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Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Japanese Horror Story: The Torture of Junko Furuta

Junko Furuta, school portrait.

The afternoon of November 25, 1988, Junko Furuta left Yashio-Minami High School for what turned out to be the last time. She didn’t even make it back to her home in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Instead, the 17-year-old senior ran into a gang of 7 boys around her age. The youths overwhelmed her, and brought her to the house where two of the boy’s family lived in Ayase, Adachi, in north-central Tokyo. They made her call her parents and tell them that she was safe and that she would be staying with friends awhile.

That was the beginning of 44 days of abuse. She didn’t know her assailants. They had no grudge against her and there was nothing specific that they were after. They attacked her because they could, and because they wanted to; and they embarked on weeks of atrocities because they could, and because they wanted to.

At least four of the boys raped her repeatedly.

They beat her regularly.

They dropped weights on her body. They burned her with cigarettes. They stuck lit fireworks in her mouth, ears and anus and watched them explode. They shoved still-hot light bulbs in her vagina. At some point, they tore off one of her nipples with a pair of pliers.

The boys starved her—when they weren’t forcing her to eat cockroaches and drink her own urine. She was so weak near the end that it took her an hour to crawl downstairs to the bathroom.

And yet she’d almost escaped. One time she reached the telephone—but one of the boys intercepted her just in time and ended the call for help.

More than once she encountered the boy’s parents at the house. But they didn’t help her. Their excuse during the trial was that they were afraid of their violent son and his unpredictable criminal associates.

The house where the torture of Junko Furuta took place.

On December 1, 1989, the boys hung Junko from the ceiling and literally used her as a punching bag until her damaged internal organs made blood run from her mouth. The abuse had destroyed her bodily systems; when she tried to drink water, she immediately vomited. Then they taunted her with a candle flame, and finally doused her legs in lighter fluid and set her on fire, as punishment for trying to run away. She survived this round.

A few days later, they beat her with bamboo sticks and golf clubs. They brought the weights back out, this time using them to crush and destroy her hands after they tore off her fingernails.

By January 5, 1989, Junko had begged her captors to just kill her. They gang members had attacked her with a barbell after she lost a game of mah-jongg. Again they beat her torso until she bled from the mouth. She went into convulsions; the boys would later say that they thought she was faking the seizure. They set her on fire again, then put it out.

Junko Furuta finally died a few hours later.

The thugs who’d abducted her hid her corpse in a 55-gallon drum, filled it with concrete, and left it in an empty factory lot in Koto, a waterfront area just east of Tokyo’s center

It took a year for anyone to find her body.

When Junko’s mother was informed, she fainted—and needed to be admitted for psychiatric treatment.


Police arrested three young men, each 17 or 18 years old, shortly after identifying Junko Furuta’s body, but at least five more perpetrators had been involved. In the end, four of the youths were indicted, two more went to reform school, and another was released on probation.

The four indicted boys were tried as adults, but the court protected their identities as juveniles. Attempts at anonymity for the under-age perpetrators failed; magazine Shunkun Bunshun released their names.

The four pleaded guilty to committing bodily injury that resulted in death.

The Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office sought a life sentence for the leader of the gang, due to the horrific, protracted series of crimes against Furuta, his record of delinquency, and his known association with professional criminals. His lawyers successfully presented him as a remorseful young man trying to overcome a destabilizing childhood brain injury. In July, 1990, a lower court sentenced him to 17 years in prison. In July 1991, Judge Ryuji Yanase in a higher court later revised the sentence to 20 years.

The 1990 lower court gave the leader’s three accomplices relatively short terms: 3-4 years, 4-6 years, and 5-10 years. The boys receiving the two shorter sentences appealed their sentences; in response, a higher court raised the terms giving one a 5-7 year sentence and the other a 5-9 year sentence.

Junko Furuta’s family and friends and their supporters were dismayed by the young killers’ short sentences. The public, too, were shocked—and some were sickly fascinated by the sadistic saga.

As part of the sentencing, the boys’ parents had to sell their homes to pay Furuta’s parents, passing on an estimated 50 million yen, or a little over $600,000, to the grieving family.

Another Crime

The accomplice who’d received the 5-10 year term didn’t appeal his decision, and served out his term. When he turned 26 he had to be transferred from a juvenile prison to finish a short portion of his sentence in an adult facility (he’d been 17 at the time of the crime); he served a combined 8 years and was released in 1999.

Jo Kamisaku.

On release, he changed his name to Jo Kamisaku, taking the surname of one of the parties who’d supported him through the trial and his time in prison. He started working at a tech company.

But by 2004, Kamisaku had allegedly renewed his contacts with the underworld, and he was in trouble with the law again. He was arrested for assaulting a 27-year-old acquaintance, Takatoshi Isono. Upset that a woman in his life might be involved with Isono, Kamisaku tracked the man down, beat him, shoved him in his trunk, drove him from Adachi to his mother’s bar in Misato, Furuta’s hometown, and continued to beat him. During the four-hour beating, Kamisaku allegedly threatened to kill the man, telling him that he’d killed before and knew how to get away with it.

During his trial Kamisaku admitted to the assault, but he denied that he’d referred to any previous murder or had threatened Isono.

Prosecutors wanted Kamisaku to spend another 7 years in prison. They got a conviction and the sentence they wanted.

Kamisaku has since been released again. Meanwhile, Junko Furuta’s sad story has become an Internet legend in Japan and abroad, perversely inspiring detailed webpages and gruesome independent films.


Sources on following page.