Yoshie Shiratori

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Replica of Shiratori's escape from Abashiri Prison at the Abashiri Prison Museum.

Yoshie Shiratori (白鳥 由栄, Shiratori Yoshie, July 31, 1907 - February 24, 1979) was a Japanese national born in Aomori Prefecture. He had one daughter. He is best known for having escaped from prison four times. In total he was sentenced to life plus 23 years for his crimes but only served 26 years and was paroled in 1961.

In 1933, he was apprehended on suspicion of a murder and robbery which he had allegedly committed with some accomplices. Prosecutors sought the death sentence, but he escaped from Aomori prison in 1936 after using a length of wire to pick the lock on his handcuffs. He was soon recaptured, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He escaped from Akita prison in 1942 by fleeing through an air vent in the prison's ceiling. After he was rearrested again, three years were added to his sentence and he was incarcerated in Abashiri Prison. In 1944 he weakened his handcuffs and the inspection hole on his cell door by rusting them with miso soup and escaped. After World War II, he injured a man and the man later died. He was arrested again in 1946. Sapporo District Court sentenced him to death but in 1947, while awaiting execution in Sapporo Prison, he escaped by sawing through the floorboards of his cell with a sharpened piece of sheet metal then digging his way to freedom with a bowl.

Finally, in 1948 at the age of 41, Shiratori was exhausted, and after receiving a cigarette from a police officer, admitted that he was an escaped convict. The high court dismissed the murder allegation, and revoked his death sentence, instead sentencing him to 20 years in prison. He stayed in jail after that until he was paroled in 1961. He went to Aomori Prefecture in 1973, and he met with his daughter but he did not speak to her. He died of a heart attack in 1979. His ashes were taken by a woman who had cared for him.

Shiratori became an anti-hero. Akira Yoshimura published a novel Hagoku based on him. His memorial is in the Abashiri prison museum.[1] His family name Shiratori means swan in Japanese.


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