Super granny fights off bumbling burgular

By Ryann Connell
Staff Writer

November 7, 2002

Even in Japan, where people live longer than anywhere else on earth, most people Ayako Tachibana's age are anything but active. But this 81-year-old Tokyo grandma is not only alive, she's alive and kicking -- literally.

Ayako returned to her home in Taito-ku on the night of Oct. 29 to be greeted by the rather frightening sight of a young man in a mask brandishing a knife in her direction.

"I'd come home from a dinner and sat down when I heard this noise like rustling paper. It was a bit too loud to be a mouse, but I wasn't that worried about it. I was calling my friend on the phone when I turned around and saw the man standing there with a big fruit knife in his hand," she tells Shukan Bunshun (11/14). "For a second, I was shocked. He stood there saying, 'Give me your money, give me your money.' I told him that I didn't have any money to give him. After a while, he stood with his back to me, so I gave him a hell of a shove."

It was a hefty push, the weekly notes, that sent the braze burglar hurtling down the stairs from Ayako's second-floor apartment. Upon entering Ayako's apartment there is a space where shoes are removed and a flight of stairs leading up to where the old woman lives. The super granny lives on the corner of a roofed shopping arcade. The store on the floor below the old woman's abode was already closed by the time the burglar had made his way inside. Rather than follow him down, though, Ayako climbed out of a window in her apartment and started running along the roof of the shopping arcade.

"I was shouting out, 'Help me! Help me!' The lights were on next door, so I raced along the roof and tapped on the window. Because I was on the roof, I don't know how the robber got away. But I'd always thought to myself that if I was ever in trouble, I'd always head out onto the top of the arcade," she tells Shukan Bunshun.

Ayako's burglar still hasn't been found, but there's plenty about her lifestyle that offers a hint as to why this old woman was so easily able to dispose of a man probably young enough to be at least her great grandson.

"I simply love sports. As long as it's not raining, I wake up early and go out for exercises and a couple of games of croquet before breakfast," she tells Shukan Bunshun. "Then I go out for four or five more games. Each game takes about 30 minutes, so when I've finished I come back home for a bit of a rest, then head off to flower arrangement or singing classes. I ride my bicycle everywhere."

Ayako was also lucky that she was saved soon after running out on the roof. That shouldn't be a surprise, either. She has lived in the same little apartment since the early postwar days. She and her husband, who died about 15 years ago, once ran a cafeteria on the floor below where she lives. It's little wonder she wasn't scared when faced with her assailant.

"If anything, I was a bit weak," the ornery octogenarian tells Shukan Bunshun. "If I'd had me wits about me, I would've given him an even stronger push."