Japan Air Lines Flight 351

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Japan Air Lines Flight 351
Boeing 727-89, Hapag-Lloyd AN1138807.jpg
The aircraft involved in the hijacking in 1988, in service with Hapag-Lloyd Flug.
DateMarch 31, 1970
SummaryHijacking, subsequent emergency landing
Total fatalities0
Aircraft typeBoeing 727-89
Aircraft nameYodo
OperatorJapan Air Lines
Flight originTokyo International Airport (Haneda)
DestinationFukuoka Airport
Occupants138 (including 9 hijackers)
Passengers131 (including 9 hijackers)
Survivors138 (including 9 hijackers)

Japan Air Lines Flight 351 was a scheduled passenger flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Fukuoka that was hijacked by members of the Red Army Faction of the Japan Communist League on March 31, 1970,[1] in an incident usually referred to in Japanese as the Yodogo Hijacking Incident (よど号ハイジャック事件, Yodogō Haijakku Jiken).[2]


In 1966, the New Left student organization the Communist League, defunct since 1960, reformed, becoming known as the "Second Bund" (第二次ブント, Dainiji Bunto).[3] At this time, the "Kansai faction" of the Second Bund, based out of Doshisha University in Kyoto and led by Kyoto University philosophy major dropout Takaya Shiomi (塩見孝也, Shiomi Takaya), comprised the far left wing of the already far-left Second Bund.[4] Around June 1968, the Kansai faction began calling itself the "Red Army Faction," and began making plans for a violent uprising in Japan, originally intended to coincide with the 1970 Anpo protests.

The main theory of the Red Army Faction was that by first carrying out a successful armed proletarian revolution in Japan, Japan would become the headquarters of a worldwide revolution against the United States of America and its allies, and the Red Army Faction would become the leaders of that revolution.[5]

Finding the rest of the Second Bund unamenable to the cause of immediate armed revolution, the Red Army Faction signaled its open split from its parent organization in 1969. On September 5, Takaya and other Red Army Faction members publicly appeared at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo to declare the independence of the Red Army Faction from the Communist League and announce the start of an immediate armed revolution.[6]

In early 1970, Takaya began making plans to hijack a Japanese airliner, codenamed "Operation Phoenix," that would allow group members to fly to Cuba and continue their training. However, just before the hijacking could take place, Takaya was arrested by chance on the street in Komagome, Tokyo on March 15, 1970, having been mistaken for a common thief.[7] Nevertheless, the remaining hijackers pressed on with their plans; on March 31, 1970, nine members the Red Army Faction, armed with katana swords and a homemade bomb, hijacked Japan Airlines Flight 351, a domestic Japan Airlines Boeing 727 out of Tokyo International Airport carrying 129 other people aboard.


Approximately 20 minutes after takeoff, a young man named Takamaro Tamiya got up from his seat, drew a katana and shouted, "We are Ashita no Joe!"[8] He stated his intent to hijack the plane and instructed the other hijackers to draw their weapons. The hijackers then took 129 people (122 passengers and seven crew members) hostage and commanded the pilots to fly the plane to Havana, Cuba, where they intended to receive training by communist military groups. The hijackers were then informed that the aircraft, a Boeing 727, was not capable of making such a journey, due to the plane's inability to hold the necessary amount of fuel. Upon learning of this, the hijackers insisted that the plane be diverted to Pyongyang, North Korea, after stopping to refuel in Fukuoka. Upon arrival at Fukuoka, the police convinced the hijackers to release 23 of their hostages, and the pilots were given a map of the Korean Peninsula. Attached to the map was a note which instructed the pilots to tune their radios to a specific frequency. The air traffic controllers, who were aware of the situation, intentionally gave the pilots incorrect directions in an effort to have them land at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea, where they had disguised the airport as being North Korean.[9] Despite this, the hijackers quickly realised that they had been tricked, and Japan's Vice Minister for Transport, Shinjiro Yamamura, had volunteered to take the place of the remaining hostages, to which the hijackers accepted.[10] They then proceeded to Pyongyang's Mirim Airport, with Yamamura now as hostage, where they surrendered to North Korean authorities, who offered the whole group asylum.[11][12]

Using North Korea as a base, they sought to incite rebellion in South Korea and elsewhere across East Asia.[citation needed] The plane carrying Vice Minister Yamamura and the remainder of the crew was released two days later[13] and returned to its gate at Haneda Airport at 9:39AM on April 5.[14]

Later events[edit]

The alleged mastermind of the hijacking, Takaya Shiomi, was tried, convicted, and served almost 20 years in prison in Japan. After his release in 1989,[15][16] suffering from poor health, Shiomi obtained a low paid[15] job as an attendant at a multi-level parking facility in Kiyose, Tokyo, where he was working as late as 2008.[17] He said that they had intended to go to Cuba via North Korea.[18] He joined an antibase movement in Okinawa and an antinuclear campaign, and wrote several books related to the Red Army Faction.[16] In April 2015, he ran in the city assembly elections in Kiyose, campaigning on an anti-Abe platform and against the city's policies which are "bullying" the elderly.[15] He died on November 14, 2017 of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital.[16]

Moriaki Wakabayashi was an early member (bass player) in the long-running avant-garde rock band Les Rallizes Dénudés. In a March 2010 interview with Kyodo News, Wakabayashi stated that the hijacking was a "selfish and conceited" act. Wakabayashi added that he wished to return to Japan and was willing to face arrest and trial for his role in the hijacking.[19] In April 2014 he was still alive, and residing in North Korea together with other members of his group.[20]

In 1985, Yasuhiro Shibata returned to Japan in secret to raise money for the group, was arrested, and was sentenced to five years in prison. Yoshimi Tanaka was arrested in Thailand with a large amount of counterfeit money and repatriated to Japan in March 2000, where he was sentenced; he died before its completion. However, the other hijackers remain at large, according to Japan's National Police Agency.[21]

The leader of the group, Takamaro Tamiya, died in 1995 and Kintaro Yoshida sometime before 1985. Takeshi Okamoto and his wife Kimiko Fukudome were probably killed trying to flee North Korea.[22] Takahiro Konishi, Shiro Akagi, Kimihuro Uomoto and Moriaki Wakabayashi still reside in North Korea; all except Takeshi Okamoto were confirmed to have been alive as of 2004 when they were interviewed by Kyodo News. In June 2004, the remaining hijackers made a request to North Korean authorities that they be allowed to return to Japan, even if they are to be punished for the hijacking.[21]

1973 Nepal plane hijack[edit]

Durga Subedi, a democratic fighter in Nepal, read about the hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 351 while in prison. After being released, he spoke to Girija Prasad Koirala, a leader of the democratic Nepali Congress party. When Girija Prasad Koirala mentioned the monetary problems of the party, Durga Subedi recalled the story about the Japanese hijacking and proposed that the party conduct a hijacking of their own. On 10 June 1973, Durga Subedi, Nagendra Dhungel, and Basanta Bhattarai, carried out the first and only aircraft hijacking in Nepal on a plane that was transporting money. [23]

Notable passengers[edit]

The future Roman Catholic Archbishop and Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao was one of the passengers on the flight. Another passenger was Shigeaki Hinohara, who was one of the world's longest-serving physicians and educators. The passengers also included American Pepsi's director, Herbert Brill.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Annual Report 2011 Review and Prospect of Internal and External Situations" (PDF). Public Security Intelligence Agency JAPAN. January 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 13, 2021.
  2. ^ "日本赤軍及び「よど号」グループの動向" [Trends of the Japanese Red Army and the "Yodo-go" group]. www.npa.go.jp (in Japanese).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Kapur 2022, p. 17.
  4. ^ Andrews 2016, p. 124.
  5. ^ Andrews 2016, pp. 124–125.
  6. ^ Steinhoff 1989, p. 727.
  7. ^ Andrews 2016, p. 127.
  8. ^ Martínez, Layla (December 1, 2021). "Acabar con la música para siempre" [Ending music forever]. elsaltodiario.com (in Spanish). Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  9. ^ "Hijacked Airliner Still in S. Korea— Seoul Rigged to Look Like North Korea, Goal of Leftist Students", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 1, 1970, p1
  10. ^ "Japanese Hijackers Release 100 on Plane". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 3, 1970. p. 1.
  11. ^ 金日成 (1983). 統一戦線の理論と経験 [United Front Theory and Experience] (in Japanese). International Institute of the Juche Idea. p. 29.
  12. ^ Martínez, Layla (December 1, 2021). "Acabar con la música para siempre" [Ending music forever]. elsaltodiario.com (in Spanish). Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  13. ^ Baum (2016). Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing. p. IV.
  14. ^ Oka, Takashi (April 5, 1970). "Hijacked Airliner Returns To Tokyo With 4 Aboard". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c "Takaya Shiomi, former head of Sekigun-ha, up for election in Kiyose City assembly poll". April 19, 2015. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "Takaya Shiomi, former radical faction leader, dies at 76". The Mainichi. Mainichi Japan. January 12, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  17. ^ Botting, Geoff (May 11, 2008). "From terror to parking cars". The Japan Times. p. 9.
  18. ^ Watts, Jonathan (September 9, 2002). "Japanese hijackers go home after 32 years on the run". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ "Ex-Red Army Faction Member Says Airplane Hijacking Was 'Selfish'". Kyodo News. March 31, 2010.
  20. ^ "The Yodogō Group's "Revolution Village" Today: Where the surviving Sekigun-ha Yodogō hijackers are living in North Korea". May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Movements of the Japanese Red Army and the "Yodo-go" Group"" (PDF). Japan: National Police Agency. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 23, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
  22. ^ Steinhoff, Patricia (2004). "Kidnapped Japanese in North Korea, The New Left Connection". Journal of Japanese Studies. 30 (1): 123–142. doi:10.1353/jjs.2004.0035.. The suspicious deaths of Yoshida and Okamoto are referred to on pages 136 and 137. Her research is based on the journalistic work of Takazawa Koji.
  23. ^ The skyjack that shook Panchayat. Buddha Air. April 2010. pp. 4–5. Retrieved May 4, 2023.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]