Convenience-Store in Tsukuba Robbed by Knife-wielding Man- Culprit Still At Large
By Avi Landau
Just a few years ago I remember reading a magazine article which characterized Ibaraki Prefecture as a part of Japan in which coin-operated rice polishing machines (Jido- seimaiki) outnumbered convenience stores.
I don`t know of that still holds true, but for someone living in Tsukuba City, in the southern part of the prefecture, it sure looks like the conveninece stores (or CONBINI, as they are called in Japanese) have won out. One seems to have sprung up on just about every corner.
This be be disasterous for the waistline- especially for those who get abput town on foot or by bicycle (like me)- one is tempted to stop at each one for a drink and a rice ball!
Still, in the northern part of the city- near Mt. Tsukuba, the convenience store density is much, much lower than it is nearer to the university and the station. The conbini`s there are few and far between. In fact, in my old neighborhood of Hojo (near the foot of the mountain) there were none at all.
When I was living there and wanted a late ight snack or had to make an emergency withdrawal of money from the ATM (or pay bills) I rode my bike a few kilometers along the RINRIN ROAD, a cycling path created over the now defunct Tsukuba Tetsudo Railroad Line to a Lawson`s (one of the convenience store chains in Japan).
This store had one unique feature which really stands out in my mind- a large stone MANEKI NEKO (a cat which invites customers into a shop ) in the parking lot just to the right of the entrance-way.
Such a large piece of work must have cost a pretty penny and I always assumed that the owner of the shop (and the land it was on) also had (or had a relative who had) one of the stone-work shops in nearby Makabe, which is famous its stone creations.
I never did find out if my theory was correct or not, but I can say with certainty that I have seen any other convenience store in Japan with such an impressive facade.
Who knows? – maybe that was one of the things that attracted a knife-wielding criminal to that particular shop in the early hours of October 23rd (2:20 to be exact). He might have seen the extravagant stone sculpture as being inviting.
The perpetrator, who the police estimate to be in his 20`s (based on security camera footage), entered the store wearing a cap and a mask. Threatening the 20 year old clerk with a knife, he demanded the money from the register. After be handed over approximately 82,000 Yen in cash, he walked out the door and made his getaway by bicycle (perhaps using the RIN RIN ROAD to make his escape !).
You can see the security camera footage at this site ( you have to scroll down a bit):
The criminal is still at large and local residents (especially parents with school age children) have been warned that there might be a dangerous criminal in their midst.
Japan is an extremely safe country. There is, of course, crime in Japan (even in the Tsukuba area we have our fair share), but very rarely is it violent or physically aggressive (though I do count four murders in Tsukuba that I know of which have occurred since I have lived here).
There are plenty of scams and burglaries, and there is the occassional pervert- but VERY rarely an armed robbery.
Interestingly the only other robbery that I recall having occurred in Tsukuba took place a few years ago at another convenience store- the one that just closed down in Matsunoki (beween Ninomiya and Matsushiro). There are 4 other convenience stores within a ten minute walking distance.
When you think about it, Japanese convenience stores should be a natural a magnet for thieves. They are staffed by a few part-timers (with no special security training) who often flash thousands of dollars in cash as they handle it behind counters which are not equipped with any security features besides cameras. (and what good are security cameras in a country in which wearing a surgical face mask raises no suscipicion at all in a shop)
For many foreigners (especially a New Yorker like me) this is simply an unbelievable state of security affairs. I mean, we can only admire the fact that there are SO FEW robberies here ! Especially in such hard economic times.
Anyway, I hope the police catch the culprit soon. 80,000 Yen does not go very far these days and the loot will run out in no time at all. When it does, this character might just find another conbini INVITING.