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Osaka police station escapee visited Ehime Pref. gov't, received maps and cycling advice

A printed sheet of paper bearing the message "Currently traveling around Japan" along with Ehime Prefecture's mascot character is seen attached to fugitive Junya Hida's backpack on Sept. 18, 2018, in Suo-Oshima, Yamaguchi Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of Ryuichi Okazaki, partially modified)

OSAKA -- Junya Hida, 30, who escaped from the Tondabayashi Police Station in Osaka Prefecture and was on the run for seven weeks, visited the new bicycle culture promotion department of the Ehime Prefectural Government in Matsuyama, southern Japan, those close to the investigation have disclosed.

Hida, who was served a fresh arrest warrant for aggravated escape, visited the prefectural government building on Aug. 24, having a staff member print out a sheet of paper reading "currently traveling around Japan" and give him a map of cycling routes. The Osaka Prefectural Police believe that it is from around this time that Hida began to pose as a bicycle tourist riding around Japan to evade authorities.

The suspect escaped from the police station in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, on Aug. 12 after a meeting with his lawyer. He was arrested on the scene on suspicion of shoplifting in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Sept. 29, and then arrested once more on the escape charges by the Osaka police on Sept. 30.

According to the Ehime Prefectural Government and investigative sources, Hida came to the government building saying that he was currently traveling around Japan on his bicycle and asking for a good route. A prefectural staff member gave him a map detailing cycling roads. In addition, the staff member also printed the paper with his declaration and the prefecture's mascot character "Mikyan" and laminated it at Hida's request.

Hida did not stop there, however, and visited again on Sept. 2. He came to tell them that he had received ice cream where he had traveled, the people had been kind, he had seen many beautiful places and other details about his trip around the southern island of Shikoku, where Ehime is located, and thanked them for their help.

While the suspect was on a nationwide wanted list, he reportedly was sporting a short haircut and a sun tan different from his photo on wanted posters, and the worker had no idea that it was Hida.

(Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Haruka Ito and Hayaki Takeda, Osaka City News Department)

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