It's the land of the rising sun – but Japan also hides a rather dark side.
On Friday the fun of the Olympic Games will begin with the opening ceremony in a nation which traditionally enjoys a low crime rate.
Yet the country – where capital punishment is still in force – has also witnessed some shocking crimes in history from gruesome murders and terror attacks to dramatic heists.
Here James Moore looks back at some of the most notorious cases…
THE MISSING BRIT
In July 2000 former flight attendant Lucie Blackman, 21, went missing while working as a bar hostess in Tokyo.
It wasn’t until seven months later that her body was discovered in a seaside cave 30 miles south of the capital. Shockingly it had been cut into pieces and encased in concrete.
Millionaire businessman Joji Obara, who lived nearby, was soon connected to her death and police found videos of him raping and drugging scores of other women – with up to 400 victims.
He was also involved in the death of Australian Carita Ridgway, 21.
But controversially Obara was only convicted of rape and manslaughter for his string of crimes, and only of dismembering Lucie.
Her remains were too decomposed to establish how she died, meaning a murder rap wouldn’t stick.
Obara, branded a “monster” by Lucie’s campaigning father Tim, is currently serving a life sentence.
THE TWITTER KILLER
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Twisted Takahiro Shiraishi was dubbed the ‘Twitter Killer’ after meeting his victims online using the popular social media platform.
Targeting vulnerable people using the handle “hangman” the serial killer lured his nine victims – eight women and one man, aged between 15 and 26 – to his home. Then he strangled and dismembered them.
He was caught when police searching for one of the missing women found an online link to him and discovered body parts at his flat in Zama, near Tokyo, on Halloween night in 2017.
Remains including heads, arms and legs had been stashed in coolers and toolboxes at the “house of horror.”
After pleading guilty he was sentenced to death in December 2020. Now 30 he’s awaiting execution.
HORROR ON THE SUBWAY
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About eight million people use the Tokyo subway system daily. On March 20, 1995, during morning rush hour, five bags of deadly Sarin liquid were punctured on trains across three lines of the metro.
Within minutes commuters were choking and vomiting from the effects of gas released by the nerve agent which was first developed by the Nazis. The attack left 14 people dead and 5,800 injured.
Police identified the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo was behind the terror attack and 200 members were rounded up.
Thirteen were sentenced to death and executed including leader Shoko Asahara, 63, in 2018 by hanging. He had wanted to spark a Third World War.
THE “MYSTERY COP” ROBBERY
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It was the biggest and most daring bank heist in Japanese history.
On December 10, 1968, a uniformed officer on a police bike raced to stop four security staff from the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo in their car.
In the boot were metal trunks containing 300million yen (more than £7million at today’s rates) destined for Toshiba factory workers.
He told them their boss’ home had been blown up and there were reports of dynamite in the car.
The bank employees got out while the officer went underneath the vehicle then emerged saying it was about explode. Seeing flames and smoke the bank staff fled.
Then the “policeman” got in the car and calmly drove away with the cash, leaving the flare he’d deceived them with behind. Despite a massive investigation, no culprit has ever been found.
THE CANNIBAL KILLER
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Evil Tsutomu Miyazaki abducted four girls under seven between 1988-9 then killed and dismembered their bodies before sexually molesting the corpses.
He drank one victim’s blood and taunted their families and police with letters, even leaving the charred bones of one of his victims on their parents’ doorstep.
Caught when he tried to abduct another girl from a Tokyo park and returned to retrieve his car, police found more than 5,000 pornographic videos at Miyazaki’s home.
It led to a controversy about Japanese anime and manga culture.
Miyazaki, who blamed his crimes on a alter ego called “Rat Man”, was later sentenced to death. He was executed, aged 45, in 2008.
THE CARE HOME BUTCHER
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In the early hours of July 26, 2016, a man broke into the Tsukui Lily Garden in Sagamihara, tied up members of staff and went from room to room slashing the throats of its disabled residents.
During a 40-minute rampage he killed 19 people and injured 26 others before fleeing.
Two hours later Satoshi Uematsu, 26, handed himself in at a local police station with a bag of bloodied knives admitting: “I did it.”
He was a former employee at the home, who had adopted Nazi beliefs and callously became convinced disabled people didn’t deserve to live.
Despite pleading not guilty at his 2020 trial, on grounds of diminished responsibility, he was sentenced to execution and is currently on death row.
THE SCHOOL MASSACRE
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The mass killing of children at Dunblane by Thomas Hamilton in 1996 and at Columbine High School in the US in 1999 have gone down in infamy.
But Japan suffered a similar tragedy on June 8, 2001, when eight students at the Ikeda Elementary School in Osaka, aged between six and eight, were stabbed to death, with another 15 people left injured.
The perpetrator of the brutal kitchen knife attack was convicted rapist Mamoru Takuma, 37, who had formerly worked at the school as a caretaker.
Sentenced to death for the multiple murders he showed no remorse saying: “I should have used gasoline so I could have killed more than I did.”
He was executed by hanging in 2004.
THE “BLACK WIDOW”
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When an autopsy on Chisako Kakehi’s fourth husband Isao, 75, revealed traces of cyanide in 2014 she was arrested.
She was soon dubbed the “Black Widow” it emerged she had joined dating services in search of rich, childless men, then secretly poisoned two boyfriends and her husband just a month after their marriage. Kakehi pocketed £6.5million from insurance payouts via their deaths.
The 74-year-old also attempted to kill a fourth man, but wasn’t charged over the demise of three other partners.
Sentenced to death by a Kyoto court in 2017, her appeal against the death penalty was quashed last month though she’d previously promised to go to her execution “smiling.”
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