Blatant Ginza Robbery Sheds Spotlight on Japan’s “Dark Gig Economy”

Blatant Ginza Robbery Sheds Spotlight on Japan’s “Dark Gig Economy”

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Ginza Rolex robbert - dark gig economy
Picture: Canva
A recent robbery in Tokyo's Ginza district has gripped Japan - and raised alarm bells about a disturbing new crime trend.

In a shocking crime that’s riveted Japan, three men robbed a Rolex store in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district in broad daylight. Now, police say some of the suspects they arrested may point to a growing trend among Japanese criminals of using desperate young people as pawns in their heists.

The robbery

The incident occurred on May 8th shortly after 6pm local time. The streets of Ginza were still bustling when three men entered the Rolex shop. They started smashing glass and stealing watches.

What happened next has a feel of an “only in Japan” scene. The country’s strict gun regulations – and strict punishments for possession – means it’s unlikely that even thieves are packing. (Last year, Japan saw a total of two murders by gun. Two. Let that sink in, my fellow Americans.)

That means some people felt little hesitation in walking up to the scene of the crime. Someone caught the brazen incident on film – and also caught sight of a man who walked up and…well, closed the door on the robbers.

Ray’s Tube on Twitter: “銀座の強盗、堂々とやりすぎだと話題にwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww#銀座 #強盗 / Twitter”

銀座の強盗、堂々とやりすぎだと話題にwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww#銀座 #強盗

Not that it did much good. The three thieves ran out with over 100 watches in their possession as another person, a woman, tried to slam the door in their faces.
Woman tries to shut Ginza Rolex robbery suspects in store (it doesn't go well)

The incident has been the fodder for numerous jokes and wry commentary online. However, it wasn’t a laughing matter for store employees. The robbers demanded cooperation and screamed that they’d kill anyone who got in their way.

The suspects wore masks to protect their identity. It didn’t help much, though. Police tracked them down to a building in Akasaka in Minato Ward, some three kilometers from the scene of the crime, where they raided an apartment and apprehended four suspects. And, in case you were wondering, yes – that was also caught on video.

わかめ on Twitter: “銀座の高級時計店に押し入った強盗の身柄確保の瞬間/港区赤坂(動画の0:24くらいから) / Twitter”


As of press time, police were still working to recover the merchandise. They’ve retrieved around 30-40 watches from the getaway car, and another 30 from outside of the vehicle.


The dark gig economy (闇バイト) rears its head?

dark gig economy (闇バイト)
Picture: Graphs / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

It’s still early days in the investigation. It’ll take police some time to unravel the facts, convince witnesses to flip, and discover the masterminds.

However, one interesting detail has emerged. Police say the four suspects are kids from Yokohama between ages 16 and 19. Furthermore, none of them apparently knew one another before the job.

That raises the prospect that they weren’t original co-conspirators. Instead, they may have been pulled into the plot via what’s known as 闇バイト (yami baito) – or the “dark gig economy”.

Yami baito literally means “black market part-time work”. It refers to jobs solicited on social media that are both high pay and involve illegal activity.

The use of social media for illicit or dangerous activity isn’t a new phenomenon: we’ve written before about how runaways in Japan – and those who prey upon them – have used Twitter hashtags to find food and shelter. But the dark gig economy, like the Ginza heist, cranks this up a notch by soliciting illegal activity in broad Internet daylight.

Sometimes, the work may be low risk – e.g., muling drugs between locations. (Hey, we didn’t say no risk.) But at other times – such as, possibly, in the Ginza heist – the work may involve serious crimes carrying significant jail time. For some, a combination of personal desperation and Japan’s iffy economy makes the risk seem worth the reward.

Education campaign

Such incidents are steadily on the rise across Japan. In 2021, police say they arrested 60 people in 50 separate cases involving dark gig economy jobs. A number of the suspects were between the ages of 16 and 19 years old.

One of the most newsworthy examples recently was the so-called “Luffy Incident” (ルフィ事件) . Run by three Japanese men out of the Philippines, the fraud ring uses social media recruitment to run scams against the elderly, recruiting different people for deception and for money collection. Police busted the ring after one scam resulted in a murder of a 90-year-old woman in the city of Komae.

60 people isn’t a huge number. (Although keep in mind that’s just how many were caught.) But the trend is disturbing enough that police last month started a #BAN闇バイト (#BanTheDarkGigEconomy) campaign where they lecture high school and college students about the dangers of these illegal jobs. Their message: “With the dark gig economy, you can throw your life away over a single application.”

Apparently, the Ginza thieves never got that message. Or maybe it just seemed like an offer they couldn’t refuse.


「殺すぞ」銀座でロレックス強盗 “白仮面3人組”歩行者の前で…確保の一部始終. TV Asahi News

銀座強盗「指示役」関与か…若者はSNSでの仕事探しに薄い抵抗感・決行しても使い捨ての現実. Yomiuri Shimbun

#BAN闇バイト「一度応募すると一生台無し」 新入生へ警視庁警鐘. Asahi Shimbun

逃走車内にも腕時計30~40点 銀座強盗、ナンバーは盗難. Chugoku Shimbun

ルフィ名乗り指示か 別の特殊詐欺容疑 幹部3人を再逮捕. NHK News

Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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