50 Years On the Lam: Kirishima Satoshi, Japanese Bombing Suspect, Dies in Hospital

50 Years On the Lam: Kirishima Satoshi, Japanese Bombing Suspect, Dies in Hospital

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Wanted poster for Kirishiima Satoshi superimposed onto red background.
Kirishima Satoshi, a member of a notorious '70s terrorist group, may have finally been found after nearly 5 decades in hiding.

Breaking 1/29/2024: The man claiming to be Kirishima Satoshi has died in the hospital, apparently due to complications from stomach cancer. He was 70 years old. Police are still confirming the man’s alleged identity.

For long decades, Kirishima Satoshi’s bespectacled, long-haired visage has graced wanted posters in police boxes across Japan.

The photo shows Kirishima as he was around the period he first became a wanted man: 1975. Back then, he was a member of the “Scorpion” cell of the now-infamous far-left terrorist organization known as the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front. (東アジア反日武装戦線.) After a series of deadly corporate bombings by the EAAJAF, most of its leadership was arrested. Kirishima Satoshi, however, went to ground. Remarkably, he remained on the lam for an incredible half-century.

That is, it seems, until today.

The man believed to be Kirishima is no longer as youthful as his outdated wanted posters suggest. Now 70 years old, the individual checked himself into a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture not long ago. He has cancer, believed to be terminal; he was at the hospital using an assumed name (perhaps the one he’s lived under all these years).

Sources close to the investigation told Unseen Japan that a suspicious fellow patient led to the unveiling of Kirishima. When confronted, the suspect admitted that he was, indeed, the individual in question. Police are working to verify that claim.

Kirishima Satoshi: On the Lam for 50 Years (East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front)

Kirishima Satoshi, a member of the notorious ’70s terrorist group East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front, may have finally been found after nearly five decades in hiding – but this time he found a way to evade the police once again, permanently.

Watch our video version of this article on our YouTube channel.

A Half-Century Underground

According to someone close to the investigation, police first became aware of Kirishima Satoshi’s potential whereabouts yesterday, January 25th. Once the police have verified if this patient is indeed Kirishima, his wanted poster (手配写真) will be removed from the Metropolitan Police and National Police Agency websites. The fact that it is still up at present indicates they are not yet fully certain.


The announcement has set off a media frenzy. Kirishima’s face is one amongst many emblazoned on wanted posters that make up a small but memorable subsection of Japan’s urban scenery. His is often seen near wanted posters for members of the Japanese Red Army, the far-left terrorist group later joined by many of Kirishima’s EAAJAF compatriots after their organization collapsed. The decades slowly slip by, but the faces mostly stay the same – until sudden, remarkable days like today.

One of the famous wanted posters for Kirishima Satoshi.

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front

On the morning of August 30th, 1974, the busy Marunouchi business district near Tokyo station suddenly became a scene of stark carnage. An explosion rocked the neighborhood; its source, a powerful homemade time bomb concealed in a flower pot at the entrance to the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Building. The sound of the blast was so loud as to be heard as far away as Shinjuku. The glass fronting of the building shattered up to its 11th floor; nearby cars were destroyed. Five people in the blast’s range died immediately; three more died in the hospital soon after. Nearly 400 people were injured.

The “Wolf” cell of the EAAJAF claimed responsibility. The bombing, which had been more devastating than intended (two phone calls minutes before the blast attempting to incite evacuations had been ignored), was nonetheless claimed as a just act. According to the EAAJAF, it was “…an attack against the aggressor-corporations and the colonialists of Japanese imperialism, like Mitsubishi’s bosses.” As for the victims, “those people who have in consequence of the attack by the Wolf been killed or injured are no ‘ordinary workers’ or ‘normal noninvolved citizens.’ They are the parasites inside the centers of Japanese imperialism.”

Kirishima Satoshi was not a member of the Wolf cell. Rather, he belonged to the Scorpion – one of three loosely coordinated groups within the EAAJAF. The “Wolf” was a reference to the cell’s leader, Daidoji Masashi, who’d been born in Hokkaido, and held firmly to ideas of returning to a pre-civilization “proto-communism.” To achieve this within a Japanese context, the modern civilization of Japan would have to be destroyed.

The scene following the bombing.

Daidoji’s Anti-Japanism

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front emerged from the dying years of Japan’s New Left student movement in the early 1970s. While the 1950s and ’60s had seen massive public protests against state violence and the Vietnam War, involving millions of individuals and achieving, at times, a fairly strong degree of public support, those days were over. The violence of the student movement’s fringe, made infamous by the hijackings of the Red Army and self-directed mass murder by the United Red Army, had turned public sympathies against the New Left. Police moved to break student blockades in universities across the country; leftist groups were pushed into the streets, their efforts diminished to localized (if still vigorous) struggles like that against the appropriation of land for Narita Airport.

The EAAJAF’s leader, Daidoji, believed in an armed struggle against the state. In his early years in activism, he mostly engaged in the bombing of statues and memorials he saw as representing the oppression of Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu people. His bombings started in 1971; by 1972, his small group was organizing itself into a “terrorist underground cell.” (Knaudt, 2020.) They operated by existing as outwardly non-radical Japanese citizens; they held jobs, and avoided any clothing or personal stylings that would point them out as radical leftists. All the while they engaged in the study of bomb-making during their off hours.

Daidoji’s ideology deviated rather starkly from that of traditional Marxists. He saw the average Japanese worker not as a proletariat, a potential ally in revolution, but rather as a beneficiary of imperialism and colonialism. The only true proletariats were those in subaltern minority groups not corrupted by the economic gains Japan had seen since the 1950s. Anyone else was essentially an enemy, and fair game for revolutionary-minded attack.

Daidoji Masashi.

Kirishima Satoshi and the Scorpion

Kirishima Satoshi was born in Hiroshima in 1954; just a bit too young to be in university during the height of the New Left movement. He met activists Kurokawa Yoshimasa and Ugajin Hisaichi at Meiji University in 1972; both were supporters of movements within Tokyo’s day-laborer community in Sanya, aligning with Daidoji’s belief in the day-laborer underclass as being one of the few potential revolutionary groups in Japan. The three of them became the core members of the Scorpion cell.

All three cells – Wolf, Fangs of the Land, and Scorpion – engaged in a series of ten bombing attacks against Japanese companies. From 1974 to 1975, these attacks injured 32 persons. The Japanese police have specifically credited Kirishima with detonating a bomb at The Research Institute for South Korean Economy and Industries building in Ginza in April of 1975.

One month later, The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front came to an end. Police, monitoring the activities of various other radical groups, slowly deduced the web of connections between the three cells. Seven of the group’s most important members – including Daidoji, his wife Ayako, and Kurokawa – were arrested. The police, however, were unaware of Kirishima. By the time they investigated Kirishima’s home, using a key Kurokawa had on him as evidence, Kirishima was gone. In his apartment, the police found a makeshift pit, believed to be used for bomb construction. His well-known wanted poster soon went up; investigators closely monitored all his known associates. Kirishima stayed away. As the decades passed, police assumed he might have fled abroad. He remained the only known EAAJAF member to never be arrested.

And now, he never will be. The man believed to be Kirishima passed away on January 29th, only days after police became aware of his assumed secret identity.

Kirishima is Gone – But Where Has He Been?

In his final days, Kirishima let it be known that he wanted people to know who he was. He reportedly stated, “I want to greet my end using my own name.”

But what had he been doing, all these years spent avoiding capture, his face plastered all over the country?

For half a century, he was not “Kirishima Satoshi” – rather, he was “Uchida Hiroshi.” Those who knew him in daily life referred to him as “Ucchi.” He lived in Fujisawa City, not far from the hospital in Kamakura where he died. From the 1980s, he made a living as a building contractor. “Uchida” lived at his job site, a building with rusting railings and tape over the windows. All his payments came in the form of cash.

Construction has long been one of the few jobs those wishing to remain anonymous could take; day labor, in particular, has often been no-questions-asked, provided a worker demonstrated the necessary skills. The “yoseba” of Tokyo and Osaka, known as Sanya and Kamagasaki respectively, were for decades a place where those wishing to hide from bad debts, loansharks, or a past worth forgetting could escape to.

Kirishima first joined the Anti-Japan Front via connections with activists who were primarily concerned with the revolutionary potential of the yoseba. That he would eventually live a similar lifestyle is strangely fitting. He had no government ID; he lived for decades as a non-entity, as far as the government knew. In his last days, he told investigators “I was all alone.”

A Brush with the Law

Neighbors mostly say “Ucchi” was a friendly sort, who loved rock music and drinking. One neighbor, however, remembered a night about ten years ago when “Uchida” came home drunk, blasting rock music on the radio. He eventually brought out his acoustic guitar, drunkenly singing to himself. The aggrieved neighbor, unable to get Uchida to answer his doorbell, called the police. They arrived, and Uchida quickly quieted. The neighbor said he never made that sort of racket again.

Uchida discovered he had stomach cancer about one year ago. Early this month, he collapsed near a local vending machine; two neighbors came to his aid, looking after him. One said Uchida was living in a desperate state.

Half-Century-Old Memories, Clear as Day

For many involved with the bombing cases, or associated with Kirishima himself, his sudden reappearance has brought forth decades-old memories.

Former Metropolitan Police Department investigator Tojima Kunio recalled the scene in Ginza following the explosion Kirishima is claimed to have set off.

“The site looked like a warzone. As time passed, more glass would come falling down, causing a large degree of secondary damage. It was like a scene out of hell.”

Tojima was involved in the investigation into the bombings. Asked about how a person could evade a half-century-long police dragnet, he responded: “The person goes into hiding by changing their daily clothing. Their lifestyle changes. Even if their facial features remain unchanged, they still look different. They alter their mannerisms.”

Tojima added that Kirishima must have had a fairly strong will. As far as the police can tell, he shut himself off completely from friends and family.

Yahoo! News interviewed an unnamed former member of the Anti-Japan Front, who expressed happiness that Kirishima was (then) still living.

“It’s been more than forty years since we last met. I’m simply dumbfounded. I still can’t believe it. I just want to see him, to talk with him. I’m glad he survived.”

Those who cared for the victims of the bombing spree expressed a different outlook. The wife of a man badly injured in the Ginza blast said the following:

“He hovered between life and death for two or three days. His whole body was covered in bandages. I can remember it all so clearly, because of the shock of it all… We know who [Kirishima] is because he said so himself. I still want him to atone for his crimes.”

Quotes from News23. 被害者家族「罪を償って…」半世紀にわたり逃亡、桐島聡容疑者か 身柄確保の一報に 元過激派メンバーは「生きてて良かった」.Yahoo! News, Japan.

The Age of the New Left, Not Yet Over

The 1960s and ’70s often feel incredibly distant. The fact that Kirishima Satoshi’s wanted poster, like that of the JRA, has remained ubiquitous for so long, often feels more quaint than urgent. And yet, many of the stories of the New Left radicals are only now coming to an end. Daidoji Masashi, leader of the EAAJAF, died in prison in 2017. Another Anti-Japan Front member, Ekida Yukiko, was released from prison that same year. Shigenobu Fusako, noted leader of the international Japanese Red Army, was just released from prison in 2022. She says she’d still like to play a role in modern politics.

The Metropolitan Police state that Kirishima Satoshi admitted who he was to a hospital worker, saying, “I’m coming to the end. Just arrest me.” But even his death isn’t the end. The story of his half-century in hiding awaits. So, too, do those of former members Daidoji Ayako and Sasaki Norio, who joined the JRA after that organization arranged their release from prison in a hostage exchange in 1977. Their fates remain unknown.

But, for now, one wanted poster may finally be disappearing from the landscape of Japan after five long decades.

Wanted poster for the JRA. Sasaki Norio is second to top left; Daidoji Ayako is on the bottom left.

Additional sourcing and reportage by Jake Adelstein.

What to read next


TBS News Dig. (1/26/24).【独自】1974年にかけて起きた連続企業爆破事件の「東アジア反日武装戦線」メンバー桐島聡容疑者(70)とみられる男の身柄確保 警視庁公安部. Yahoo! Japan News.

遠藤龍、斎藤文太郎、橋本利昭、井口彩. (2024/1/26).あの桐島聡なのか」元公安幹部衝撃 逃亡半世紀、本人打ち明け. 毎日新聞.

Knaudt, T. (2020). A Farewell to Class: The Japanese New Left, the Colonial Landscape of Kamagasaki, and the Anti-Japanese Front (1970–75). The Journal of Japanese Studies 46(2), 395-422.

Andrews, William. (Aug 28, 2013). The Skeleton in the Closet. Throw Out Your Books: Japanese radicalism & counterculture.

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Noah Oskow

Serving as current UJ Editor-in-Chief, Noah Oskow is a professional Japanese translator and interpreter who holds a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has lived, studied, and worked in Japan for nearly seven years, including two years studying at Sophia University in Tokyo and four years teaching English on the JET Program in rural Fukushima Prefecture. His experiences with language learning and historical and cultural studies as well as his extensive experience in world travel have led to appearances at speaking events, popular podcasts, and in the mass media. Noah most recently completed his Master's Degree in Global Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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