In the early morning hours of December 12, Miyoko Sumida, in custody on murder and abandonment charges related to a string of mysterious deaths in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, was found to have strangled herself in her detention cell with a long-sleeve shirt.
Numerous incidents can be traced back to the 64-year-old and various members of her family. Three bodies were discovered under an Amagasaki house in October. A corpse was found covered in concrete and stuffed inside a barrel the next month in Okayama Prefecture. Another body was discovered in similar circumstances in a warehouse in 2011.
The suicide, says weekly tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 3), may have supplied a sense of finality to the case, but businesses in the Hanshin-Amagasaki and Deyashiki districts, where many of the incidents took place, are still hurting due to a negative image that has befallen the area.
“The idea that Amagasaki is scary and creepy has deepened,” says a real estate agent in Amagasaki city. “We are definitely not ending the year on a positive note. Especially, homes constructed of wood, resembling the house that the bodies were discovered beneath, are not selling well at all.”
More pertinent to readers of Shukan Jitsuwa is how such the negative wave of publicity is affecting the fuzoku, or commercial sex, industry.
“Those incidents added another negative element on top of already hard-hitting recession,” says a manager working for a health (quickie) establishment near Hanshin Amagasaki Station. “So, many patrons are avoiding this area even though it is the end of the year. All of our top girls are moving to (Osaka’s) Umeda and (Kobe’s) Sannomiya districts. It’s a spiral downward: as the number of customers goes down so does the quality of the girls. The only option left is to lower prices.”
It seems SM clubs are seeing a decline in masochistic-type customers. “Perhaps, being roped and imprisoned reminds people of the incidents,” says a queen at an SM club, referring to the treatment many victims allegedly received before being killed and their bodies dumped. “While such options are still available, the number of patrons asking for such services is declining. While the suspect is absolutely wrong, the media has also magnified the situation too much.”
The magazine notes that while the central shotengai (arcade of boutique shops) in Amagasaki expects a major sales boost as the New Year’s holidays begin, no plan is in place to improve the area’s reputation looking into the future. (A.T.)
Source: “Jimoto SM fuzokuten nimo hamon wo yonda tairyo shitai iki jiken no tsume ato,” Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 3, page 51)
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