Former Employee Re-Arrested for Theft of Rare Whiskies from Ginza Club | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former Employee Re-Arrested for Theft of Rare Whiskies from Ginza Club

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After the arson, the interior of the shop showed signs of flames so intense that the ceiling had burned through, though fortunately, there were no fatalities.

“On June 5th, Tokyo Metropolitan Police re-arrested suspect Keiji Inamoto (39), who is homeless, on charges of theft and trespassing into a building for allegedly stealing luxury whiskey from a high-end club in Ginza.

According to reports from Yomiuri Shimbun and others, Inamoto is suspected of breaking into the Ginza club where he previously worked around 1:30 AM on March 18th this year. He allegedly stole two bottles of ‘Yamazaki 25-Year-Old’ whiskey and empty bottles of ‘Hibiki 30-Year-Old,’ totaling about 1.21 million yen in value from the changing room. Inamoto, a former employee of the club, had previously been arrested on May 15th for arson involving a non-residential building following the incident.

FRIDAY Digital interviewed the club’s president, where Inamoto had worked. The president disclosed that Inamoto had stolen bottles in the past for resale, prompting him to reflect on his actions. The president had hoped for Inamoto’s reform, providing guidance and monitoring him closely. They referred to an article published on May 18th for more details.”

The restoration will cost over 60 million yen

On the 17th, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested former employee Keiji Inamoto (38), of no fixed address, on suspicion of arson involving a non-residential building. He is accused of stealing at least six bottles, including vintage whiskies valued around 2 million yen each at auction, from a luxury members-only club in Ginza, Tokyo. Additionally, he allegedly set fire to the changing room. 

The incident occurred in mid-March this year at Club “Q” in Ginza 8-chome. The perpetrator wore a large Buddha mask and used a dark umbrella to conceal their identity while entering. Familiar with the establishment from previous employment, they knew the locations of the liquor storage and wine cellar, as well as the security systems. They allegedly covered the lenses of surveillance cameras in the changing room with tape to steal alcohol and attempted to conceal evidence by setting fire to the room.

Although fire suppression systems activated and contained the blaze, the subsequent restoration work is time-consuming. It is expected that business operations will resume around summer, considering the ongoing cleanup. The president of “Q” revealed to FRIDAY Digital:

“The smell of soot still lingers, so that needs to be addressed as well. Right now, we’re demolishing everything inside and starting from scratch with an entirely new design. It looks like it will cost over 60 million yen.”

Regarding suspect Inamoto, the president of “Q” disclosed the following details.

“Inamoto (the suspect) worked with us for about 8 years until he quit at the end of the year before last. He wasn’t dishonest in any obvious way; he was actually a good guy. However, he didn’t get along well with the other staff and tended to go his own way.


About two years after he started, he stole and resold several bottles of premium liquor. He said it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I told him, ‘Alright, come back. You’ll pay for them from your salary at cost price.’ I forgave him. It’s disappointing that things turned out like this. People are hard to understand sometimes.”

Suntory’s “Yamazaki Series” was being sold on Rakuten Market. A set of four bottles including 25-year, 18-year, and 12-year versions had prices nearing 10 million yen.

According to sources close to the matter, suspect Inamoto was originally known for reckless spending habits and had accumulated substantial debts. It is believed that he stole high-end bottles like “Hibiki” and “Yamazaki” from the club “Q,” where he knew the layout, to sell them and repay his debts.


The backdrop to this arson case involves the soaring popularity of Japanese whisky. Since the early 2000s, overseas recognition has risen, with Suntory’s “Yamazaki” winning a gold medal at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge (ISC) in 2003. It has been acknowledged alongside brands from its homeland in the UK and Scotland as well-respected labels. 

Especially, the annual sales of “Yamazaki 25-year-old” are limited to just 1200 bottles, with some years seeing as few as 600 released, quickly leading to scarcity. In 2022, it was auctioned for 1.75 million yen, ten times its retail price. With the yen temporarily falling to 160 yen per dollar, overseas enthusiasts are eager to buy even at 2 million yen.

Additionally, “Yamazaki 50-year-old” fetches 54 million yen, and “Yamazaki 55-year-old” goes for 85 million yen, showing staggering prices. Suntory’s “Hibiki 35-year-old,” adorned with Arita and Kutani pottery, holds decorative value, too, selling for over 10 million yen at auctions in Hong Kong.

A bartender and owner planning to open an authentic bar in Tokyo lamented these developments.

Yamazaki 25-year-old” isn’t available at liquor stores and can only be bought at auctions. Once opened, its value decreases due to aging, so very few people have actually tasted it. It’s turned from a personal preference to an investment.”

Another bar owner added,

 “It’s become unattainable for us. With prices this high, there’s concern about counterfeit products. There are rumors of people switching contents to make a quick profit, with empty bottles even traded online.”

These concerns are growing stronger.

The president, who once forgave Inamoto’s theft of fine liquor in hopes of his reform, now sees how his leniency has been repaid with betrayal, which is unforgivable.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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