• Kyodo


Yuichi Mizutani, who was arrested Monday in connection with the kidnapping of a 7-year-old boy, was partying with a geisha at a bar in Kobe’s hot spring resort of Arima when investigators asked him to voluntarily accompany them for questioning, police said.

While he was partying, Hyogo Prefectural Police found a surgical mask and other evidence that had been captured on a surveillance camera at a bank where he allegedly withdrew part of the ransom.

He was wearing a “yukata” kimono when police found him, they said.

Investigators said Mizutani arrived at an inn in the resort by taxi at around 5:30 p.m. Monday. He was apparently in a good mood and checked in at the resort using an alias. He did not have a reservation.

Mizutani said he asked one of the waitresses at the inn to call in a young geisha, which cost him some 17,000 yen for two hours, and had two beers and six small bottles of sake.

“It is my first visit to Kobe. I’ve always wanted to stay at Arima,” police quoted him as telling the geisha.

Later in the evening, Mizutani and the geisha went to a pub near Arima Onsen Station. on the Kobe Electric Railway Co. and ordered a bottle of brandy that cost 20,000 yen, police said.

Meanwhile, Hyogo police placed about 300 officers to keep watch on automated teller machines in Osaka and Kobe after Kanagawa police notified them that the kidnapper might be in the Kansai region, they said.

Anticipating that the kidnapper might visit the well-known Arima resort with a lot of money, police sent about 30 investigators to thoroughly search the area.

At the time Mizutani left the inn to go to the pub, three investigators arrived. One of them tailed Mizutani, they said.

The landlady led the other two to Mizutani’s room, where they found a pair of jeans and a jacket that resembled those shown in the video, police said. The two contacted other police officers for help and found a surgical mask, sunglasses and two cellular phones.

When investigators asked the kidnapped boy’s father to call the phone number that one of the suspects gave him, one of the two phones rang, police said.

Ten investigators went to the pub and accompanied Mizutani, who had 1.59 million yen in cash with him, to the nearby Arima Police Station, where he admitted the allegations, they said.

Dirty laundry

Giichi Horigome, one of the two men arrested Monday over the kidnapping of 7-year-old Toru Akiyama, is said to have been upset at the situation involving the laundry shop he ran for his previous in-laws.

The shop Horigome was running used to take laundry to a dry-cleaning plant run by the boy’s grandfather — Horigome’s former father-in-law — friends of Horigome and the Akiyamas said Tuesday.

Horigome’s shop was previously run by his former wife, who was the sister of Toru’s grandfather. Horigome took over the shop after she died in August 1998, the sources said.

Horigome bore a grudge against the family because the Akiyamas did not allow him to own the land the shop stands on, they said.

Some sources said the land was worth 30 million yen, which is the same amount demanded as a ransom for the boy’s safe return.

The shop and the land are owned by Toru’s 88-year-old great-grandmother, the sources said.

One of Horigome’s friends said, “Horigome said (the Akiyamas) promised him that they would give him the shop if he took care of his sick former wife (before she died).” The couple divorced 10 years ago.

Foreigners fingered

Prepaid cellular phones pose a threat to society because illegal foreign residents of Japan can use them to commit crimes, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission said Tuesday.

This threat to society apparently came to light after two Japanese men were arrested for an alleged kidnapping in which such phones were used.

“They can be used easily by foreigners staying here illegally and it is a situation in which they are used for selling illegal drugs and for other crimes,” said Kosuke Hori, who concurrently serves as home affairs minister.

“It cannot be determined who is holding them, even when their numbers are known,” Hori told the House of Councilors Budget Committee. , adding that the phones do not require users to provide identification when they obtain them.

The discussion in the upper chamber was prompted by news of the arrests the same day of two Japanese men suspected of kidnapping a 7-year-old boy in Yokohama. One of the suspects used prepaid phones to communicate with the boy’s father.

Hori also said he intends to ask the Telecommunications Carriers Association, the phones’ manufacturers and the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry to come up with proposals on how to prevent the phones from being used to commit crimes.

“I would like to see research into all the angles and be told about what kind of methods can prevent (the devices) from being used for crimes,” he said.

During the same session, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Eita Yashiro called the rising incidence of abuse of the phones “a social problem.”

The discussion was prompted by a question from Toranosuke Katayama, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.