A Man Who Escaped From Inescapable Prisons 4 Times

7 months ago

Aomori Prison, Japan, 1936...Yoshie Shiratori was walking back and forth inside his prison cell, contemplating how he was wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit... He didn’t deserve to live the rest of his days as a prisoner. He needed to escape this filthy, cruel, and cold place where he was being mistreated every single day, but how...?

Aomori Prison was not the easiest one to escape, so he needed to be clever and patient to be able to come up with a solid plan. Shiratori started by observing the guards’ routines. He was aware that even one tiny mistake could bring an end to him, so he had to memorize their every move with great precision.

After studying their schedules for months, he realized that there was a fifteen-minute gap in their patrol time from 5.30 a.m. to 5.45 a.m. This was it! He had found his escape window! But then there was the problem of how he was going to pick his cell’s lock.

Shiratori was not the one to give up in the face of one minor inconvenience! Prisoners were provided with bathing buckets when they were inside the bathhouse. To his surprise, Shiratori realized that these were wrapped with a metal support ring which he could use as a wire. So, one day he smuggled one back into his cell and waited for his moment to freedom. When the clock struck 5.30 a.m. and the coast was finally clear, Shiratori made his move. His hands were shaking due to the cold as he tried to pick the lock, and the fear of getting caught did not help, either...

It took him a few minutes, but he was finally able to kick his cell door open and run to his freedom. At 5.45 a.m., guards returned and checked his cell. To them, everything looked normal. Shiratori was sound asleep in his bed. But of course, what they didn’t realize was the fact that it was not actually him who was under the blanket. Before he left, Shiratori had placed pieces of floorboard onto his futon to trick the guards and buy himself more time. So, nobody suspected anything until the next morning, but by then Shiratori was long gone!

However, this was only the beginning of Shiratori’s story, who would later be known as the legendary Prison Break Magician! Three days after his first escape, Shiratori got caught again while trying to steal supplies from a hospital. And just like that, he was back in prison... This time, he was sentenced to life for his escape attempt. He had no hopes to see his wife and daughter ever again... All those months of planning were for nothing...

And on top of everything, in 1942, he got transferred to Akita Prison where the conditions were even harsher than before... The guards who had heard about his escape attempt were determined to make an example out of him. In addition to all the extreme manual labor he had to do, he was forced to sleep on the hard concrete floor during the severe winter cold. And when he wasn’t working, he was placed into solitary confinement for extended periods of time to make sure he could never attempt anything “funny”...

You see, this isolation cell was specially designed to keep escape artists from escaping. It was very small, had a very high ceiling, and smooth copper walls that would make it impossible to climb. In addition, there was no sunlight whatsoever. The only window in the cell was the small one located in the ceiling. And on top of everything, Shiratori was handcuffed and mistreated by the guards at all times.

However, one of them, Kobayashi, took pity on him and was concerned for his well-being. That’s why he checked up on him from time to time, which made his miserable life a bit more bearable inside this awful place. On the stormy night of June 15th, at around midnight, the guards peered into the solitary cell and couldn’t believe their eyes! Shiratori was nowhere to be found and all that was left were his handcuffs! But how did he do it...?

First of all, Shiratori knew all the tricks to get out of cuffs, so they simply didn’t work on him. Once his hands were free, by pressing his palms and soles of his feet on the smooth copper walls he climbed the unclimbable wall with ease. The ceiling window was sealed, but Shiratori noticed that the wooden framing around it started to rot. So, night after night he climbed there when the guards weren’t looking and loosened the framing bit by bit. He finally succeeded in breaking the rusted fittings. However, he waited until one stormy night so that when he was out no one would be able to hear his footsteps on the roof.

Three months later, Shiratori knocked on the door of the person whom he thought to be his friend, Kobayashi. He wanted him to stand by his side as he fought against the corrupt prison system. Since he was the only guard who respected him, Shiratori felt like he could trust him to do the right thing. But this was a big mistake... When Shiratori went to the bathroom, Kobayashi wasted no time informing the authorities that he was there. So, Shiratori was arrested and sent back to prison for a third time...

Since he became something of a legend at this point, the authorities wanted to make sure he could not escape for a third time. So they sent him to the most notorious and high-security Abashiri Prison. It was in the northern part of the country and got plenty of snow, so no prisoner dared escape it with their thin uniforms.

At first, he was thrown into an open cell exposed to the extreme cold while still wearing his summer prison uniform, and the guards were awful to him. One time, he got so angry that he broke his handcuffs in front of them. But that just made things even worse... He got locked in a cell wearing heavy iron restraints fitted around his ankles and wrists, which required two hours to unlock by a blacksmith. Shiratori vowed to escape, but this time it all seemed impossible. Yet again, he found a way...

Every day when the guards delivered prisoners their meals, Shiratori would drip his miso soup on his iron shackles as well as the food slot on his cell door. This ever so slowly wore down the metal, and finally, he was able to slip out of the chains. The hole, however, was still too small to fit a person, so Shiratori dislocated his own shoulder to slip through the hatch. He was a free man once more as well as the first man to ever escape Abashiri Prison. He went into hiding for over a year but was caught again after he had a fight with a farmer for stealing a tomato from his farm.

Authorities were not going to leave anything to chance now, and they locked him up at the Sapporo Prison. The only opening in his cell was smaller than his head, and there were guards standing in front of it 24 hours a day. So you can imagine the shock they felt when they couldn’t find Shiratori there one day. This time, Shiratori managed to escape by digging a tunnel right under his bed using a miso soup bowl.

He was a free man for a year until one day an officer sat next to him on a park bench. He didn’t realize his true identity, but Shiratori was so moved by his kind attitude that he decided to reveal himself. He was arrested once again.

But this time, having reviewed his case, the court revoked the harsh conditions of his sentence and sent him to the more comfortable Fuchu Prison in Tokyo, where he was released even earlier for good behavior. He was finally able to reunite with his daughter as a truly free man...


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