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Japan Airlines Flight 351
A Boeing 727 aircraft similar to the one involved in the hijacking.
DateMarch 31, 1970
Aircraft typeBoeing 727-89
Aircraft name"YODOGO"
OperatorJapan Airlines
Flight originTokyo International Airport (Haneda)
DestinationFukuoka Airport
Passengers122 (excluding the hijackers)
Survivors129 (all; including the hijackers)

Japan Airlines Flight 351 was hijacked by nine members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction (a predecessor of the Japanese Red Army) on March 31, 1970,[1] while flying from Tokyo to Fukuoka, 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]


Armed with samurai swords and pipe bombs,[3] the hijackers took 129 hostages (122 passengers and seven crew members), releasing 21 of them at Fukuoka Airport and then landed at Seoul's Gimpo Airport (after an abortive attempt by the South Korean government to disguise the airport to make it appear that the plane had landed in North Korea).[4] Japan's Vice Minister for Transport, Shinjiro Yamamura, had volunteered to take the place of the remaining hostages, and the hijackers accepted.[5] 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. The hijackers' motive was to defect to North Korea.[6]

Using North Korea as a base, they thought they could promote 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[7] and returned to its gate at Haneda Airport at 9:39AM on April 5.[8]

Later events

The alleged mastermind of the hijacking, who did not take part in the actual operation, was Takaya Shiomi. Shiomi was arrested, convicted, and served almost 20 years in prison in Japan. After his release in 1989,[9][10] suffering from poor health, Shiomi obtained a lowly paid[9] job as an attendant at a multi-level parking facility in Kiyose, Tokyo, where he was working as late as 2008.[11] He said that they had intended to go to Cuba via North Korea.[3] He joined an antibase movement in Okinawa and an antinuclear campaign, and wrote several books related to the Red Army Faction.[10] 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.[9] He died on November 14, 2017 of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital.[10]

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.[12] In April 2014 he was still alive, and residing in North Korea together with other members of his group.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[14]

Notable passengers

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


  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". www.npa.go.jp (in Japanese).
  3. ^ a b Watts, Jonathan (September 9, 2002). "Japanese hijackers go home after 32 years on the run". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ "Hijacked Airliner Still in S. Korea— Seoul Rigged to Look Like North Korea, Goal of Leftist Students", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 1, 1970, p1
  5. ^ "Japanese Hijackers Release 100 on Plane", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 3, 1970, p1
  6. ^ 金日成 (1983). 統一戦線の理論と経験 [United Front Theory and Experience] (in Japanese). チュチェ思想国際研究所. p. 29.
  7. ^ Baum (2016). Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing. p. IV.
  8. ^ Oka, Takashi (April 5, 1970). "Hijacked Airliner Returns To Tokyo With 4 Aboard". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c "Takaya Shiomi, former radical faction leader, dies at 76 - The Mainichi". The Mainichi. Mainichi Japan. January 12, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  11. ^ Botting, Geoff, "From terror to parking cars", Japan Times, May 11, 2008, p. 9.
  12. ^ Kyodo News, "Ex-Red Army Faction Member Says Airplane Hijacking Was 'Selfish'", March 31, 2010.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ 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.