The unbelievable prison break in Japanese history

Yoshie Shiratori, born in Aomori, Japan was known as “the man no prison could hold.” Shiratori had escaped from prison four times.

Yoshie had worked in a tofu shop and later as a fisherman to catch crabs. He had failed several businesses and became addicted to stealing and gambling.

At first, Yoshie Shiratori was falsely accused of murder and robbery in 1936. He was sentenced to prison in Aomori. The guards at the prison would punish him harshly. His first escape was through picking the lock of his handcuffs. Shiratori had picked the lock with a short wire he found from a wooden bathing bucket. He was recaptured for stealing supplies from a hospital. Three days later, he was sentenced to life in prison for escaping. Six years later, in 1942, Shiratori was transferred to Akita prison.

At Akita Prison, the guards punished him much worse. He was kept in solitary confinement with only an air vent on the high ceiling of the cell. Somehow, Shiratori managed to climb the impossible smooth walls of his cell to reach the air vent. He would climb back and forth every night to loosen the vent to get out.

Shiratori was exhausted from all the escaping and hiding. Three months later, he decided to go to the home of a police officer, who was the only one kind to him. However, the police officer handed Shiratori over to the authorities. Since then, he vowed to never trust another police officer ever again.

One year later, he was transferred to Abashiri prison in Northern Hokkaido. It was one of the worst prisons for criminals in Japan. Shiratori was transferred for a second time. But luckily, he had yet succeeded to escape the infamous Abashiri Prison. How?


Every morning, Shiratori would spit the miso soup on the doorframe of his cell. The saltiness from miso soup would rust and weaken the door frame. In 1944, during a blackout in wartime, Shiratori dislocated his shoulder and squeezed out to escape from a small space where the guards would slip his food. Now, Shiratori had escaped the prison for the third time.

Shiratori was yet again caught for escaping and kept in Sapporo prison, Sapporo. He was sentenced to death from the Sapporo district court. Moreover, Shiratori was kept under 24 hrs surveillance with six armed guards. He was also not handcuffed.
Shiratori was locked up in a specially made cell that would prevent him from escaping through the air vent in the ceiling. As the attention was given more to the ceiling, meant the floor of the cell was completely ignored. Eventually, Shiratori escaped by unlocking the bolts of the cell’s wooden floorboards. He got out of prison by digging with a bowl.

A year later, it was said that Shiratori was offered a cigarette by a police officer as cigarettes were luxurious after the war. He was moved by the police officer’s kindness. Shiratori confessed by being an escaped convict. The authorities noted all his four escapes and that he did not harm any of the guards. He was revoked from his death penalty but was given 20 years in prison and transferred to Tokyo. Shiratori was in Fuchu prison till 1961. He was also given parole to visit his daughter. Shiratori lived for another decade and eventually died of a heart attack in 1979.


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