On January 4, 1989, Hiroshi Miyano and some friends tortured and beat Junko Furuta to death after losing a Mahjong game. Their horrific crime was the culmination of 44 days of hell that they had inflicted on the poor girl in one of Japan’s most shocking kidnapping and murder cases. By the end, Junko could barely stand or speak.
The main perpetrators were four teenage boys named Jō Ogura, Shinji Minato, Hiroshi Miyano, and Yasushi Watanabe, but an additional 100 people participated or knew about crimes against Junko Furuta. Let’s take a look at one of Japan’s most shocking true crime cases.
The murder of Junko Furuta is one of the most horrific crimes ever perpetrated on another human being. Readers should continue at their own risk, as it is very upsetting.
The Early Life of Junko Furuta
Junko Furuta was a seventeen-year-old high school girl at the time of her death. Born in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, she went to Yashio-Minami High Schoo. She was a model student who took school extremely seriously with excellent grades that reflected her dedication. Before the abduction, she worked at a plastic molding factory to save up money for a graduation trip. After graduation, she had already secured a job at an electronics retailer. Unlike other kids her age, Furuta didn’t smoke and drink and had a good relationship with her parents and two brothers.
In addition to her model behavior, many found Furuta to be an attractive girl, including the men who would eventually kill her.
Hiroshi Miyano was one of Junko Furuta’s high school classmates. Miyano was a school bully who terrified most people who came into contact with him. He also had connections to Yakuza, which violently controls most Japanese organized crime, making him even more dangerous.
Unluckily for Furuta, he set his eyes on her, developing a crush. Furuta rejected his advances, which infuriated Miyano. He was a person who got what he wanted, so this rejection bothered him to no end. A few days later, his rage would manifest in a violent attack and eventual murder.
Assault and Abduction of Junko Furuta
On the evening of November 25, 1988, Hiroshi Miyano and friend Shinji Minato were stalking the city. They planned to rob and murder local women they could catch on the street. The two had a history as gang-rapists, so they knew exactly how to target women.
After seeing Furuta riding her bike home from work around 8:30 pm, Miyano put a plan into action. Misato kicked Furuta off her bike, knocking her to the ground, and fled. Miyano played the part of a concerned citizen and offered to walk a flustered Furuta home, which she accepted.
She would never make it home again.
Miyano took her to a nearby warehouse and revealed his Yakuza connections. Threatening her and her family with death, Miyano proceeded to rape her. He took her to a nearby hotel and raped her again before calling his friends Jō Ogura, Shinji Minato, and Yasushi Watanabe. To brag about what he’d done. Ogura had the idea that they should all take part in raping her, which led to Miiyano taking Furuta to meed his friends around 3 am. The four raped her before taking her into Minato’s parent’s home.
Furuta Reported Missing
One question that always comes up with this case is how the four boys could get away with what they did for so long. They were able to through lies and intimidation.
When they first abducted Junko Furuta, they pulled her home address from her notebook. They made it clear that they and their Yakuza connections would kill her and her family if she tried to escape.
A few days after her disappearance, Junko Furuta’s parents reported her missing to the police. Weaponizing her home address, Furuta’s captors had her call her parents and told them she ran away to stay with a friend and was safe. With that information, the police stupidly ceased the investigation.
One of the most twisted parts of this case was that Shinji Minato’s parents were around and privy to what was going on. At first, Minato pretended that Furuta was his girlfriend, but stopped the charade once he realized his parents were too afraid to do anything about it. They were terrified of Miyano’s Yakuza connections and their son’s violent behavior. They preferred to repress and live in ignorant bliss to the crime taking place in their own home. Minato’s brother knew as well but chose to keep quiet.
At one point, Koichi Ihara, one of their accomplices, told his parents, who reported what was going on to the police. They showed up at the Minato household, which told them there was no girl inside. Because the Minato’s offered to let them search, the police broke protocol and didn’t bother searching the residence. This oversight led to Junko undergoing more than twenty additional days of torture and her eventual murder. Both officers faced criticism, and the police fired them after they found Furuta’s body.
Living in Hell for 44 Days
Over the next forty or so days, they held Junko Furuta in captivity. They tortured her in unspeakable ways, making her life a living hell.
When they weren’t sexually abusing her, they spent their time torturing and humiliating her in various ways. The four forced her to drink her own urine and touch herself sexually in front of them and their guests. They hung her from the ceiling and beat her, dropped barbells on her, fed her live cockroaches, inserted fireworks and lightbulbs inside her genitals. They burned her genitals with cigarettes, dripped hot wax on her eyelids, and ripped her nipple off with pliers.
Most of the time, she was kept naked. The four kidnappers raped her an estimated 400 times over that period and brought in more than 100 additional men through the house to rape her as well. By the time she died, the court had estimated she had undergone 500 separate rapes. At one point, 12 different people raped her in one day.
Junko Furuta would sleep into unconsciousness from the shock and brutal assaults, which led to additional torture in the form of dunking her head underwater. Her face was unrecognizable during her autopsy, and coroners found Oronamin C bottles stuck inside her. Horrifyingly, she was also pregnant, even though the damage to her genitals and uterus was extensive.
Furuta eventually couldn’t pick anything up because weights smashed almost every bone in her hands. At night, she slept exposed to the elements on the balcony. Weather in the area averages temperatures of 41 degrees Fahrenheit, which would have been a significant issue.
She didn’t take this lying down. At one point, Furuta attempted to call the police and was almost successful in getting help. They forced her to hang up, and when the police called again, Miyano said the call was a mistake. Making good on earlier threats about going for help, they tied her legs and set them on fire with lighter fluid. Severe burns and nasty bruises made it almost impossible to walk from that point forward. Thirty days in, the damage to her organs was so bad she couldn’t urinate properly. It took over thirty minutes to drag herself downstairs to use the toilet. Her pleas for her captors to kill her or get her help fell on deaf ears and often just led to more abuse. Eventually, they lost sexual interest and began preying on other women again. They soon kidnapped and raped another girl on her way home from work, but they released her.
The Murder of Junko Furuta
On January 4, 1989, Hiroshi Miyana lost a bunch of money while playing Mahjong. The enraged Hiroshi Miyana came to the house and decided to take it out on Furuta. They burned her eyelids with candle wax, beat her with a barbell, and punched and kicked her. Forcing to her feet and beating her, she eventually collapsed on the floor, where they dropped barbells on her stomach and caught her on fire. The pus from her wounds was so messy that they covered their fists in plastic not to get it on their skin. After two hours of torture, Junko Furuta eventually became unresponsive and died.
Within twenty-four hours, Minato’s brother called him to let him know that Furuta was dead. Afraid of getting caught, they smuggled her out in blankets and encased her in a metal drum with cement.
Some may argue that the murder wasn’t premeditated, but they had discussed killing Furuta many times before the fateful night. The plan was to burn her in an oil drum, fill it with concrete, and throw it into the sea, which was very close to what happened.
The Arrest and Prosecution of Junko Furuta’s Murderers
For a few weeks, the police were none the wiser about the horrific torture and murder that Furuta had undergone. Three weeks later, on January 23, 1989, Jō Ogura and Hiroshi Miyano were arrested for the gang-rape of the 19-year-old women the month before. A couple of months later, the police found women’s underwear in their home and came to interrogate them.
During the interrogation, officers implied that Jō Ogura had told them about Hiroshi Miyano committing a murder. Miyano immediately folded and confessed to torturing and murdering Furuta.
This confession was news to the police. They believed Miyano was responsible for murder from months before, which he had nothing to do with. Miyano and his accomplices would have gotten away with the murder if not for their stupidity.
Because she was unrecognizable after the abuse, police identified Furuta by her fingerprints. They quickly arrested Nobuharu Minato, Minato’s brother, Yasushi Watanabe, and Hiroshi Miyano.
Japan, like many countries, shields the names of minors after they’ve committed crimes. Because all of Furuta’s captors were underage at the time, the state didn’t release their names. The only reason we know who they are is that Shūkan Bunshun, a Japanese magazine, removed their names. They reasoned that the crimes were so severe that they did not deserve to hide behind anonymity.
The case was stacked against the four, as they had already confessed to the crime. All four confessed to a lesser charge to avoid a murder sentence.
The court sentenced Hiroshi Miyano to 17 years in prison. After an unsuccessful appeal, a judge tacked on three years for a total of twenty years in prison.
Despite his prominent role and using his parent’s house as a place to hold Furuta, Nobuharu Minato was only sentenced to four to six years. The police didn’t charge his parents and brother despite their guilt.
Jō Ogura received eight years in a juvenile prison, and Yasushi Watanabe received three to four years. A few others who knew or participated in the torture and rape were tried as well.
Criticism of the Court and Police
The public criticized the police’s failure on multiple. If the police had pursued the early missing person report or followed up on the numerous leads, Junko Furuta would undoubtedly have survived the ordeal. It brings to mind the two police officers that released Konerak Sinthasomphone into Jeffrey Dahmer’s testimony, even though he was under duress. In addition to this carelessness, if not for Hiroshi Miyano’s stupidity, the case would have never made it to trial.
Japanese courts and laws faced criticism for the seemingly lenient sentences for such a brutal crime. Unfortunately, all four were minors at the time, which placed some limitations on what the court could do. Furuta’s parents were able to win a civil case against Nobuharu Minato’s parents and close to $400,000 from Miyano’s parents. Poor Furuta’s mother suffered a mental breakdown during the trial.
Where are Junko Furuta’s killers now?
Because of the light sentences, every single of her killers got out of prison. Staying out of prison was a significant issue for them.
Hiroshi Miyano got out around 2009. He attempted to change his name to Yokoyama, but his real identity was outed. In 2013, police arrested him for suspected fraud. Learning his lesson, he kept silent and got released from a lack of evidence. Today, he is an avid kickboxer and found himself a new posse. His organized crime ties and MLM schemes have made him very wealthy as well.
Jō Ogura spent eight years in prison before his release in 1999. Freedom proved to be too much for him because, in 2004, he assaulted Takatoshi Isono after suspecting involvement with his girlfriend. Ogura kidnapped Isono and took him to his mother’s bar, and beat him for hours. The court sentenced him to seven years, which he has since served.
Nobuharu Minato moved in with his mother upon his release and struggled to work. In 2018, he became the third to get arrested after assaulting a 32-year-old man with a rod and knife.
Yasushi Watanabe is the only one who hasn’t returned to prison. If the other’s track records mean anything, he can’t be far behind.
On April 2, 1989, one day after the perpetrator’s arrest, was Junko Furuta’s funeral. Her future employer gave her parents a uniform in a touching gesture that they could place in her casket. The principal of her high school provided her with a diploma.
Beyond true crime junkies, Junko Furuta is a part of popular culture. At least three books and a movie cover the case. Manga’s are inspired by it as well as popular songs.
If you found this article interesting, read more about Fusako Sano, a Japanese girl held captive for almost a decade. You could also read about Jennifer Pan, a seemingly perfect teen who tried to have her parents killed.
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