Setagaya family murder

Coordinates: 35°39′22.8″N 139°35′55.4″E / 35.656333°N 139.598722°E / 35.656333; 139.598722
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Setagaya family murder
Miyazawa family house at night seen from Soshigaya Park (photographed in December 2011)
Location3-chome Kamisoshigaya, Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan
Coordinates35°39′22.8″N 139°35′55.4″E / 35.656333°N 139.598722°E / 35.656333; 139.598722
DateDecember 30, 2000 (2000-12-30) to December 31, 2000; 23 years ago (2000-12-31)
TargetMiyazawa family (4 people)
Attack type
Mass murder, home invasion
  • 3 due to knife wounds
  • 1 due to strangulation
  • Mikio Miyazawa, 44
  • Yasuko Miyazawa, 41
  • Niina Miyazawa, 8
  • Rei Miyazawa, 6

The Setagaya family murder (Japanese: 世田谷一家殺害事件, Hepburn: Setagaya ikka satsugai jiken, Setagaya family killings) refers to the unsolved murders of the Miyazawa family in the Kamisoshigaya neighborhood of Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan, on the night of 30 to 31 December 2000.[1]

Husband and wife, Mikio and Yasuko, their daughter Niina, and their son Rei [2] were murdered during a home invasion by an unknown assailant who then remained in the family's house for several hours before disappearing. Japanese police launched a massive investigation that uncovered the killer's DNA and many specific clues about their identity, but the perpetrator has never been identified.

The media frenzy and long investigation of the murders became a cause célèbre to abolish the statute of limitations for crimes that could merit the death penalty in Japan, which was removed in 2010.[3]


At 10:40 a.m. on 31 December 2000, the bodies of 44-year-old Mikio Miyazawa, 41-year-old Yasuko Miyazawa, and their children, eight-year-old Niina and six-year-old Rei, were discovered by Yasuko's mother, Haruko, at their house in the Kamisoshigaya neighborhood of Setagaya, in the western suburbs of Tokyo.[4] Mikio, Yasuko, and Niina had been stabbed to death while Rei had been strangled.[5]

Investigation of the crime scene by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD) concluded that the family had been murdered on December 30 to 31 at around 11:30 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. midnight JST, after which the killer stayed in the house for several hours.[6][7] Takeshi Tsuchida, the chief of Seijo police station, was designated as the person in charge of the investigation at the time until his retirement.[8]

The killer entered through the open window of the second-floor bathroom at the rear of the house, located immediately adjacent to Soshigaya Park, and gained access by climbing up a tree and then removing the window screen.[7][8] The killer used his bare hands to strangle Rei, who was sleeping in his room on the second floor, killing him through asphyxiation. Mikio rushed up the first floor stairs after he detected the disturbance in Rei's room, fighting and injuring the killer until being stabbed in the head with a sashimi bōchō knife. A police report claimed that part of the sashimi knife's blade broke off inside Mikio's head. The killer then attacked Yasuko and Niina with the broken knife, before using a Santoku knife from the house to murder them.

The killer remained inside the house for 2 to 10 hours,[9] using the family computer, consuming four bottles of barley tea, melon, and four ice creams from their refrigerator, using their toilet and leaving his feces in it without flushing, treating his injuries using first aid kits and other sanitary products, and taking a nap on a sofa in the second-floor living room. Drawers and papers were ransacked (with some being dumped in the bath and toilet) and some money was taken, although more was left behind. The killer also left ten items behind on the family sofa (knife, scarf, hip bag, sweater, jacket, hat, gloves, shoes, and two handkerchiefs).

An analysis of Mikio Miyazawa's computer revealed that it had connected to the internet the morning after the murders at 1:18 a.m. and again at around 10 a.m., around the time Yasuko's mother Haruko entered the house and discovered the murders. Haruko became suspicious after being unable to call her daughter (the killer had unplugged the phone line) and visited the house but received no answer after ringing the doorbell. Authorities believe the killer had stayed in the house until at least 1:18 a.m. but the computer usage at 10 a.m. could have also been triggered by Haruko accidentally moving the mouse during her discovery of the crime scene.[6]


Police have been able to deduce several very specific clues to the perpetrator's identity, but have been unable to produce or apprehend a suspect. It was determined that the killer had eaten string beans and sesame seeds the previous day after analyzing feces from the killer in the Miyazawas' bathroom.[4] They determined that the clothes and sashimi knife left behind by the killer had been purchased in Kanagawa Prefecture.[10]

Police also learned that only 130 units of the killer's sweater were made and sold, but they have only been able to track down twelve of the people who bought the sweaters.[5] Trace amounts of sand were also found inside the hip bag that the perpetrator left at the scene, which after analysis was determined to come from the Nevada desert, more specifically the area of Edwards Air Force Base in California, and a skate park in Japan.[11]


Investigators found the killer's DNA and fingerprints throughout the house, but none matched their databases, indicating that they do not have a criminal record. Physically, the killer is believed to be around 170 centimeters tall and of thin build.[12][13] The police estimate the killer was born between 1965 and 1985 (15 to 35 years old at the time of the incident) due to the physicality required for entering the Miyazawa house and committing the murders. The Miyazawas' wounds indicate that the killer is likely to be right-handed.

The killer's blood was gained during an analysis of the murder scene that revealed traces of Type A blood,[14] which would not have belonged to the Miyazawa family. A DNA analysis of the Type A blood determined the killer is male and possibly mixed race, with maternal DNA indicating a mother of European descent, possibly from a South European country near the Mediterranean or Adriatic Sea, and paternal DNA indicating a father of East Asian descent.[9]

It is considered possible that the European maternal DNA comes from a distant ancestor from the mother's line rather than a fully European mother. Analysis of the Y-chromosome showed the Haplogroup O-M122, a common haplogroup distributed in East Asian peoples, appearing in 1 in 4 or 5 Koreans, 1 in 10 Chinese, and 1 in 13 Japanese.[15] These results led to TMPD to seek assistance through the International Criminal Police Organization as the killer may not be Japanese or present in Japan.


The investigation into the murders is among the largest in Japanese history, involving over 246,044 investigators who have collected over 12,545 pieces of evidence.[16] All evidence related to the case remains in custody.[17][18] As of December 2021, there is still a ¥20 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer.[2]

In 2015, it was reported that forty officers were assigned to the case full-time.[citation needed] In 2019, it was reported that 35 officers are still assigned to the case.[8] Every year, the TMPD makes a pilgrimage to the house for memorial ceremonies.[citation needed] Takeshi Tsuchida, the chief of Seijo Police Station, was designated as the person in charge of the investigation at the time until his retirement.[8]

In 2015, An Irie, older sister of Yasuko Miyazawa, filed a complaint to the Broadcast and Human Rights and Other Related Rights Committee of the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization after she claimed that the TV Asahi documentary aired in 2014 misrepresented her after a TV Asahi reporter and ex-FBI agent used profiling to back a theory that the killer murdered the Miyazawas out of resentment.[19]

In 2019, the TMPD announced that the Miyazawa house will be torn down because of its age and risk of collapsing with the interior already showing signs of deterioration.[20] Police said that demolishing the house would have no impact on the investigation, as all evidence from the interior had already been preserved.[8] The move was appealed by the family and supporters.[17]

In 2022, Universal Audio/USG launched the podcast Faceless, a deep dive into the Setagaya Murders. Written and presented by author Nicolás Obregón, the podcast calls into question many of the accepted narratives surrounding the case.[21] Obregón interviews former TMPD Chief Takeshi Tsuchita at length, as well as Setsuko Miyazawa (mother to Mikio, grandmother to Niina and Rei).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nスペ未解決事件-情報求む!世田谷一家殺害事件".
  2. ^ a b "Police seek public's help over Setagaya family murders in 2000". Japan Today. Retrieved 2022-10-30.
  3. ^ "Japanese police on 14-year manhunt for cruel murderer". Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  4. ^ a b "New book claims to shed light on Setagaya family murders in 2000". Japan Today. December 13, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Setagaya family murders remain unsolved 15 years later". Japan Today. December 31, 2015. Archived from the original on July 26, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Family's killer may have left home at night". The Daily Yomiuri. December 13, 2014. Archived from the original on 2020-01-19. Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  7. ^ a b "Suspect stayed at Setagaya home half day after murders". Kyodo News. 2 July 2001. Retrieved 28 December 2023 – via The Free Library.
  8. ^ a b c d e Sturmer, Jake; Asada, Yumi (2019-12-29). "The faceless killer who slaughtered an entire family and then vanished for two decades". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  9. ^ a b "Police still hoping killer's DNA will break 20-year-old Setagaya multiple murder case". Japan Today. December 31, 2020.
  10. ^ "Setagaya family murders remain unsolved 23 years later". Japan Today. 30 December 2023. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  11. ^ "5 of Japan's Most Famous Unsolved Crimes". 7 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Setagaya family murders remain unsolved 17 years later". Japan Today. December 30, 2017. Archived from the original on May 23, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Iwata, Emi; Takiguchi, Nobuyuki (15 January 2021). "Ex-detective in Setagaya family murders still supports mother". The Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  14. ^ "One person killed family, police say". The Japan Times. 7 January 2001. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  15. ^ Ryall, Julian. "Japan offers US$200k for help in solving notorious Setagaya murders – 20 years on". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 3 January 2021. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  16. ^ "Police vow to solve 2000 murder of Tokyo family". Mainichi Daily News. December 31, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Kawahara, Michiko; Takashima, Yosuke (January 19, 2020). "Relative of slain family fights to preserve their house in Tokyo". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 22 January 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  18. ^ "世田谷一家殺害事件、現場の家を公開 遺族「壊せない」:朝日新聞デジタル". 18 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Relative of murdered family says TV Asahi program misrepresented her". The Japan Times. 15 December 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-12-16. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  20. ^ "世田谷一家殺害事件、時が止まった現場 遺族が初公開". 18 January 2020.
  21. ^ White, Peter (September 28, 2022). "USG Audio Launching 'Faceless', True-Crime Podcast About Bizarre, Cold-Blooded Japanese Murder". Deadline. Retrieved December 28, 2023.

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