The Glico Morinaga Incident And How "The Monster With 21 Faces" Terrorised Japan

During a 17 month period in the mid-1980s, the Glico Morinaga case saw an unidentified criminal gang use blackmail, extortion, and kidnapping to bring Japan's candy industry to its knees - those responsible were never caught.

Monster With 21 Faces
The story of The Monster With 21 Faces is still unsolved to this day

The Glico Morinaga blackmail and kidnapping case is still one of the most notorious unsolved crime cases in Japanese history. The unknown entity called "The Monster With 21 Faces," threatened to poison Japanese candies, and that's exactly what they did.

In the 1980s, the unknown group targeted two high-profile Japanese candy companies, Ezaki Glico and Morinaga, as well as other food companies. For a year and a half, the group demanded ransoms, kidnapped executives, and even put boxes of cyanide-laced candy into retail stores.

By the time their attack against the Japanese candy industry came to a sudden end, The Monster With 21 Faces had destroyed companies' profits, baffled police, and terrified the Japanese public. To date, whoever was behind the reign of terror have never been caught,

The Glico Morinaga Case Started With A Kidnapping

Famous for its beloved Pocky confections, the Ezaki Glico company is one of Japan's largest and most popular candy companies. However, on March 18, 1984, the company was front-page news for a completely different reason.

At approximately 9 pm that night, two men wearing balaclavas broke into the home of Katsuhisa Ezaki, the president of Ezaki Glico. The two intruders tied up Ezaki's daughter and wife and dragged him out of his bathtub, they threw him into the back of a car completely naked and sped away.

A ransom demand quickly came in from the kidnappers, they demanded one billion yen (approximately $9 million today) as well as 220 pounds of gold bullion. Ezaki managed to escape from his captors before his company paid the ransom, however, this was only the beginning of the nightmare that was unfolding for Katsuhisa Ezaki.

Ezaki Glico Candy Headquarters
The headquarters of Ezaki Glico in Osaka, Japan

Shortly after the kidnapping, six cars were set on fire at the Ezaki Glico factory, and a container full of hydrochloric acid was also sent to the company. Whoever was tormenting the company then started sending threatening and demeaning letters that were quickly published by local newspapers.

On April 8, 1984, a letter was sent saying this:

To Japanese police fools. Are you stupid? There’s so many of you, what on earth are you doing? If you are real pros try catching me. There’s too much handicap so I will give you a hint. There’s no fellows in the Ezaki’s relatives, there's no fellows in Nishinomiya police, there's no fellows in Flood fighting corps. Car I used is gray, food was bought at Daiei. If you want a new info, beg for it in the newspaper. After telling you all this you should be able to catch me. If you don’t you are tax thieves. Shall I kidnap the head director of the prefectural police?

They mocked the police and dangled clues in front of them, before finishing with the threat: "Shall we kidnap the head of the prefectural police?"

The letter was signed by "The Monster With 21 Faces," a nod to a shape-shifting thief from Edogawa Rampo's 1963 novel, The Fiend with the Twenty Faces. Even with all this information, the police still had no idea who could be behind the kidnapping, the car fires, the hydrochloric acid, or the letter.

The threats actually got worse, in mid-May, The Monster With 21 Faces claimed that they had placed a number of packs of Ezaki Glico candy that they had laced with cyanide on store shelves.

Ezaki Glico Profits Plummet And Staff Get Laid Off

Following the May letter, panic erupted all across Japan, The Monster With 21 Faces did not specify which candies they poisoned, so Ezaki Glico had no option but to recall all of it, not that anyone wanted to eat it.

As a result of the latest threat the companies profits plummeted and they were forced to lay off over 1,000 members of staff, Ezaki Glico claimed that the recent torment had cost them $130 million in sales.

Glico candy recalled
The threats resulted in Ezaki Glico recalling all of their candies from across Japan, including their famous Pocky

Although all the candy was recalled, the authorities never found any evidence that The Monster with 21 Faces had infact poisoned any of the Ezaki Glico candy.

By the time it got to June, the elusive gang appeared like it was going to abandon its torment on the company, The Monster With 21 Faces Wrote, "The president of Glico has already gone around with his head hanging down long enough."

The letter also read: "In our group there's also a 4-year-old kid, every day he cries for Glico... It's a drag to make a kid cry cause he's deprived of the candy he loves."

The whole country breathed a sigh of relief, however, it was short lived when it became apparent that The Monster With 21 Faces hadn't given up completely, instead they had decided to focus on terrorising another candy company.

Another Japanese candy company, Morinaga, was next on the gangs hit list, In September 1984 they received a demand for money, when Morinaga refused to pay out they received another letter, this one much more terrifying than the last.

In a letter sent to Morinaga in October, the group wrote, "We've added some special flavour, the flavour of potassium cyanide is a little bitter."

They claimed to have left "twenty boxes in stores from Hakata to Tokyo," all filled with candy laced with cyanide, but they said not to worry as they had left a note on the boxes.

The group weren't telling lies... Shortly after the letter, police found boxes of poisoned candy with a sticker on them that read, "Danger, contains poison. You'll die if you eat this."

CCTV of the videotaped man
A still taken from the CCTV showing "The Videotaped-Man"

The Mystery Of The Monster With 21 Faces Continues

Japanese police spent months investigating and doing everything they could think of to find The Monster With 21 Faces, all to no avail. As threats began to mount against other companies, authorities went through hours of surveillance footage and even released an audio recording of a woman and a child demanding money on behalf of the group, they did this in the hope that someone could identify them. Nobody did.

They had a few clues to work with. A CCTV camera captured footage of a man putting Ezaki Gilco candy on a shelf in a store. Police later referred to him as "The Videotaped Man." Police also noted a bystander acting suspiciously during an attempted money drop off, they dubbed him "The Fox-Eyed Man." but investigators working on the case never managed to identify either of the men.

Fox-Eyed Man, Monster With 21 Faces
A police sketch of "The Fox-Eyed Man," this is the only suspected member of the Monster With 21 Faces that was ever seen in person

In August 1985, the constant failure of the police and huge stress of the case proved to be too much for Shoji Yamamoto, the head of the Shiga Prefecture police. He horrificly committed suicide by pouring kerosene over his head and setting himself on fire.

The Monster With 21 Faces were soon to react to the death of Yamamoto with one last final letter, it read:

How stupid of him!
We decided to give our condolence, We decided to forget about torturing food-making companies. If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it’s not us but someone copying us.
We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.
Monster with 21 Faces

And that was the last time anyone ever heard anything from The Monster With 21 Faces ever again. By the time their reign of chaos came to an end, no one had been poisoned, and no one had ever shown up to accept any ransom money.

The police followed up on thousands of tips, and investigated 125,000 people, ranging from North Koreans to Yakuza gang members, yet they never managed to identify The Monster With 21 Faces.

Today, even if The Monster With 21 Faces came forward and confessed, the police couldn't charge them due to the fact the statute of limitations has expired.

The Glico Morinaga case still remains as one of the most fascinating and usual unsolved crime cases of the 20th century.

Now that you know about the Glico Morinaga case, make sure you read about the Cleveland Torso Murderer.


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