olympic-shoplifters-headline-yomiuri
From The Yomiuri, October 7, 1964

The world was coming to Tokyo in 1964, and Japan wanted to make sure that Tokyo was the friendliest, cleanest and safest city anybody would ever set foot in.

In order to make it safe, one of the actions the Tokyo police took was to lock up all known and suspected pickpockets. Over a three-month campaign prior to the commencement of the Games, the police rounded up 230 pickpockets, resulting in a drop in incidents from 400 in April to 120 in September.

Unfortunately, one can never quite expect the unexpected.

Apparently, there was a rash of shoplifting in the popular stores inside the Olympic Village. The culprits? The Olympic athletes.

As the kid said to Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

village-shopping-2
From the report, The Games of the XVIII Olympiad 1964

Here’s how the The Yomiuri started off an article on October 7, 1964. “Although shoplifting is not among the listed events in the Olympics some athletes adept in the old sleight-of-hand game are establishing unofficial records in the village out in Yoyogi, much to the chagrin of shop clerks.”

The article explains that there were a total of 16 shops selling a wide variety of good, including clothing, jewelry and electronics. The most popular items – whether legitimately purchased or quietly absconded – were electronics, specifically transistor radios. Watches, pearl necklaces, ball point pens and silk handkerchiefs apparently also went missing.

Radios were priced at JPY1,000 to 8,000, watches at JPY7,000, and the stolen necklaces going for as high as JPY45,000. Back then, that’s significant money.

According to one shop manager interviewed in the article, “the customers engaged the attention of shop hands by communicating in writing while accomplices, all members of an undisclosed team, slipped the tiny radios into their pockets. The manager said he could not identify the culprits because none of the shop employees saw them in the act.”

“‘We were sorry we were off guard, believing all the athletes to be ladies and gentlemen representing their country,’ he bemoaned.”

village-shopping
From the report, The Games of the XVIII Olympiad 1964
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JTB Workers Pass the Hat
Mainichi Daily News, October 15, 1964

Business was good enough for the Tryhorns at their store in Australia that they thought they should take a plane to Japan and see the sights, as well as the XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo. On Friday, October 9, the day before the start of the Olympics, the couple from Victoria disembarked from their floating hotel and transportation, the P&O Orient liner Oriana, to walk about Yokohama.

Unfortunately, as they saw the sites in Isezaki-cho, Mrs Tryhorn was pickpocketed. According to the October 15, Mainichi Daily News, in her stolen purse were train tickets for a limited express of the New Tokaido Line, a coupon for the Kyoto International Hotel, and a notice of remittance addressed to the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp.

According to The Japan Times on October 20, the Metropolitan Police Department had actually been in the midst of a campaign to thwart pickpockets, starting a preventive program over three months previously to round up suspected pickpockets and keep them off the streets. By the time the Olympics began in October, they had arrested over 230 pickpockets. As a result, the number of pick pocket incidents dropped from 400 in April, 1964 to 120 in September when tourists and people related to the Olympics started arriving in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, the police didn’t catch the guy that picked the Tryhorns. The Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) , led by the manager of the South Pier Yokohama JTB branch, took it upon themselves to make it right for the Tryhorns. They collected money from the JTB staff so that they could buy new train tickets to Kyoto. They called the hotel in Kyoto to ensure that the Tryhorns could stay without the need for their coupon. And they called the bank to ensure that the couple could pick up their cash with the remittance paper when they came back to Yokohama.

Now that’s service!