TOYAMA (TR) – Prior to last year, the internet had become filled with rumors about what might have befallen Megumi Yashiki and Narumi Takumi, both 19 years old when they disappeared in 1996.
They were abducted by North Korean agents, or so went one rumor. Another said they were raped and killed by a gang of bosozoku roughnecks.
In the latter speculation, the spirits of the girls caused two of the offenders to go mad, with their whereabouts becoming unknown. Meanwhile, the other three went on live in fear over their dastardly deeds.
None of them proved to be true — at least that is probably the case, or so says weekly tabloid Shukan Josei.
Not long after a vehicle was pulled from the seabed at Fushiki Port in Imizu City in March of last year, police confirmed that the bodies of both girls were inside.
Despite the discovery, questions still linger, including a fundamental query: Why did the police respond so slowly after receiving a tip years before the discovery?
It was Golden Week, 1996. At around 9:00 p.m. on May 5, Yashiki and Takumi, both residents of Himi City, told their families that they were heading to Uozu City inside Yashiki’s vehicle.
Their target was Hotel Tsubono, then deserted. Among residents in the region, it was known as a “haunted spot.”
Located about 60 kilometers east of Himi, the hotel was a six-floor structure. In the early 1980s, the manager of the hotel disappeared after filing for bankruptcy.
Then, during the asset-inflated “bubble” economy, the property and buildings were sold at auction for 35 million yen.
However, the hotel was abandoned after the bubble burst. Having fallen into disrepair, it became a hangout for bosozoku roughnecks.
“We are in Uozu”
According to the magazine, Yashiki and Tarumi had visited the structure twice before. This time, Yashiki had packed a flashlight inside her vehicle. Her companion brought batteries and a penlight from the store where she worked.
Himi is located about 13 kilometers from Fushiki Port. Depending on the route taken, their destination, Uozu, is an additional 40 to 50 kilometers further.
At some point during the journey, they stopped at what was then known as Kaiomaru Park, a gathering spot for young people located near the port.
At around 10:00 p.m., they gassed up the vehicle at a filling station in Uozu. The route to the hotel extends through the mountains after a stretch on National Route 8.
They were last heard from when Takumi wrote via pager to an acquaintance, “We are in Uozu.”
Two days later, their families reported them missing. The following March, when they both would have become adults, Toyama Prefectural Police released their names publicly.
The June 1997 issue of monthly magazine Gekkan Hokkoku Actus included a story on their disappearance.
“Around the abandoned building, there were no signs of anything belonging to the victims, such as bloodstains or clothes,” the article read.
A Shukan Josei reporter visited the dilapidated site last year. After climbing a spiral staircase, he found graffiti on the walls, doors and pillars. A half-open elevator door led only to deep, dark black.
“Suddenly started moving backwards”
For years, police had no clues in the case. However, at the end of 2014, investigatorsr learned about the existence of three witnesses.
Police interviewed them in January of last year. “A car with two women dropped from a parking lot into the sea near Kaiomaru Park at midnight of a major holiday in 1996,” one of the witnesses said.
The witness added that when they approached to speak to the girls, in the driver’s and passenger seats, “the car suddenly started moving backwards and fell [into the water].”
When queried about their delay in coming forward, all three witnesses said they were “scared.”
Surveys that included the use of metal detectors and divers were then conducted. The vehicle was later located at a depth of about 8 meters. It was raised from the bottom on March 4, 2020.
In addition to the remains, investigators found a credit card for a gasoline station with the name “Yashiki Megumi.”
The results of DNA analyses on the remains proved to be matches for Yashiki and Takumi.
“Foul play is not suspected”
The internet rumor mill notes that the number of witnesses matches that of the number of bosozoku roughnecks from the speculated rape-and-murder incident who are still among the living. The rumor also says that the three came forward to the police themselves.
Whether or not they did, it is factual that police waited around six years to act after receiving the information.
When contacted for comment by Shukan Josei, a representative from a juvenile division of the Toyama Prefectural Police said, “The alleged witnesses were interviewed multiple times. We know that the car fell into the sea for some reason, but at this time foul play is not suspected.”
Yashiki’s father has grown weary of the police. “I don’t trust [the witnesses] at all,” he said. “I don’t know who they are. I have asked the police but they won’t tell me.”
He wants the investigation to continue. “Even so, the police cannot do anything without evidence,” he said.
Prospects for a resolution do not seem promising. “We will investigate as needed in the future,” the chief of the Toyama Prefectural Police told the magazine.