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Yoshie Shiratori – The man who always escaped

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Aomori Japan,1936 Prisoner Yoshie Shiratori has had enough. He was forced to confess to a murder he did not commit. Falsely imprisoned in Aomori, beaten and tortured every night by prison guards. Prosecutors were seeking for death penalty for him. Yoshie thought of escaping the prison but it wasn’t easy to escape. He kept record of everyday patrol time of guards which always had a gap of 15 minutes. In that time he would pull out a metal wire which he got from bathhouse and started to pick the lock. He somehow managed to get success in it. But there were more locks ahead. He knew he do not have enough time before the guards return, so he picked every lock in his way and made his escape.

Three days later he was caught again stealing supplies from a hospital. He was back to Aomori. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for his escape. Away from his wife and daughter he was desperate to make a move. In 1942, he was transferred to Akita jail in Akita City. He was abused even worse there than Aomori. The guards would force him for manual labor and made him sleep on concrete floor in winters. He was kept in a confined room whose ceiling were very high, the wall were made slippery so no one could climb to the one window up above. They also handcuffed Shiratori all the time. The head guard, Kobayashi felt pity for him and checked up on him time to time.

On the stormy night of June 15, one of the guards on patrol duty looked inside the Shiratori’s cell and was shocked to see the cell empty. Yoshie Shiratori had escaped again. What people did not know about him was he was a expert lock picker. He freed himself from the handcuffs. Surprisingly, he was also a good climber. He climbed up the slippery wall and made it to the window. The window had wooden cover from outside and were rusting. So, every night he would climb the wall try to move the rusting window and make it lose. On the night of June 15 , it was raining heavily and he chose that day to escape so no one could hear his footsteps because of the storm.

Three months later on September 18th, the head guard Kobayashi heard a knock on his door. To his surprise it was Yoshie Shiratori he let him in, fed him and heard to everything he had to say. Shiratori said he didn’t mind staying in the prison but the amount of abuse he faced was the only reason to escape. He wanted to file a lawsuit on Japanese Prison for corruption and the abuse they had done to him. He wanted Kobayashi’s help to testify against the prison as he was only the one who treated Shiratori with respect. While Yoshie was in toilet, Kobayashi called the police. He was back again in the jail.

This time he was sentenced to 3 more years of life imprisonment and was sent to the northern part of Japan were the weather always remained cold. He was now in Abashiri Jail. Kept in summer clothes in harsh winter made his body weak. He was handcuffed with iron rings which required two metal specialist to open. The food served there was rice, miso soup and soya sauce. The windows were made small so a person could not pass through it.

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Yoshie always made sure to save some miso soup. He pour the miso soup on the window nut bolts and his iron handcuffs. The salt amount in miso soup oxidizes the iron material thus rusting them and weakening it. After 6 months finally the nut bolts started to drop off and the window could now be broken. One of the expertise of Yoshie was he could dislocate his joints however he wants, he then dislocated himself to get out of the small window.

Miso Soup

For 2 years Yoshie was not found. He had isolated himself in a cave and hunted animals to survive. Out of curiosity, he came out of the cave after 2 years and saw English people everywhere. He went to a local shop and read the newspaper. It was 1945 and America had won the war against Japan. He was a free man now. He ran for 50 days towards Aomori City to meet his family. While passing through a Tomato farm, he plucked a tomato and ate it. The farmer saw this and attacked him. In the process of self defense he killed the farmer. He was arrested again.

This time he was given a death sentence and was sent to Sapporo Prison in 1947. The Americans came to know about his abilities to escape the jail thus was kept under 24 hour surveillance with 6 guards always watching him. Yoshie always looked at the ceiling thinking of a plan to escape again. Well that’s what the guards thought. But Yoshie had already begun his escape by digging below the futon he use to sleep on. One day he overslept and guards kept on asking him to get up. When he did not wake , they went inside the jail only to find the wooden slates.

Yoshie had escaped again. He ran off and sat on a bench nearby. A police officer sat beside him and started a conversation. The police man did not know who Yoshie Shiratori was. Yoshie was scared but he kept his calm. Meanwhile, the police man offered him a cigarette. In Japan, cigarette was one of costly item and seeing this gesture from police man he cried. He confessed who he was. He was arrested and taken to court.

Judges considered his plea after the number of times he was escaped. They acknowledged his lawsuit against the prison abuse and his death sentence was revoked and reduced to 20 years. He was treated well inside the prison. In 1961 he was finally a free man who had spent 25 years of his life escaping the prison. He went to meet his family, unfortunately only his daughter was alive. He was 41 years old now and was free to move on the streets.

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