In every country, there are men who steal women’s underwear from clotheslines for sexual pleasure. However, they are particularly common in Japan, where they are called “shitagi dorobou”. Unsurprisingly, “shitagi” means underwear, while “dorobou” is thief.
For women living in the apartment blocks of Japan’s most built-up urban areas, where clotheslines are in public view and relatively easy to access, panty theft is not an uncommon occurrence. To avoid this creepy and inconvenient problem, some use a special plastic cover to hide drying undies from public sight. However, if a determined panty thief sees the cover, he presumably has a pretty good idea of what’s underneath. White seems to be the most popular colour, for some reason known only to the thieves themselves.
“We’re worried you might pick up something”
The quest for smalls has encouraged levels of innovation that would make Sony’s R&D department blush. In May 2000, a shitagi dorobou in Osaka called a number of women, pretending to be a government Health Officer investigating an E. coli outbreak, and tried to persuade them remove their underwear and deliver it to a local park:
“We’re worried you might pick up something. For an inspection please take off the panties you’re wearing now and put them in a plastic bag and present them to us.”
Local authorities were flooded with complaints, and a high school girl was taken in by the ludicrous scheme before the police were able to issue a public warning.
Sadly, the excuses used by shitagi dorobou when caught with panties have been much less creative than their methods of procuring them. Particularly desperate was the government official who, when caught with 400 pairs of womens’ underwear, claimed he had “found them in the street”.
In 2004, a 55-year-old shitagi dorobou was caught by the furious husband of the woman whose knickers he was in the process of swiping. Faced with substantial amount of evidence against him – 4,000 pairs of underwear stolen over a 30-year career – he decided to own up: “I just love panties and could not control my desires”.
In 2006, a Nagoya man was caught red-handed, having just stolen 67 pairs of kickers from one home. 1,700 more pairs were found in his garage. Admitting to over 250 separate acts of theft since 1990, he said that shyness with women had caused him to become interested in stealing underwear.
- ‘Shitagidorobo’ (Japan Sex Glossary)
- ‘Japanese Panty Thief Caught’ (Japan Probe)
- ‘Hunt for Japanese knicker thief’ (BBC News)
- ‘Japanese police arrested a 55-year-old male accused of theft.’
- ‘Panty raider’ (Salon)