'Sasumata' in high demand after thwarted jewelry store robbery in Tokyo

Two 18-year-olds have surrendered to police after attempting to rob a jewelry store in Tokyo. The incident took place in the Ueno district of the capital on Sunday. Footage taken by a bystander showing an employee chasing three suspects away is creating a buzz in Japan. What many viewers are interested in is the unusual tool the employee used — a traditional Japanese weapon called sasumata, a long forked polearm.

Now, an auto parts manufacturer that produces sasumata has become inundated with orders and inquiries.

What is sasumata?

Sasumata is a protective weapon in the form of a forked polearm. Its history dates back to the Edo period (17th-19th century) when it was used to capture criminals. Today, police and various institutions and businesses are trained in the use of the defensive weapon. Many schools in Japan are also equipped with them.


The footage causing a buzz

Footage taken on Sunday by a bystander shows a suspender-wearing employee chasing the three assailants out of the store. They then flee on foot. The employee is also filmed hitting their motorbikes.

Two of the suspects voluntarily surrendered to police on the following day, and are admitting to carrying out the attempted robbery. Police are searching for the third assailant.

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A car parts maker experiencing high demand for sasumata

A manufacturing company that produces sasumata in the prefecture of Tochigi in central Japan is experiencing a sharp increase in orders and inquiries about sasumata.

The company, which manufactures auto parts, has been utilizing its metalworking skills to produce sasumata since 2011.

It has been receiving an increasing number of orders and inquiries for sasumata since autumn last year, triggered by a series of widespread robberies. Before then, it used to have just a few orders per month, but these days has been getting over ten orders per day.

Since Sunday's robbery attempt, there's been even higher demand and many of the people inquiring say they consulted with the police and they recommended it, or that they want something that women can use safely.

The company manufactures a variety of types, such as one in which the prong part releases a band that wraps around the opponent's body to prevent them moving. Another type is made of light material. At approximately one kilogram, most people can handle it easily.

In Tokyo on November 29
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These products were introduced at an exhibition held in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The manufacturing company's president Sano Takemitsu said the company has been receiving so many calls that the person in charge can hardly get away from the phone. He added that a sasumata is to be used for protection and as something to buy time to escape. He cautioned that it is not something to catch or fight an opponent with. He noted it is safer to use it after undergoing training.