People who have lost their jobs and do not have money for food seem to be responsible for an increase in convenience store robberies in Tokyo.
The Metropolitan Police Department said food is being targeted instead of cash.
In September, a man armed with a knife stole onigiri (rice balls) and flavored carbonated alcoholic beverages (Chu-hai) valued at about JPY 2600 from a Tokyo convenience store. "I lost my job due to restructuring late last year. I was hungry," the 42-year-old man told the MPD.
In October, a man threatened a convenience store clerk with a box cutter and stole a cigarette lighter. The 26-year-old man told the MPD he wanted to get caught so he could have a bath and get food.
Police are calling food-snatching robberies "Life distress thefts".
According to the MPD official, there were 67 convenience store robberies in Tokyo as of the end of September. There were the 31 robberies during the same period in 2008.
The MPD reports the number of convenience store robberies began to rise following the "Lehman shock" of October 2008 and the global recession. According to the MPD, in at least 4 robberies only food or drinks was stolen. The robbers only glanced at the cash. About 60 percent of the convenience store robbers were motivated by extreme hardship the MPD said.
photos: Chu hai; Onigiri; Hello Work; training white gloves, reporters; training blue shirt; training pink shirt; blackboard (Moka city); food handout Kansai, Tokyo. related: Homeless in Japan photo series.