Japan Today



More details emerge about horror car crash in Hokkaido


Saturday night. Small town. Not much happening. On June 6 at 7 p.m., five men in their mid-20s were killing time in a yakitori place in Sunagawa, Hokkaido, eyeing the pub across the street, waiting for a table to open up. They waited and waited. Nobody left; the pub remained full.

What to do? Sunagawa, population roughly 20,000, is a former coal mining town whose last mine closed in 1987, leaving the area economically depressed and somewhat dull, entertainment-wise. There are pubs and there are roads – including one, National Route 12 linking Sapporo and Asahikawa, whose stretch through and beyond Sunagawa is wide, straight and encumbered by few stoplights. A drag racer’s dream.

Among the five young men were Ryuji Tanikoshi, 27, and Ryuichi Komi, 26. Tanikoshi works in construction, Komi in a demolition plant. Both are car buffs. Tanikoshi’s vehicle is a BMW X5, Komi’s a Chevrolet C1500. Over beer and shochu at the yakitori restaurant they mulled the options. How about driving to Takikawa, 7 km north, and drinking there? On the way maybe they could settle the question: Which is faster, the BMW or the Chev?

This is prologue to one of the most gruesome car crashes imaginable. The seemingly perfect innocence of the victims, a family of five apparently proceeding through a green light at 10:30 p.m. at normal speed in a light station wagon, makes understandable, if not necessarily acceptable, a protest Shukan Shincho (June 25) raises in its coverage of the horror: “Even so, the culprits won’t get the death penalty!” Four of the five family members were killed – Koichi Nagaoke, 44, his wife Fumie, also 44, and two of their three children, Megumi, 17 and Shota, 16. The survivor, a 12-year-old girl, remains unconscious in critical condition. Shota, ejected from the station wagon by the impact of the crash, was dragged some 1.5 km by one of the racing cars.

Tanikoshi, arrested and charged with dangerous driving resulting in death and injury, admitted causing the accident but said the light was green. This is impossible, argues Shukan Shincho, citing the traffic light’s internal mechanism which showed the light had turned red 30 seconds before Tanikoshi arrived. Koni, who apparently dragged Shota along, initially fled the scene but turned himself in to police the next morning. Among the charges he faces is hit and run. He reportedly told police he was unaware of dragging a body.

Tanikoshi and Komi have been friends since childhood, Shukan Shincho reports. Cars were a big part of their lives. Both left high school without graduating and had local reputations as toughs. From motorcycle hotrodding they graduated to automobile hotrodding. Both of them, but Komi especially, hung around a local car repair shop, picking up what knowledge they could and joyriding in abandoned cars which were not always roadworthy.

Komi’s background as reported by Shukan Shincho is tragic. His parents divorced when he was very young, but his father apparently harbored a lingering attachment to his ex-wife and begged her to take him back. She refused. It ended in murder-suicide. Ryuichi was 10. A grandmother took him in, then passed him on to an alcoholic uncle who beat him.

What happens now? As Shukan Shincho says, death sentences are highly unlikely. It cites a 1999 case in which a drunk truck driver hit and killed two small children; he got four years. Among campaigners for tougher sentences in such case is the children’s father – who admits, however, that harsh punishment is a double-edged sword. It may be a deterrent; on the other hand, it may encourage perpetrators to flee.

© Japan Today

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I agree it is a sad story all around. But it does not take away the fact that these 2 "tough" guys' joyride killed 4 people! It is going to need more than a sad story to make me feel bad for them. Most people suffer as a child, it does not make them killers. I bet if you could ask them, on that same night while they were drinking, if they saw themselves as victims of abuse, the answer would be NO!

5 ( +8 / -3 )


What do you mean? The police would have arrive don the scene minutes after the crash was reported.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

i agree, reckless. it's unacceptable that japan doesn't post police cars every hundred meters to catch drivers doing illegal things in a town of 20,000. sarcasm dripping

11 ( +11 / -0 )

What is about about these American trucks that attracts such unmitigated cretins?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

They should get long sentences, the 4 years for killing 2 children is a joke. When you drink and drive, its no longer involuntary.

@Reckless: Minority Report was just a movie, we still cant predict when somebody is going to commit a crime.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The article seems to mythologize these guys... makes them sound like the boys from Fast and Furious. No mention of the background of the victims. Plus the writer mangles that crucial middle paragraph describing the point of impact like a car wreck itself. Spend more time writing the facts and sticking to good journalism, and less time encouraging these thugs with a tip of your liberal press hat.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

If I were related to the victims, I would want them out and about, not protected by the prison system. Then I would enjoy terrorizing their lives until they committed suicide from the stress and fear.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Komi’s background as reported by Shukan Shincho is tragic. His parents divorced when he was very young, but his father apparently harbored a lingering attachment to his ex-wife and begged her to take him back. She refused. It ended in murder-suicide. Ryuichi was 10. A grandmother took him in, then passed him on to an alcoholic uncle who beat him.

So this justifies his breaking the law? There are plenty of people who come from broken homes that lead law-abiding lives and vice versa, one's from "stable" families that go bad.

Like kenneth wrote this article seems to idolize these two idiots. Consider just how many lives are ruined because of their selfish actions....the family of five, the grandparents on both sides, brothers and sisters of the mom and dad, co-workers, friends, neighbors, probably number in the hundreds the people that are affected by their selfishness.

Throw in jail and toss the key! Killing someone while driving drunk or impaired is the same as premeditated murder. They chose to drink, they chose to drive, even knowing it was illegal and morally wrong, but alcohol gives them a pass? Hell no.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What's with the focus on their hobby instead of .....say, their abuse of alcohol?

As I said in the last article about this accident, I know a LOT of street racers. None of them drink and drive. And VERY few of them would ever blow through a 30-second red light at triple-digit speeds. People who do that get a reputation for recklessness and then other responsible drivers tend to avoid cruising with them, because they are an obviously dangerous liability.

But hey, blame hotrodding, because that's an easier target than Japan's sacred recreational activity of drinking yourself stupid.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Another too light punishment disgusts me!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I know there are many cases where people who become criminals had a rough childhood but what does that have to do with drinking and drag racing through a red light? This guy is 100% on par with his father but this time some sort of punishment can be given.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

4 years really is too short for something like this. The sheer outrage that just reading this horror story elicits gives one the gut reaction that any sentence that involves these people ever seeing the light of day again isn`t going to be sufficient.

On the other hand, the point raised about harsher penalties incentivizing hit and runs is also a valid concern, though Im not sure how much of a factor that would be (if you are the type of person to flee the scene of an accident, youll probably do it to avoid a 4 year sentence as much as a life sentence).

Another logical reaction would be to significantly up the penalties for drag racing and drunk driving - and start strictly enforcing these.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Brainiac & Reckless

What do you mean? The police would have arrive don the scene minutes after the crash was reported.

I used that road like a million times, I know that route like the back of my hand, and to be fair to the J-cops, that's one place where familiar drivers know cops always conduct their checks. As the article says, it's a place that invites speed buffs to do their thing. Shochu-drunken speed freaks caused the accident , calling it an accident is a gross misnomer, I suppose.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Light prison sentences for such crimes are like corrupt politicians; the Japanese public is getting exactly what they deserve, i.e. what they voted for. I'm very sorry for the loss of the family lives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I might suggest giving some thought to redesigning this road to make it less attractive for racing.

I remember when I was young, this drag racing street racing thing was pretty serious. The solution my town came up with was to build a drag strip so the hot rodders could race legally, without endangering themselves or others.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

These guys seriously need to be charged for murder. You can talk about the circumstances all you want but the fact remains they chose to drive fast and then kill a whole family because of their decision. This is murder pure and simple.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@SenseNotSoCommonJ the make of the cars is irrevelant. they could have been in a nissan, and it still would have been tragedy that should have been avoided. i come from a small town in the middle of nowhere, and lack of entertainment is not a reason to drive recklessly, especially when there is only one road into town. f.y.i. a bmw is a german brand, car brand does not denote criminal activity.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As a 56yr old woman from PA, US of A I tried to look up judicial law in Japan for murder, abuse, neglect in the past and I've never really understood the way the articles tried to explain why the laws deal out very little punishments for heavy crimes.

Could someone explain it to me in small words please? I would be very grateful.


-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Ah yes, the old "well he had a tough childhood and got beaten up" excuses. I was wondering when they would surface. It's always somebody elses fault, right?

Carolee - married to a Japanese, 12 years in Japan, speak fluent Japanese, and I am just as much at a loss to understand the light sentences as you are. I have a friend right now battling through civil courts more than 4 years after the criminal courts allowed the truck driver that knocked down and killed his young son on a crossing to walk free from court, no penalties at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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