Trigger Warning: graphic descriptions of abduction, sexual assault, torture, and murder. If any of those topics are likely to disturb you, please consider reading something else here on A Little Bit Human.
In this article:
- Junko Furuta was a 17 year old high school student when she was abducted by two young men on her way home from work in 1988.
- While being held captive, Furuta would be raped and tortured for 40 days by men who claimed to be members of a Yakuza youth group.
- Junko Furuta’s captors were not convicted of her murder, and would go on to be repeat offenders.
There are few true crime cases that come close to being as horrific as the case of Junko Furuta’s murder.
In January 1989, two young men were arrested by Japanese police officers on charges of kidnapping and rape. The officers, believing there was only one victim, proceeded to interrogate them about their involvement in the gang rape of a 19-year-old girl. But the men weren’t aware which girl the police were talking about.
For all they knew, it was either their freshly abducted victim or Junko Furuta who they had beaten to death several days prior.
18-year-old Hiroshi Miyano sweat bullets in the hot seat. He must have thought the jig was up because the police knew they raped and tortured Junko Furuta for 40 days. Maybe his co-conspirator, 17-year-old Jo Ogura, caved to the police’s demands for a confession in exchange for a lighter sentence.
So what does he do? He tells them where Junko Furuta’s body was disposed of.
Here’s the thing, though, the police had no idea who Junko Furuta was and nothing could have prepared them for what they found.
When they arrived in Koto, Tokyo, the officers discovered a 55-gallon oil drum filled to the top with concrete. Inside were the remains of Junko Furuta together with a videotape of the final episode of Tonbo, a Japanese TV show, that Miyano had packed into the drum with her in the hopes that her spirit wouldn’t return to haunt him.
Junko Furuta Was a High School Student in 1980s Japan
Junko Furuta was an “it girl.” From the few grainy photos of her available online, it’s easy to tell she had a natural, radiant beauty that was made even more appealing by her sunny personality. Her classmates loved her for it. Furuta’s friendly disposition, good looks, and academic accomplishments made her the type of girl her peers either wanted to be or wanted to date.
Furuta was aware of these strengths. She used it to land a job with an electronics retailer. Had things been different, she may have stayed there while she thought of how to make her dreams of being an idol singer come true.
But Furuta wasn’t born into a wealthy family. She had to work part-time at a plastic molding factory to pay for a high school graduation trip. Graduation trips are a big deal in Japan and many graduating students get part-time jobs to save up for their trip. No one knows where Furuta was planning to go, but we do know where she went on November 25, 1988.
At 8:30 that evening, Furuta was biking home as fast as she could to watch the last episode of Tonbo. Unbeknownst to her, she had caught the attention of Hiroshi Miyano and Shinji Minato.
The two planned to isolate Furuta without making a scene. Minato would kick Furuta off her bike to scare her and Miyano would arrive and pretend he was helping her. Furuta, who was rattled by the initial attack, didn’t think anything was amiss when Minato offered to walk her home.
Instead, Minato brought her to a secluded warehouse where he raped her. It wouldn’t be the first time either because, in the next 40 days, Minato and his friends would keep her captive as a sex slave and offer her body to other friends of theirs.
Junko Furuta Was Tortured and Raped for 40 Days in Total
There’s always that one annoying question that comes up whenever there’s a discussion about a rape case: “Why didn’t the victim fight back?”
According to a blog post by a Japanese speaker who was able to read the court documents detailing Furuta’s murder, Minato had told Furuta that he and Miyano were Yakuza members. The Yakuza is a massive organized crime group that, at one point, was so powerful it had human trafficking rings all over Asia.
Though the Yakuza’s influence today is a shadow of what it once was, the organization still had a fearsome reputation in the 80s which made Furuta too afraid of angering her captors.
Minato promised her that he would spare her life and release her if she just stayed quiet. After raping her, however, Minato and Miyano brought her to a park where they met with Jo Ogura and Yasushi Watanabe.
It was here that the group decided to check her backpack where they found a notebook containing Furuta’s home address. The group used this information to blackmail Furuta into coming with them to Minato’s parents’ house in the Ayase district.
After two days of waiting for Furuta to come home, her parents decided to call the police and ask them to help them look for their daughter. When Furuta’s captors caught wind of it, they coerced Furuta into calling her parents to tell them that she had run away and was staying at a friend’s house.
Not only did Furuta’s parents give up looking for their daughter, who never exhibited rebellious behavior before, but Minato’s parents knew what was happening the entire time.
One of the Rapists’ Parents Was in on It
The house that Minato, Miyano, Ogura, and Watanabe brought Junko Furuta to wasn’t the Minato family’s second home. The Minatos were living in that same house while their son brought in other juvenile gang members into their house to rape Furuta.
At first, Minato forced Furuta to pretend she was his girlfriend and for a while, the parents bought it. Furuta seemed like a nice girl, after all, and maybe they hoped she could reform their son.
At least, that’s the impression Minato’s parents gave the judge during the trial. The couple claimed they were afraid of Minato’s increasingly violent behavior towards them and his ties to a gang (which was never confirmed to be yakuza).
Whatever the truth is regarding Minato’s parents’ involvement, what is known is that their home became a regular hangout for the young criminals. Around 11:00 P.M. on November 28, Minato’s parents woke up to loud noises coming from their son’s room.
Minato told them that it was nothing and that they should go to bed. Because the lights in Minato’s room weren’t working, his mother didn’t see two other men holding down Junko Furuta as they raped her. One man held a pillow over Furuta’s head, smothering her, while another assaulted her.
Minato’s mother eventually left. Enraged at her attempts to call for help, Minato grabbed a lighter and set Furuta’s pubic hair on fire. The abuse escalated in December after Furuta tried to call the police while her abusers were taking a nap.
Unfortunately, one of the perpetrators woke up and heard her dialing the police station’s number. Before Furuta could say anything, he dropped the call. The police dialed the Minato residence and asked if everything was alright. Furuta’s captor insisted it was just a misdial and set the phone back down.
In the following days, the group stopped feeding Furuta and would only give her alcoholic drinks and milk. Miyano took a liking to burning Furuta’s arms and legs with lighter fluid. Other tortures included shoving hot lightbulbs, lit matches, metal rods, and bottles into Furuta’s vagina and anus.
Eventually, Furuta’s body became unable to keep up with the injuries and malnutrition. She began to lose the ability to walk and, when she could no longer crawl to the bathroom, the group made her pee in a cup which she was then forced to drink. The group also forced her to eat cockroaches.
When Furuta died, she was no longer recognizable and was severely underweight. Autopsy procedures found that her brain shrunk drastically and her eardrums were severely damaged because the gang would set off fireworks inside her ears.
Furuta’s Life Ended After 40 Days, 400 Instances of Rape, and 1 Majong Game
Junko Furuta endured over 400 different instances of gang rape during her time in the Minato residence. In the final days leading up to her death, the gang had stopped raping her because her infected wounds were leaking puss and smelled like rotting meat. This led them to kidnap another young woman who they also gang-raped and brutalized.
The details of what triggered the gang to kill Furuta aren’t clear. If you’ve heard of this story before, you may have seen several sources claiming that Furuta had beaten the boys in a game of mahjong which angered them, causing the group to beat her to death.
But that’s not what Yumig, the blogger who read the original Japanese court decision, says. According to him, Junko Furuta did not play a mahjong game with her captors which makes sense. At this stage of her captivity, Furuta was badly injured and couldn’t even crawl.
Contrary to popular claims, Yumig says that the gang had lost a lot of money while playing mahjong so when they returned to the Minato residence, they decided to take their anger out on Furuta who was barely alive on the morning of January 4, 1989.
The group beat her up, dropped weights repeatedly on her stomach, and poured hot wax on her eyelids. Junko Furuta was so out of it that she wasn’t responding. They forced her to stand and kicked her into a stereo set.
Furuta began convulsing but the group continued to beat her to a pulp. Disgusted by the blood and pus her body was leaking, they wrapped their hands in plastic bags before continuing to beat her up.
The gang eventually grew tired of torturing Furuta so they tied her ankles and went to a sauna.
By the time they returned, she was dead.
Junko Furuta’s Murderers Were Barely Held Accountable
Hiroshi Miyano was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Shinji Minato received 5 to 7 years. Jo Ogura was given 8 years. Yasushi Watanabe got 5 to 9 years.
None of them were charged with murder. Their official sentence stated they were convicted of “causing bodily injury resulting in death.” The Japanese juvenile court system initially gave them even lower sentences because it favored rehabilitation of juvenile offenders over retributive justice.
Junko Furuta’s case caused a ton of public outrage and continues to do so today. But it also presents an interesting legal dilemma: Is the opportunity to give juvenile violent offenders a second chance worth a potential repeat offense?
A study conducted by Norair Khachatryan from the University of South Florida found that: “The results indicated that close to 90 percent of released offenders have been rearrested during the 30-year follow-up period, and more than 60 percent have been rearrested for violent offenses.”
Furuta’s murderers became part of that statistic. Minato has been arrested again for the unprovoked attempted murder of a 32-year-old man. Miyano continued on with gang activities. Jo Ogura hunted down, threatened to kill, and beat a man who he believed was having an affair with his girlfriend.
Watanabe is the only one who doesn’t appear to have had a second run-in with the law.
This was not the kind of fame Furuta wanted. The aspiring singer would have been around 50 years old at the time this article was written. It’s been 33 years since her death.