The Real Case of a Spirited Away Housewife
Do you know what ”KAMIKAKUSHI” means? Kamikakushi can be translated as hidden by the gods, the word is written with the kanji of GOD and HIDE. This refers to an old belief that if one angered a god, they would kidnap that person and hide them from the human world; they would be spirited away and never seen again. While not many people nowadays believe that mythical creatures will kidnap those who upset them, the term is still widely used for people who mysteriously disappear.
Today’s story is about a real Kamikushi that happened in 1998 in the Gunma Prefecture, Japan.
Gunma is a prefecture in the region of Kanto not too far from Tokyo. It is a beautiful place where almost 90% of konjac consumed in Japan is produced.
The prefecture also features several tourist spots like azalea fields, onsens, temples and shrines.
The incident in question took place in one particular shrine called AKAGI. And sitting on the top of the suspect list is a TENGU. But let’s not dive straight into the supernatural and have a look at the facts first.
It was a cloudy day on May 3, 1998, Shizuka Noriko, a regular housewife from Chiba Prefecture, decided to take a short trip to Gunma to see the azaleas with her daughter, grandson, aunt, uncle, and mother-in-law.
The family arrived at their destination at around 11:30 a.m., however, the cloudy day suddenly turned into a heavy downpour ruining their plans. Having gone all the way to Gunma, Shizuka’s husband and uncle decided to go to the shrine before returning so the trip wasn’t a waste. While the two men left everybody else stayed in the car.
Around 12p.m. Shizuka then decided to get out of the car and give some money to the shrine. She took the exact amount of 101 yen from her purse and went out into the pouring rain. On that day Shizuka was wearing very distinctive clothes, a pink long-sleeved shirt, black skirt, blue sandals with a hibiscus print, and she was also carrying a bright red umbrella.
She braved her way through the pouring rain towards the shrine grounds, but when her daughter turned around to look at her, she saw her mother facing a different direction away from the shrine. Her mother was standing unnaturally still in the rain only 100 metres from the family’s car. Finding the whole scene a little strange, the daughter wondered what her mother was doing, but got distracted comforting her son. When she looked back in her mother’s diretion, a few seconds later, her mother wasn’t there anymore, as though she had been spirited away.
This housewife from Chiba had been standing on the edge of the shrine grounds in the pouring rain, staring at something unseen in the opposite direction. Her daughter turned away for only a few seconds, but when she looked back, her mother was gone. The incident was the epitome of kamikakushi!
Shizuka was 48-years-old, 156 centimetres tall, and described as slightly chubby. She wore hearing aids and suffered from dizziness if she didn’t wear them but when she got out of the car to enter Akagi Shrine, she wasn’t wearing them. That could be taken as evidence that she didn’t intend to go very far for too long, to reinforce this claim, she also left both her bag and wallet inside the car. Shizuka’s husband and uncle remarked that they hadn’t seen her, which was strange, because they would have if she’d entered the shrine grounds.
With Golden Week holidays in full swing, the shrine had visitors from all around, but it was also lunchtime and a rainy day, so the place wasn’t really that crowded. The family searched for Shizuka in the pouring rain with no success. Concerned about Shizuka’s wellbeing they promptly called the police. Over a 100 police officers and firefighters spent 10 days searching for Shizuka’s whereabouts. They thoroughly searched the mountains around the shrine and sent out sniffer dogs, but found nothing. It appeared as though she had truly vanished into thin air.
After Shizuka’s family returned home, things got even more bizarre. The family began receiving silent phone calls from numbers in the Osaka area. The person on the other end never said a single word, and they were unable to determine who the calls were coming from as the numbers changed each and every time. Were the calls related to Shizuka’s disappearance? Maybe from her kidnappers? Or perhaps from Shizuka herself? An extra layer of strangeness was added to the case.
A few months after her disappearance, a television program called Kiseki no Tobira TV no Chikara aired a special on Shizuka’s case. The program focused on soliciting information from the public about unsolved mysteries, it helped solve 58 of the 138 cases it featured over the years.
A home video was sent to the program taken on the day of Shizuka’s disappearance. It showed a woman wearing a pink shirt and standing with a red umbrella, but Shizuka’s family denied that it was her in the footage. Could there have been two women at the shrine that day wearing the same clothes with the same umbrella at the same time?
Highly unlikely, but definitely not impossible.
Hitting a dead end, Kiseki no Tobira TV no Chikara then contacted American psychic Gale that came with a very intricate theory which, as always, produced no leads for police. Just an empty claim from a charlatan.
Another theory is that the areas surrounding Akagi Shrine were full of dangerous woodland and she may have fallen down a cliff to her death. This is also unlikely, however, because these dangerous areas were quite a distance from the shrine. The path leading to the main shrine that tourists followed was well maintained and difficult to deviate from. Especially in the heavy rain, it seems unlikely that Shizuka would even want to step off the path, let alone travel so far into the woods that she would fall down a cliff. Moreover, the police combed the woods surrounding the shrine after her disappearance and found no sign of her whatsoever.
Another theory that comes to mind is that Shizuka was kidnapped by humans. In the end men have proven time after time that they are much more dangerous and cruel than any god.
Yet this tehory still presents some fundamental issues.
First, the motive. What would someone gain from kidnapping a 48-year-old grandmother? Money, as always, could be the reason but the family was never contacted for a ransom. A random street mugging doesn’t fit either. An opportunistic attack would definitely leave clues that would lead the police to the body.
Second, the location and time are not propense for this kind of crime. Golden week is probably the busiest period of the year in that area and the kidnappers wouldn’t risk to be seen. Big crowds and public places are ideal hunting grounds for pedophiles and pickpockets but a horrible place to kidnap an adult.
Of course none of the previous arguments nullifies the possibility of a kidnap but they do take away a lot of credibility from the theory.
In June 2008, Shizuka Noriko was officially declared dead by the Japanese courts. Her body was never found.
As outlandish as it sounds in this day and age, it really seemed as though Shizuka had been subjected to a real kamikakushi, disappearing in front of a busy shrine, never to be seen again. Modern investigation techniques, psychic readings, and old-fashioned search parties couldn’t uncover any leads to her whereabouts or even a possible explanation for this event. No case could ever be a better definition of KAMIKAKUSHI.
In August 2012, a human skull was discovered in the forest on Mount Akagi. Hopes were briefly elevated that this might finally solve Shizuka’s mysterious disappearance, but the autopsy revealed it to be of a woman in her 20s or 30s. Furthermore, it was likely only a few years old, making it highly unlikely to be Shizuka.
The case remains unsolved and 22 years later the only suspect left is a Tengu.