The Case of Robbery and Murder at Kogane Miso and the Hakamata Incident

The Case of Robbery and Murder at Kogane Miso

On June 30, 1966, a case of murder and arson took place in the city of Shimizu, Shizuoka prefecture (currently Shimizu ward, Shizuoka city). The managing director of the Kogane Miso factory, producing Miso (soybean paste), Mr. Fujio Hashimoto and three members of his family were tragically killed and, moreover, his house was set on fire soon after that.

The scene of the crime was located about three kilometers away from Shimizu station, at the midpoint between Shimizu station and Okitsu station on the Tokaido Line. There were a row of old houses along the street. Mr. Hashimoto’s house was adjacent to the neighboring houses on both sides, having just a 30 centimeter gap between them. It was so close to them that the sound of wooden clogs walking on the earth floor in the next house could be heard. A clattering sound like planks of wood falling down was heard, between 1:35 a.m. and 1:40 a.m. on that night, when a neighbor got up to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, none of the neighbors heard any screaming or any other sounds while the crime was being committed that night. This remains something of a mystery.

Since that day was payday at the Miso factory, there was about 3,000,000 yen in cash and there were some bankbooks in Mr. Hashimoto’s house. However, this large sum of money was mostly left untouched and it seemed that only 80,000 yen was actually stolen. This is also something of an enigma.

The neighbors in the house on the opposite side saw smoke coming from the window of an upstairs room used for storing bedding from around 1:47a.m. till 1:50a.m. They intuitively become aware of a fire and went out of their house. A fire watchtower alarm started to sound and a farmer in the neighborhood called Shimizu Police Station around 2:10 a.m. and the fire was put out at about 2:30a.m.

Four burned dead bodies were found in the ruins. As a result of the autopsies on the bodies, it was judged to be a case of murder and arson. A total of 15 wounds, including stab and incised wounds, were found on the body of Mr. Fujio Hashimoto, the head of the family (aged 41) and burns were also identified all over his body. The cause of his death was presumed to be a hemorrhage. His wife, Mrs. Chieko Hashimoto (aged 38) had 6 stab and incised wounds in her back among other injuries, and the cause of her death was blood loss and burns. His second daughter, Ms. Fujiko Hashimoto (aged 17) had 9 stab wounds and burns all over her body, and the cause of her death was blood loss, with a pierced heart, and carbon monoxide poisoning. His oldest son, Mr. Masaichiro Hashimoto (aged 14) had 11 wounds and burns all over his body, and the cause of his death was blood loss with a pierced chest. A strong smell of gasoline still remained at the scene of the crime and it was such a cruel and horrible incident that everyone had to avert their eyes.

Even though four members of the family were stabbed to death all at once in such an atrocious way, none of the residents in the adjacent houses noticed the incident. Furthermore, arson was carried out in order to try and erase any trace of the crime. Such killings were skillfully completed in such a short time. We can’t help but think that the number of the criminals involved was not singular but plural and, besides this, the crime must have been committed by professional killers who were used to such dreadful scenes of bloodshed. This case was presumed to have been motivated by malice and to serve as an intimidation to other people.

The Hakamata Incident

Soon after the incident, the police did not have the slightest idea about “whether the criminal(s) were singular or plural,” “whether the crime was an inside or an outside job” and “whether it was perpetrated by a thief or someone with a grudge.” They were at a loss as to where to start and finally their suspicion fell on Mr. Iwao Hakamata, who was an employee at the factory at that time. All of the employees were from the local area, but he was the only outsider, from Hamamatsu. Moreover, he was looked down on as “an ex-boxer who had gone to the dogs” because he used be a former professional boxer and he was being treated like a bad youth. It was “a sense of discrimination in the village community” itself. Therefore, suspicion fell on Mr. Hakamata as the scapegoat. Under the order to have a strong conviction of that “Hakamata is the criminal”, which was handed down by the Shizuoka Prefectural Police, they started an unreasonable investigation to frame him. It is hard to believe, but this is the reality.

It is natural to investigate a suspect from both points of view, for instance, even if someone seems to be the criminal, we need to think that “this person may be the real criminal, but it is also possible that he may not be.” If you label someone a criminal from the beginning and just look for incriminating evidence or testimony against him, prejudice and self-righteousness will usually prevail. As a result, not only does making a false charge against an innocent person incriminate that person, but it also makes the irreparable mistake of failing to catch the real atrocious criminal.

The Shizuoka District Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Mr. Hakamata on the charges of robbery, murder and arson. He was forced to confess to these crimes under a menacing investigation by the police, which was like torture but the police called it an interrogation. However, he kept on pleading his innocence at public trials in court.

On September 11, 1968, the Shizuoka District Court sentenced him to death. On May 18, 1976, a subsequent appeal to the Tokyo High Court was dismissed. On December 12, 1980, the death penalty was finalized by the Supreme Court. After being sentenced to death, he continued to plead his innocence by filing a petition for the opening of a retrial. On March 27, 2014, the Shizuoka District Court eventually made the historic decision of suspending his detention and his death sentence, both of which were implemented on the same day, and also ordered the opening of a retrial. And then on that day, he was released.

However, the prosecutors filed an immediate appeal against the order to open a retrial. The Tokyo High Court upheld their appeal and overturned the lower court’s ruling of granting a retrial, refusing to accept the DNA evidence which had been submitted. However, they were not able to overrule the decision of the suspension of his detention and his death sentence. The Defense Council immediately lodged a special appeal against this ruling to the Supreme Court and it has been under examination at the Court since then. Even though more than half a century has passed, the Incident has still not been settled.

Two Incidents

The name of the case was originally called “A case of robbery, murder and arson at Kogane Miso.” However, there is another incident about wrongful conviction called “the Hakamata Incident.” In fact, these are two different incidents.

One is about the extremely brutal crimes of robbery, murder and arson which took place at the Kogane Miso Factory. This concerns the four victims of the Hashimoto family. This is still an unsettled issue where the statute of limitations has already run out, because the investigative authorities, through their own mistakes, failed to capture the real criminal(s).

The other one is the Hakamata Incident. This is not such a light matter just exposing the faults and the errors made by the investigation agency, but exposing the abuse of their power and crimes committed by the State as a result of the runaway power of the justice system. In order to frame and incriminate an innocent citizen as a criminal, the police and the prosecutors calmly persisted in obtaining a forced confession by using torture and by forging, fabricating and concealing evidence. This is a serious violation of human rights by public servants. The victim is Mr. Hakamata who has been wrongfully convicted. This incident is still ongoing and will never be finished until the court acquits him in a retrial when Mr. Hakamata’s honor will be vindicated and reparation by the state will be implemented. Nevertheless, the scars which have been deeply engraved in Mr. Hakamata will remain with him all the same.