It is December again.
Ever since I had learned about the murder of Junko Furuta, I cannot help but thinking of her towards the end of each year. It is particularly so this year, as it marks the 30th anniversary of her horrendous tragedy. This month 30 years ago she was gradually tortured to death, while general members of the public were happily busy in excitement for the approaching Christmas and the New Year.
Because I had written about her murder in my Japanese blog as well, a reader informed me of an attempted murder that had happened this summer. The suspect was Shinji Minato —- one of the four brutes that murdered Junko.
On the 19th of August 2018, a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. He had allegedly struck a 32-year-old man on the shoulder with a truncheon (nightstick) and stabbed him in the neck.
An emergency call was made by the victim at 18:05, stating that he had been hit with a truncheon and stabbed in the neck. Police officers rushed to the scene. The victim was bleeding from the back of his neck, but fortunately the injury was not life-threatening. The perpetrator was not present at the scene, but his car was. From its registration number, the suspect’s address in the neighbourhood was identified. Visited by the officers at his home, the suspect admitted committing the offense, and was arrested at 19:50. According to him, he did stab the victim but did not intend to kill him.
The truncheon used was expandable and 41cm in full length. It was commercially available for self-defense and was slightly different in design from the ones used by police. The knife was foldable and 19cm long when opened with an 8cm blade.
The victim stated that he had just returned to his apartment in Kawaguchi City after work in the evening and parked his car in the car park, when Minato, who was in a different parking space, approached him making nonsensical remarks. When the victim replied, “What do you want?”, Minato suddenly punched him and a physical fight started. Minato stroke the victim with a truncheon (nightstick) that he had taken out of his trousers, then stabbed the victim in the back of the neck with a knife.
The name of the arrested was Shinji Minato of Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture. He was C, one of the four murderers of Junko Furuta who was abducted in November 1988 and brutally tortured to death after 41 days of imprisonment.
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Several internet news sources imply that the cause of the incident was parking row, but witnesses believe differently. A different internet news source reports that it was not a car but a small truck the victim had arrived in. The victim was not alone but had company.
“A lightweight truck drove into the car park, but Minato stood and blocked their entry. Parking trouble? No way, he was picking a fight. When the driver of the truck opened the window, Minato suddenly hit him with the truncheon.”
“There was a passenger in the truck who punched Minato. It was the person who was trying to stop the fight that was stabbed. The victim appeared all right, but his T-shirt on the back was covered in blood.”
A neighbour who witnessed the police’s crime scene investigation with Minato in presence stated: “He was in calm composure without showing any shame or remorse, saying ‘I was attacked about here, but of course I hit back’ “.
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Having been released from prison, Shinji Minato allegedly made a debut as a Muay Thai player at a local Thai restaurant in 2008. He was hooted at and called “Concri” (shortened term of “concrete”) by disgruntled spectators, and quitted after a while. His initial address after release was allegedly Ichikawa City (Chiba Prefecture) where he lived with his family. Then they moved to Kyoto. After Minato married either in 2006 or in 2010 to a foreigner, probably Romanian or Lichtenstein, he moved out of his family home and started his own family in Osaka. They had a baby girl. Minato then moved to Aizu City (Fukushima Prefecture) before his address became unknown.
According to neighbours, Minato moved into his current apartment around June this year. It is now believed that he was on his own after having divorced from his wife who gained the custody of their daughter. His new neighbours state:
“The apartment had a new manager. The monthly rent used to be about 65,000yen with only half of the apartments occupied. The new manager reduced the rent down to 39,000yen; that’s when shady characters came to live there. I thought he was a Tekiya because he hang stall screens to dry, you know, those screens that go round food stalls. He did not seem to go out to work at all though. When he came out of his room, he would descend the stairs shouting. He also appeared vigilant. I was fearful that he might do something one day….. I wonder whether he would come back.”
“He wasn’t tall – only just above 160cm or so – but was muscular. His head was totally shaven and he always wore bulky T-shirts and shorts. He would suddenly speak to you about President Trump or something like that, but I avoided to interact with him as I didn’t know what he was up to without even working. When a neighbour was once searching for something in his car, standing outside with the door open, he (Minato) tried to shut the door hard. Was he trying to hurt him? That neighbour was the man who lives right under him. They seemed to be having a row in the morning of the incident.”
The resident who lives below Minato confirmed the story. “Oh, yes. He caused me trouble by shouting and stomping on the floor in the middle of the night. When I went to talk to him, there was no answer to my knocks. When I caught and spoke to him outside, he either diverted the topic or asked me whether I was hearing noise at night. I thought he was crazy, but somehow the noise stopped to my relief. Then the stabbing happened —- I was astounded. To think that I could have been stabbed —- I am very scared.”
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Unless a reader of my Japanese blog had informed me, I would not have known of Minato’s repeat offence. To my astonishment it seems that all the major Japanese news sources have not clearly identified the perpetrator of this incident as C = Shinji (or Nobuharu) Minato, and I cannot understand why. My search for his recent image failed to produce any result. It seems that at the age of 45 he is still well protected by the Juvenile Law.
Below is the opinion published by Japan Federation of Bar Associations, shortly after Junko’s murder.
In regard to the media treatment of recent juvenile crime
1. Triggered by the abduction and murder of a female high school student, some media sources have declared the suspected youths as “brutes”. Insisting that “brutes” have no himan rights, they have disclosed the suspects’ identities and are demanding the amendment of the juvenile law so that the youths can be severely punished. This is a grave situation that threatens the human rights of the youths.
2. The Juvenile Law prohibits the publication of the name, age, occupation, address and appearances of the youths who have committed offences, in order to protect their privacy and to assist their rehabilitation, as it is the basis of the Juvenile Law.
3. Some media sources are persistent on blaming the youths personally and take little interest in the complex factors in their background such as their home situation, school life and the community that surround them. Their intention to induce the public to simply amend the Juvenile Law causes us grave concern.
4. The identity of the victimized female student has been widely published. Even when the victim is deceased, in order to protect the victim’s honour and their family’s privacy, the victim’s identity must also be respected.
We hereby clarify our concern and opinion.
23 June 1989 / Japan Federation of Bar Associations / Chairman Hideo Fujii
This Chairman Mr. Fujii should be very proud of himself now!
When I learned of Minato’s repeat offence, I felt that my anticipation had come true. He had not been rehabilitated. Maybe I should be surprised that he had not broken the law earlier. (Not publicly at least, of course.) After their release, the four brutes’ identities have been strictly kept secret. Until Minato committed the attack this summer, their neighbours had no idea who he was. Now three out of four brutes have committed another crime (although A was not convicted due to lack of evidence).
“Youths that have committed offense or crime need to be assisted with rehabilitation so that they can return to the society.”
I understand it, BUT!!
Miss Junko Furuta, who was at no fault and only happened to be at a wrong place at a wrong time, was abducted and tortured for 41 days until her death! Wouldn’t those who blindly stick to the Juvenile Law change their mind even if their own child was murdered in the way she was?
In my opinion the four brutes should have been sentenced to death. If they had, there would have been no victim of their repeat offense. Of course Junko will never return even if they were executed. However I believe, that there is a limit in atonement. To any normal human being, the way Junko was brutalised until her death was cruel, vicious and savage beyond imagination. Deceased Junko has no chance to express how much pain she was in, how terrified she was, how much she wished to return home, and how much she wanted to live.
Yet the four brutes were members of the society after lenient punishment. To me this is nothing but gross injustice and they failed Junko completely. The judges were there to study the minute details and take into account every aspect of Junko’s case as unique, in order to give proper sentence that reflect the will of the people, weren’t they?! Instead they stuck to Juvenile Law and judicial precedents, which artificial intelligence could easily have done instead of human judges. As Junko’s case was so unprecedented and brutal, they should have thrown the Juvenile Law out of the window. After all, Juvenile Law is man-made and should be amended whenever it becomes necessary.
The brutes were protected by the Juvenile Law and were given a second chance. When they break it, why can’t they be taken off the society and be hung? Hanging is much swifter and so less painful than what Junko went through. After all, they had chosen to commit another offense/crime, whereas Junko had no choice!
I learned that Minato’s father had died two years ago in December. I have no intention to wish him to rest in peace. He was the father of the home where Junko was imprisoned and tortured for weeks. Had he done what he should have done, Junko would be alive today. Living under the same roof, he could not have been unaware of what was going on upstairs. Afraid of losing face in the community and fearful of his own son’s violence, Minato’s parents turned blind eyes, covered their ears and sacrificed Junko. I hope the last 28 years of his life was full of misery.
Very soon on the 16th of this month, Minato becomes 46 years old. I would like to wish him the most unhappy birthday. Even at this age his privacy seems protected; the internet search only shows his old images. When attempted murder is committed, images of the suspect are usually released. Why is he receiving special treatment!?
Minato will probably be released in a few years. With his neighbours having learned his true identity, I do not think he returns to Kawaguchi City. I wonder where he settles himself next. He may well snap again for a simple reason and harm someone else. Other three brutes may well do so too. They may even commit random attack on the members of the public. I believe that, at least the three brutes that have committed repeat crime/offence, should have their identity published for the safety of the public.
It seems that younger generation in Japan are being astounded and horrified by Junko’s murder. They cannot understand why the four brutes got away with such lenient punishment and wish them to have been executed. I share the same feeling with them.
Please Rest In Peace,
Miss Junko Furuta.
[ Additional Note ]
I have come across some English writings on Junko’s case that accuse her parents of doing nothing to find and save her. Reading many Japanese sources, however, I have not found any statement to support this. Japanese media being dishonest and covering up for them? I do not think so as Japanese media is not that protective. Junko herself was initially reported to have been a member of the gang and therefore she was staying at Minato’s house on her own will. Without internet back then, it took some time for the public to learn that she was a totally innocent victim.
Below is an image of the deputy headteacher of Junko’s high school, from then Japanese news. He stated that her parents had become very concerned when she had failed to return home on Friday the 25th of November 1988 and visited her school to talk to her teachers the following Monday.
Junko’s parents had gone through hell. In my opinion, unless you actually knew them and therefore can be 100% certain that they did nothing to save her, no one should blame them. I myself believe that her parents were ordinary decent people, judging from her photograph and the timeline leading up to the incident.