Japan Today



New book claims to shed light on Setagaya family murders in 2000


The book's title is "Setagaya Ikka Satsujin Jiken: Jugonen-me no Shin Jijitsu" (The Setagaya Family Murder Case: 15 years on, the new facts). Released by Kadokawa Publishing Co on Dec 5, the 254-page work is authored by Fumiya Ichihashi, the nom de plume of a former journalist at the Mainichi Shimbun who is recognized as one of Japan's most famous investigative writers.

It was on December 30, 2000 -- the penultimate night of the 20th century -- that the murder of an entire family occurred at a house adjacent to a public park in Kamisoshigaya 3-chome in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward.

The crime, relates Asahi Geino (Dec 17), was discovered around 10 a.m. on the morning of Dec 31, when the mother of Yasuko Miyazawa, who lived next door, repeatedly buzzed her daughter on the intercom. Thinking it strange to receive no response, she walked next door, and using her own key to let herself in, found her son-in-law, Mikio Miyazawa, age 44, lying dead on the floor from knife wounds. Her daughter, Yasuko, 41, granddaughter Niina, 10, and grandson Rei, 6, were also slain.

As the police forensic team combed through the Miyazawa house, they found that the killer had left behind so many clues, and his apprehension was likely to be just a matter of time. The police went so far as to determine what the killer had eaten in a previous meal -- something containing string beans and sesame seeds -- known because he stayed around long enough to use the Miyazawa's toilet to have a bowel movement.

The killer's DNA suggested that his origins might not be Japanese, and indeed numerous forensic data, such as his distinctive shoe prints, indicated at the very least he had some ties to the Korean peninsula.

"The killer was a male of Asian extraction," a police source tells the magazine. "His DNA carried a marker from his father that occurs in one out of every 13 Japanese; one out of about 10 Chinese, and one in every 5 or so Koreans. Based on mitochondrial DNA, his mother had an ancestor originating from the southern Mediterranean area, probably around the Adriatic."

Because of the possibility of an international angle, the investigation was undertaken by staff at two sections of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department -- the Investigative Section 1, which could be described as the MPD's major case squad, and the department of Public Security, which networks with law enforcement organizations overseas.

It was a South Korean man referred to only as "K" who pointed author Ichihashi in the direction of the killer, who in the book is given the pseudonym "R."

"For more than 30 years," Ichihashi tells Asahi Geino, "I've researched various crimes in detail, not only obtaining materials about the ongoing investigation, but also visiting the scenes of the crime, and meeting with people involved, including survivors. I share what I dig up with the police, and they reciprocate."

Among evidence found at the crime scene were particles of soil traced to South Korea's Gyeonggi Province (which includes the area surrounding Seoul). Other microscopic evidence also suggested ties to Korea.

Perhaps the biggest puzzle up to now has been the motive for the killings. According to Ichihashi's book, people in the neighborhood whose homes were affected by expansion of the nearby park were paid considerable compensation, in some cases over 100 million yen. When conveying concerns over her son's health condition to the aforementioned Mr K, Yasuko Miyazawa, is believed to have mentioned the financial windfall, which K targeted by procuring the services of "R."

Ichihashi claims to have "made contact" with "R," who's described as "a former member of the South Korean military." Ichihashi was able to obtain the man's fingerprints, which he determined to be a match with those collected at the crime scene by the police.

Ichihashi's book may supply some fascinating new angles to the puzzle, but it appears readers will have to be content with being tantalized rather than seeing the loose ends neatly tied up in a manner that leads to the arrest of the killer.

Certainly for the family members of the victims, whose hearts still ache over this tragedy, anything less than a full solution is meaningless. Steps should be taken to give them closure, the magazine concludes, and the sooner the better.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

New book claims to shed light on 2000 Setagaya family murders

Just has to be a better way of writing this title. I mean really, there weren't 2000 family murders in Setagaya.

Moderator: You're confusing 2,000 with 2000.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fascinating case. But this article isn't very satisfying. It seems to be written in a style designed to confuse.

Take the key sentence: "When conveying concerns over her son’s health condition to the aforementioned Mr K, Yasuko Miyazawa, is believed to have mentioned the financial windfall, which K targeted by procuring the services of “R.”"

Apart from the comma fault, why not just write:

Yasuko Miyazawa once told Mr K she was worried about her son’s health. She mentioned the financial windfall. That gave K the idea of trying to get his hands on the money, and so he hired the services of “R.”

SVO works best!

Of course, that begs the question of whether he got any of the money. Surely there would be financial records. And how do you get money from dead people, apart from wills?

“a former member of the South Korean military.”

Not very helpful since all males in that country are required to serve in the military. LOL.

"anything less than a full solution is meaningless"

Not really. Confirming the identity of the killer would be a massive step forward, even if the motive isn't fully unraveled. Indeed, I'm sticking to the theory the husband frequented shadowy gay bars and the murder was by a jilted lover, in which case the family would NOT want to know the motive.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Ichihashi has also written books about several other unsolved crimes, including the famous 300-million yen robbery by a faux motorcycle policeman in 1968 and the Glico-Morinaga corporate blackmail case in the mid- 1980s. He does exhaustive research and has a gift for exploring every possible angle. For instance, he went over all the securities transactions to see if the Glico-Morinaga blackmailers could have benefitted by going short on shares of the targeted companies, and came to the conclusion that any such trades would have been quickly flagged by auditors. As far as Jeff Lee's comment above, about not wanting to know the motive (or nab the culprit), there is certainly something to be said for that point of view, but somehow I can't see the police letting a man who killed two children and their mother run free. Such a person is viewed as a danger to society and there's always the chance he'll commit future crimes. The pressure from the public to nab the culprit is too great.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I have a wild hunch that the South Korean man referred to only as “K” is actually called Kim.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Here's a poser: what is the relationship between the dead husband's mother, Yasuko, and the Korean, 'K', and why did she confide in him about her son's considerable windfall?

Here's an angle to work: was a contract put on the husband's life by the mother in the hope that she would collect the residue (i.e. the money)?

I can't help but think that if the husband had major gambling debts, and the Koreans found out about his stash, it'd be pretty easy to shake him down without killing him and his family.

No. It can't be that. He was worth more to someone dead. We know why, but to whom?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"As far as Jeff Lee's comment above, about not wanting to know the motive (or nab the culprit)"

I didn't actually say that. Everyone wants the culprit found, identified and face justice. But the family may not want to know about all the possibly dark and unsavory details concerning the husband.

The fact the killer hung around the house and ate ice cream, surfed the net and even used the dumper, leaving lots of DNA evidence, indicates it wasn't a professional hit for money.

There was something emotional involved, and the theory of the jilted gay lover from the demi-monde would be consistent with that. He was probably curious about the life and the environment his lover had been keeping from him. It also happened during the holidays, when loved ones spend time together, explaining a distraught and angry person.

2 ( +4 / -2 )


I agree. The evidence also showed that there were no defensive wounds on the male victim (I believe he as stabbed while walking up the stairs). So rather than some anonymous professional hitman from Korea, it suggests he knew the killer and welcomed him into the home without hesitation (before the wife even came downstairs to see who was at the door). Of course, we'll have to buy the book for more of an explanation, and maybe that's the whole point of this 'new' theory.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Looks like the would-be Sherlocks are out in force.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The guy seems to have credentials. But would criminals think the government when acquiring land just hands over $1m in cash to families, who then refuse to put it in a bank? Or did they supposedly take it out of the bank, to hide safely under a mattress in a Tokyo house subject to earthquakes, fires and robbery? I know Japanese do keep money at home, but we're talking about educated urban professionals here. Apparently he also says the killer was or became a professional hitman. Surprising people would pay for the services of someone notorious for leaving record amounts of forensic evidence behind, including clothing, half eaten food, a turd in the toilet, fingerprints, blood, DNA. Maybe he got 'better' with time? Such a terrible and bizarre case, I hope it gets solved.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It just occurred to me that if Ichihashi met "R" 15 years after the murders, then "R" could have done his military service after the killings. The police profile had the killer as being very slender (the fanny pack waist size was 83cm) and from size of his shirt, he appeared to be about 170cm tall. Police estimated the killer was young, perhaps around age 20. So a "former member of the South Korean military" doesn't necessarily mean he had already been one at the time of the crime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites