October 8, 2008 / 1:21 PM / 11 years ago

Naked swimmer evades police in Tokyo palace moat

TOKYO (Reuters) - A bald, naked man who said he was a British tourist went swimming in the moat of Japan’s Imperial Palace on Tuesday, climbing the palace wall, throwing rocks and splashing water at police before being taken into custody.

A naked man swims in the moat of Japan's Imperial Palace in Tokyo October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Kyodo

Television footage showed the tall man getting out of the water at one point, chasing police with a rock and a plastic construction site pole.

He then went back to the murky water and swam across to the other side of the moat, climbing up the 8-meter (9-yard) stone wall of the palace.

He was caught by two policemen, after a chase media said lasted for an hour and a half.

“I’ve never heard of anyone doing such a thing,” an unidentified man at the scene told TV Tokyo. “He must be a bit crazy.”

Television showed passers-by gathering around the moat and watching the chase, giggling and taking photos on mobile phones.

Police said it was unclear what his motives were, although media said he had dropped a bag in the water.

The man, around 40 years old, first said he was Spanish but later said he was a Briton living in Spain, police said.

“We are checking on his mental condition now,” a police spokesman said. The man was later released.

The palace, in the heart of Tokyo and home to Japan’s emperor and empress, is surrounded by 12 moats running 7 km (4 miles) in all.

Tourists can walk freely around the periphery of the palace and go inside on a tour, but in general are not allowed to step within the premises of the 115 hectare (284 acre) palace grounds.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka, Yoko Kubota; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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