Gangsters, grandmothers and gold: Japan's new crime wave -- Jun 15
Sometimes the perpetrators are gangsters. Sometimes they are rather less accustomed to the criminal life. In one case, the ringleader of a middle-aged, female crime ring was said to be a 66-year-old woman.

An old-fashioned crime is experiencing a resurgence in Japan: gold smuggling. The authorities say they are contending with a startling rise in the amount of gold being brought illegally into the country. The smugglers --- an array of professional criminals and enterprising amateurs --- profit by dodging import duties and taxes, in some cases worth millions of dollars. Arrests have jumped 40-fold in just a few years.

The smuggling has gained national attention because of a spate of high-profile episodes, including a brazen gold robbery by thieves dressed as police officers; the seizure of multimillion-dollar gold cargoes from fishing boats and private jets; and the foiling of the smuggling ring the police have said was organized by a 66-year-old housewife.

Crime rates in Japan are among the world's lowest and have been falling further as the population ages. But some nonviolent crimes, like shoplifting or embezzlement, have remained more common than other offenses --- say, murder or armed robbery.

Experts say gold smuggling is the type of crime that might appeal even in law-and-order Japan: It requires no violence, has no victims except state coffers and does not call for an aging person to carry a gun.

"Psychologically, it's something you can do more casually than drug smuggling," said Takahisa Urushibata, a criminologist at Osaka University of Economics and Law. "People see it as an easy way to earn extra cash, almost like a part-time job."

In small amounts, gold can be easy to smuggle. Customs officials report that people carry it into Japan in pouches sewn in their underwear and in bars taped to the bottoms of their feet.

This month, the police in central Japan arrested five women in their 50s and 60s on suspicion of hiding nearly 70 pounds of gold in their clothing on flights from South Korea, a haul worth about $1.2 million.

The woman accused of leading the group, the 66-year-old, admitted making eight such trips in the past three years, according to the police. Criminals in Japan covered the airfare and hotel bills of her and her companions and paid them $200 to $400 per pound of smuggled gold. (The women were in custody and could not be reached for comment, directly or through legal representatives.)

News source:
Jun 22
Japanese virtual mall operator Rakuten said on Thursday it will open an online room-sharing marketplace now that the country is poised to lift a ban on room-sharing for travelers. (Nikkei)
Jun 22
Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested a male executive at Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) for allegedly pouring an illegal sex enhancement drug on the face of the woman earlier this month, reports TV Asahi (
Jun 22
On 19 June it was announced that three teens were arrested for the robbery and assault of a 20-year-old man. The victim was on his moped when a cigarette was put out on his face and his bike and helmet were stolen from him. (
Jun 22
Sayako Kuroda, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, assumed the post of supreme priestess at Ise Jingu this week, the ancient Shinto shrine in central Japan said. (Japan Today)
Jun 22
Japanese authorities have created a new map of a remote island whose area has expanded through volcanic activity. (NHK)
Jun 22
Amazon Japan aims to build a team of 10,000 independent couriers in the Tokyo region by 2020 to continue offering same-day delivery service without relying on major parcel delivery companies. (Nikkei)
Jun 22
Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito returned home on Wednesday morning from a week-long official visit to Denmark, arriving at Tokyo International Airport at Haneda on a Japanese government jet. (Jiji)
Jun 22
The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan is continuing to increase. It hit a new record for the month of May. (NHK)
Jun 22
A total of 249 music school operators in Japan have launched a group lawsuit against music copyright management body JASRAC's plan to collect royalties on music played in lesson time. (Jiji)
Jun 21
Heavy rain hit a wide area on the Pacific side of the Japanese archipelago Wednesday, disrupting traffic and prompting local authorities to issue evacuation advisories for around 250,000 people in central regions due to possible flooding. (Japan Times)