Li Guolin (Hiroshima Police)
Li Guolin (Photo: Hiroshima Police)

A Chinese man has become the first person to break out of a Japanese prison in 20 years, managing to escape in just his underwear.

Li Guolin stripped off his prison uniform in the Hiroshima prison yard and used scaffolding erected by builders to scale the 16ft perimeter fence, Kyodo news agency reported.

Li, 40, who was described as being a "dangerous prisoner, then made his way into the city "at a steady trot" while wearing just a pair of white prison-issued underwear, according to the report.

At the time of Li's escape, the temperature in the city was around 4C.

Li was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2008 after breaking into a house, shooting at a police officer and stealing a squad car, according to Hiroshima Prefectural Police.

The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said this was the first jail break to occur in Japan since 1990, when a youth managed to flee a juvenile detention centre.

Li has now been placed on Japan's most wanted list and nearly 800 officers have been assigned to find him.