YAMAGUCHI (TR) – Over a 48-day period, thousands of members of law enforcement sought the whereabouts of Junya Hida, who escaped from a police station in Osaka Prefecture following a meeting with a lawyer.
Over that term, police leaked numerous theories to media outlets about his activities, including that he had altered his appearance and was committing thefts. As it turns out, he spent much of his time hiding in plain sight, reports TBS News (Oct. 1).
At just before 6:00 p.m. on September 29, an officer apprehended Hida at a roadside shop in Shunan City, Yamaguchi Prefecture on suspicion of shoplifting canned drinks, a pork cutlet dish and bread valued at just over 1,000 yen. Based on a tattoo of a rabbit on the leg of the suspect, the officer realized that the suspect was the fugitive who bolted from the Tondabayashi Police Station on August 12.
Upon his apprehension, Hida boasted a deep tan, stubble on his chin and closely cropped hair. He was in possession of a white bicycle, tent, a saucepan and a large number of seasonings. Police believe he stole the bicycle in Habikino City, Osaka, located about 400 kilometers from Shunan.
Since the apprehension, police have learned that Hida used his stolen bicycle to travel through the southern part of the country over his final week on the run.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Three weeks ago, he met a 44-year-old man in Kanonji City, Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. Also in possession of a bicycle, the man joined Hida in pedaling across the island to Ehime Prefecture. They then made their way to Hiroshima Prefecture on the island of Honshu via the Shimanami Kaido, a 60-kilometer long toll road.
Hida then visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Hiroshima City and the Kure Maritime Museum in Kure City. He also camped at a site near the peace memorial.
The pair then moved on to Yamaguchi. On September 25, the male proprietor of a roadside stand in the town of Suo-Oshima snapped a photograph that shows the fugitive grinning as he holds a sign whose text reads: “Here I am, on a bicycle tour across Japan!”
“They wanted to put up a tent”
“On the 18th, that was the first day I talked to him,” the proprietor, Ryuichi Okazaki, tells the network. “They wanted to put up a tent. But since it was raining and windy, I let them use the adjoining warehouse.”
The duo also visited an onsen hot springs resort in the same town. The onsen proprietor says that they were there for about five hours. “When I told them to do their best, they gave a subtle acknowledgement that they got my meaning,” the Shinichi Yamane proprietor said.
Police in Yamaguchi also arrested the travel companion of Hida for stealing the bicycle he was using in Wakayama Prefecture. During questioning, he claimed to not know the identity of the fugitive.
Since May 25, Hida has been accused of four crimes. In July, police arrested him for theft and the rape of a woman, aged in her 20s, in her residence in Osaka Prefecture. The day after his apprehension in Yamaguchi, police also accused him of aggravated escape.