On the evening of March 18, 1984, Ezaki Glico CEO Katsuhisa Ezaki was taking a relaxing bath. Two armed, masked men broke into his home and kidnapped him, shocking his mother, wife, and children, who were all home at the time.
The assailants sent Ezaki’s company, Japanese candy manufacturer Glico, a ransom letter. They demanded one billion yen and one hundred kilograms of unmarked gold bars. Two days later, Ezaki dramatically escaped his captors by wriggling free of his ropes and breaking down a door in the abandoned warehouse where he was being held. However, the torment didn’t stop there: Glico was in the sights of the Monster With 21 Faces, and kidnapping was just the beginning.
The group of criminals sent another letter to Glico, threatening to poison the company’s candy with cyanide unless they were given nearly half a million dollars. When the company ignored the criminals’ threats, the group broke into a Glico manufacturing facility and set fire to several vehicles.
Bizarrely, the group evaded police detection while committing its series of crimes. Police in Japan were humiliated by the high-profile case, which quickly captured national attention. The group sent letters to the police, taunting them over their inability to solve the case.
The group identified itself as “the Monster With 21 Faces,” a reference to a character from a popular Japanese children’s book. Media reports on the collective’s crimes fascinated the Japanese public throughout 1984 and 1985. The seemingly untouchable criminals committed more high-profile crimes and sent over 100 letters to police, offering hints and poking holes in theories about their identities.
The public referred to the group’s actions as “crime as theater,” a Japanese philosophy that suggests that purposeful criminals can use their actions as criticisms of society.
The collective stopped its crime spree over a year after Katsuhisa Ezaki’s kidnapping. Superintendent Yamamoto took his own life out of shame from the police’s inability to capture the criminals in August of 1985. This event seemingly brought the group’s crime spree to a halt.
“Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police died. How stupid of him!” the group wrote in its final letter. “If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it’s not us but someone copying us. We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life. Monster With 21 Faces.”
Even though the statute of limitation on the group’s crimes has now expired, no one has come forward to admit to the actions. The true identity of the Monster With 21 Faces remains a mystery.