jets and once threw a lavish party at France’s Versailles Palace.
Stripped of his sharp suits, with his trademark bushy eyebrows obscured by his cap and glasses, and a mask covering most of his face, the disguise was almost good enough for him to slip past.
Ghosn said nothing audible as he walked out, his hands empty.
He did not acknowledge the media massed at the perimeter of the center’s grounds as he walked toward a silver van that appeared intended to complete the disguise, replete with a workman’s ladder strapped to the top.
The man who once headed Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors and Renault climbed into the minivan — Suzuki brand.
A camera zoomed in on him inside, showing his head tipped slightly into his hand, as though he were trying to hide his face.
There was no sign of his wife and daughter who were earlier seen entering the detention centre.
Several police officers on motorbikes followed behind in an escort as the van pulled away from the center, its destination unclear.
The release sparked a furor in the Japanese media and on Twitter, where the sight of a man once hailed as a national hero dressed in a workman’s disguise inspired mirth and confusion.
“Mr. Ghosn clad in work clothes is enjoying a ride in a minivan,” joked one Twitter user in Japanese.
“Ghosn’s disguise, couldn’t it be a bit better?” asked another.