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Disguising a Corpse as a Sex Doll: A (Nearly) Perfect Crime in Japan

Why didn't a Japanese woman's corpse mailed in a cardboard box marked "doll" arouse any suspicion?

by Jake Adelstein and Angela-Erika Kubo
May 29 2014, 5:29pm

Photo by Jeff

Killings and dismemberments are common enough in Japan that there's a term for them: bara bara murders. Bara bara is an onomatopoeic and mimetic phrase that represents the sound of splattering rain or liquid (e.g., blood); in the mimetic sense, it means to separate things (e.g., limbs from bodies).

But if you live in one of Japan's crowded cities and need to dispose of a corpse, you've got your work cut out for you. There are people everywhere, spots suitable for shallow graves are in short supply, and apartment walls can be thin, which makes running bandsaws risky.

So why not put the body in a box, label it "doll," and mail it to another city?

Mika Okada disappeared on March 21 in Osaka. Two months later, the 29 year old was found dead in a storage locker 230 miles away in Hachioji, Tokyo. Along with Okada’s body, police found a 6-foot-long box with the word “doll” written on it.

An autopsy revealed multiple stab wounds on her abdomen, chest, and back, and investigators determined the time of death to be about the same time Okada went missing. They also decided that most or all of the stab wounds were inflicted after Okada lost consciousness or died — there were no defensive wounds on the hands or arms, which would typically be found if there had been resistance.

Therefore, the exact cause of death is not yet known.

A Facebook post on Okada’s wall is what led police to the suspect. Just before she disappeared, Okada had written about meeting an old friend from junior high, a Japanese-Brazilian woman who authorities later found had allegedly pasted her own picture on Okada’s passport and used it to fly to Shanghai.

Shipping a 110 lb. 'doll' in a person-sized box might arouse suspicion in many countries, but not necessarily in Japan.

A spokesperson for the delivery company that handled the box said that a woman had called claiming to be Okada. When staff went to Okada's home on March 24, they were given a cardboard box that weighed about 110 lbs. and had "doll" written on it. A woman told them, "It's all right. The contents of the box are made of clay, so it won't break."

Shipping a 110 lb. "doll" in a person-sized box might arouse suspicion in many countries, but not necessarily in Japan, where blow-up dolls and more lifelike sex dolls — called "Dutch wives" — are not uncommon purchases. There are even parlors where you can rent a sex doll and dress her up in a variety of costumes. Remarkably, it often costs more to have sex with a doll than with a prostitute — up to $300 an hour or more depending on the costumes the customer rents.

The Netherlands has never made a formal complaint to Japan about the country referring to sex dolls as Dutch wives (which is also a slang term in Japan for "frigid" women). Several years ago, however, Turkey complained about the use of the phrase "Turkish baths" to refer to legal brothels with bathing facilities. These brothels are now referred to in Japan as "soapland." They remain legal through a loophole in the law based on the fact that sex is not guaranteed nor included in the fee for bathing. Similarly, it's perfectly legal to rent a doll and dress it up in different outfits.

This wasn't the first time a sex doll had fooled authorities. In 2008 a couple walking their dog in Izu stumbled across a sex doll wrapped tightly in plastic. Mistaking it for a corpse, they reported it; subsequently, dozens of police were dispatched to start what they thought would be a major murder investigation, one that was even reported in the evening edition of the local newspaper. The doll made it all the way to the medical examiner’s table before the wrapping was cut open to reveal not a corpse, but a not-so-gently-used sex doll.

It was an embarrassment for authorities, but also somewhat understandable considering how lifelike sex dolls sold in Japan have become.

Despite the fact that she allegedly successfully mailed a dead body and fled the country with a stolen passport, the suspect will probably be brought to justice — she turned herself in to the Japanese consulate and will likely be extradited to Japan. At this point, however, she is facing charges only of “improper disposal of a dead body,” but according to law enforcement sources, Osaka police suspect Okada was murdered and that the motive was money — the suspect used Okada’s credit card to purchase her plane ticket to China, as well as some electronics.

The credit card was also used to pay the delivery and storage fees for Osaka's body.

Follow Jake Adelstein and Angela-Erika Kubo on Twitter.

Photo via Flickr