During Part 3 of Lost in Tokyo, Tim and Sophie continue their relentless search for Lucie Backman in the bustling streets of Tokyo, with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiro Moir's assurances of police commitment. The case takes a twist when a mysterious letter signed by Lucie arrives, although doubts are raised about its authenticity. As tensions rise, Tim faces swindlers promising to reunite him with his daughter, echoing the Amy Lynn Bradley case from Season 2 of The Secret Sits. Meanwhile, they discover a disturbing pattern of women experiencing drugged encounters at a seaside apartment, leading to a growing suspicion that Lucie might have fallen victim to the same predator.
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Lost in Tokyo: a story in 6 parts: this is part three, Searching for Lucie
Tim and Sophie are on a determined quest through the bustling streets of Tokyo, tirelessly seeking any trace of the missing Lucie Blackman. Amidst their pursuit, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiro Moir has offered his assurance of the Tokyo Police's commitment to the cause, though the true extent of their efforts remains to be seen.
[Theme Music Start]
We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret Sits in the middle and knows.
[Theme Music Play Out]
[Under Score Music]
After the Japanese Prime Minister, Toshiro Moir told the press that “The Tokyo Metropolitan Police are doing all they can to find Lucie-san. I want them to continue to do so.” Things truly seemed to pick up. 40 detectives were put on the Lucie Blackman case, 30,000 missing person’s posters were produced and distributed all across the country. Still, Tim and Sophie were given no significant updates on the case, there were simply told time and time again, “we are doing everything we can.” Sadly, the Blackmans’ initial decision to cooperate with the Japanese press meant that the Japanese police would continue keeping information from them. After some time had passed, Tim and Sophie were called to the police station, all of Lucie’s personal affects had been brought to the police station from the shithouse; they had been meticulously searched through, organized, and labeled by the police. Going through Lucie’s things was a difficult endeavor, however when they found Pover, everything began to feel overwhelmingly real. Pover was Lucie’s childhood stuffed animal, a dog with long, dangly ears, ears that Lucie would suck on and cuddle with when she was a child and now even in adulthood, Lucie never traveled anywhere without Pover by her side.
As no signs of Lucie appeared and the calendar turned to July, Tim and Sophie met an expat named Huw Shakeshaft, Huw was a British financial advisor who ran a small business in Tokyo. He had been in Japan for around 4 years, and he was quite well known around Roppongi, “Sir Huw of Roppongi” was what the locals called the man when they saw him on the street. Huw wanted to help the Blackmans’ and he knew just what he could contribute, so the following day, Tim met Huw at his office, located just 50 yards from Club Casablanca.
Huw offered Tim, this office as a new command center in the search for Lucie Blackman, there was a phone with an answering machine, with which they set up as a tip line and the space was central to the area where Lucie had disappeared. After everything was set up Huw took Tim to a restaurant called Bellini’s and he told the owner to charge anything Tim and his family wanted to his private account, no questions asked. Tim soon held another press conference where he announced the new Lucie Blackman tip line. What Tim and Sophie soon learned is that most Japanese people could not tell one white girl with blond hair from another, as an example of this, one day Sophie and a man named Adam, who was helping on the case, were out in Roppongi showing everyone, anyone who would stop, a picture of Lucie. As Adam showed several girls Lucie’s picture, they became very animated and excited, yes, they had seen this girl, in fact, they had just seen her a few minutes ago! Adam and Sophie could not believe it, but the girls insisted, and they ran across the street and began pointing into the window of a convenience store, “that’s her, that’s her!” Sore wa kanojodesu the girls shouted. As Adam and Sophie peered through the window in the front of the building, they did see a tall woman at the shop counter, as this woman turned so that they could see her face, the pair realized that the woman they were looking at was Josephine Burr, Tim Blackman’s new wife, who was a good 20 years older than the missing Lucie Blackman.
All through July the case sat stagnant, but as August arrived, things began to pick up steam. While Tim and Sophie were visiting the Azabu Police station, an officer rushed into the room and spoke in hushed tones to the officer present. The officer was in possession of a folder and inside of this folder was a letter, typed and printed, but signed by hand and the signature read, Lucie Blackman. The letter had been mailed just the day before, from the Chiba prefecture. The letter read, “I have disappeared by my own free will and I do not wish to be found, don’t worry about me. I’m fine. I want you to return to England and I’ll call you there.” Sophie immediately knew that this was not her sister’s signature, and the writing was disjointed and did not sound like Lucie at all. The most prominent clue was the fact that the letter was dated July 17, 2000, this had been the day of Tim Blackman’s 47th birthday and Lucie made no mention of it, and Lucie never missed one of her family member’s birthdays. Was this letter a clue or just a hoax?
Tim and Sophie had vowed not to leave Japan without Lucie by their side, however; it was becoming more and more difficult for them to stay in Japan. The financial pressures of living in one of the world's most expensive cities combined with a myriad of other factors; time off from work, the isolation, the mental fatigue it was all getting to be, just too much. Something had to change.
Tim flew back home with Josephine in tow, they had spent almost a month in Tokyo at this point and Lucie had been missing for 34 days. Upon Tim's return to England, he faced a series of encounters with fraudsters and swindlers. These individuals claimed they could reunite him with his daughter, albeit for a fee. This situation draws parallels to the Amy Lynn Bradley case, which was discussed in season 2 of The Secret Sits. Similarly, in both instances, these individuals proved to be morally reprehensible, taking advantage of a desperate and anguished family's quest to find their missing loved one.
Around mid-August, Tim returned to Tokyo, determined to continue his endeavors in the search for his vanished daughter. In August, Tokyo undergoes a transformation as the city becomes immersed in the heart of summer. The weather exudes an intense and sweltering energy, with the sun reigning supreme in the cobalt sky. The air grows thick with humidity, wrapping the bustling streets in a warm embrace that feels both oppressive and invigorating. Beads of perspiration glisten on brows, and the hum of air conditioning becomes a constant backdrop to life's activities. Vibrant summer foliage provides pockets of shade amidst the concrete jungle, while the occasional breeze offers fleeting relief from the unrelenting heat. Evenings bring a slight reprieve as the temperature eases, casting a golden hue over the city's vibrant nightlife. Tokyo in August is a dance between the sizzling sun and the city's unwavering rhythm, an experience that encapsulates the essence of a Japanese summer.
Tim and Sophie began to frequently visit all of the various clubs located around Roppongi and all of the bar and club owners quickly learned who these two were as well. They had seen reports about the missing Club Hostess on the television and they offered a real semblance of human emotion when asked about Lucie, however; the constant reminder of the missing girl was somewhat bad for business. As time passed, the mama-sans, bartenders, and club proprietors gradually stopped interacting with the Blackmans during their almost nightly visits. Concurrently, the public began to view Tim Blackman's actions with a measure of scandal. While the desperation of a father seeking his lost daughter was universally relatable, some observers found Tim's behavior rather perplexing. Rather than projecting the image of a distressed father, Tim's regular presence in the bars and eateries around Roppongi raised eyebrows. His jovial demeanor, marked by laughter and drinks shared with those around him, was conspicuous. While visiting hostess clubs, one volunteer in the search recalled that Tim was paying more attention to the pretty girls in the club, than talking to the staff about his missing daughter.
During all of their nights out in Roppongi, the Blackmans learned one thing in particular about the area and that one thing was the copious amounts of illegal drugs. Now, if you have never been to Japan, I can tell you if you are planning your first trip to Japan, it is crucial to be aware of the country's exceptionally strict stance on illegal drugs. Japan enforces a zero-tolerance policy for drug-related offenses, which means that even possessing a small quantity of illegal substances can result in severe legal consequences. This includes substances like marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. Penalties for breaking these laws can range from lengthy prison sentences to hefty fines, and in extreme cases of serious drug trafficking, the death penalty may apply. Japanese law enforcement takes drug offenses seriously and actively investigates any suspicions. To avoid any complications during your visit, it's absolutely vital to steer clear of illegal drugs and be fully aware of the country's stringent regulations. As a plus, Tokyo has an open container policy that allows you to just carry an open container of alcohol and drink it out in public, which is nice.
Questions emerged regarding whether Lucie Blackman might have been involved with drugs. Hostesses were sometimes associated with a substance called Shabu, akin to crystal meth, which they used to endure the extended hours at hostess clubs. However, Louise vehemently rejected the idea that Lucie would have engaged in drug use. She affirmed that it wasn't a part of Lucie's character; it couldn't have played a role, according to Louise. Aside from the illicit drug use in Roppongi, the Blackmans also learned that Western girls disappearing from hostess clubs was not as unusual as they might have expected. Three years before Lucie disappeared a Canadian girl working as a hostess in Roppongi disappeared and this girl, Tiffany Fordham was never seen again.
A rare thing does happen sometimes in Japanese Hostess clubs and that is when one of these extremely successful business men actually becomes romantically involved with his hostess and they decide to get married. This happened to two women who met up with Tim Blackman and they told him a story that would send chills down his spine.
The two women, both having departed from the Hostess trade for several years, shared their separate stories involving encounters with an affluent businessman during dohans. This man drove them to a coastal apartment that the man owned. Remarkably, the women's stories held identical and unsettling details. After reaching the seaside apartment, the man served them a drugged beverage, causing them to lose consciousness. Upon awakening, the women found themselves being subjected to sexual assault, with the man wearing a mask and filming the entire heinous act. One of the women swiftly reacted upon regaining her senses, taking the cassette tape from the video camera. She then coerced the man into paying her a substantial sum of several hundred-thousand-yen, equivalent to several thousand US dollars, in exchange for the incriminating video. While the women were unfamiliar with the man's true identity and struggled to recall the precise location of the seaside apartment, their shared descriptions left no doubt that both women were recounting the same individual and location.
On September 1st, 2000, Lucie Blackman turned 22 years old. Back in England, Lucie’s mother Jane and her little brother Rupert released 1,000 pink and yellow balloons to honor her birthday. Under the scorching sun, Sophie dedicated her day to distributing missing person flyers along the bustling streets of Roppongi, offering them to anyone willing to accept. Simultaneously, this same poster graced the enormous digital display screen at Roppongi crossing. Tim and Sophie had altered their routine, spending periods apart from each other in Tokyo, effectively trading their presence between Japan and England. This arrangement ensured a continuous familial presence in Tokyo, as they continued searching for Lucie.
As time wore on, September arrived and the Blackman’s patients with the Tokyo police had become thread bare, even the British embassy was raising concerns. The lord chancellor, Derry Irvine happened to be visiting Tokyo and he once again met with the Japanese prime minister and asked for his assistance with the case.
As the onset of October arrived, problems for Tim Blackman began to mount. Huw Shakeshaft, who was the businessman lending his office space in Roppongi to Tim as a sort of hub, was done with Tim. Huw was furious with Tim and how Tim had abused his humble offer of help with the search for Lucie. Huw’s office space had been taken over by the search efforts, Tim invited press to the office to give interviews and Tim’s most egregious offence was that Tim abused Huw’s offer to cover his tab at the restaurant Bellini’s. After Huw told the owner of Bellini’s to allow Tim to put anything he wanted on his tab, Tim started entertaining various journalists at the restaurant and he put all of the food and drinks for these journalists on Huw’s tab as well, not cool Tim, not cool.
Jane had made a couple of trips to Japan by this time, each one of her visits were perfectly timed so that she was never in the land of the rising son at the same time as her deplorable ex-husband. However, as October came to a close, a disheartening truth emerged: despite the passage of time, the case remained stagnant, void of progress or any promising leads. The landscape seemed frozen in a disheartening echo of their initial arrival in Japan. And as the final days of October unfolded, an unprecedented shift occurred as Sophie, Tim, and Jane found themselves back in England. For the first time in over three long months, the resolute presence of Lucie Blackman's family was absent from the Japanese soil they had reluctantly tread on.
[Music Change – Story change]
In January of 1995, 5 years before Lucie Blackman and Louise Phillips decided to move to Japan to pay off their debts while working as Club Hostesses, Christabel Mackenzie traveled to Tokyo for some excitement and opportunities. Christa, as she was known, was tall and blond and she took a job as an English teacher, something that is quite common in Japan as it is the easiest way to gain a visa to remain in the country, if you have a 4-year college degree. This work bored Christa and after just a couple of weeks, she quite this job and gained employment as a hostess at a club called Fraiche. One night, while working at the club, a man came in that Christa did not recognize. This man was in his 40s, he looked unremarkable, but he spoke English well, which made it easier for the hostesses to hold conversations with him. The man spent the evening talking to Christa and she learned that the man’s name was Yuji. The night flew by and Christa thought that Yuji had all the makings of a great dohan date. After Yuji came to see Christa at the club for about a month, he asked her to go on a dohan.
In May of 1995, Yuji picked Christa up from the club and he suggested that they take a scenic drive down to the seaside. He proposed an enchanting late-night drive to the coast, a suggestion that held a certain allure despite the clock's resolute march towards 3 am. Christa was always up for an adventure so she said, ok, she was looking forward to seeing Yuji’s seaside vacation home, which she had heard so much about anyway. Yuji picked Christa up in his white Rolls-Royce, one of many cars the man owned, and he began driving into the dark night. The apartment was on the third floor of the building and Christa was not overly impressed at what she was seeing. The building was quite run down and it looked very inexpensive, especially for a seaside apartment building. The two went into the apartment, surrounded by swaying palm trees and they began to just hang out. Yuji provided drinks for Christa and they had a nice time, Yuji had stopped to pick up some fresh fugu, his favorite, Fugu, is a prized delicacy in Japanese cuisine, it is a type of pufferfish known for its delectable taste and, paradoxically, its inherent danger. Its flesh contains a potent neurotoxin that, if not meticulously removed during preparation, can be fatal if ingested. Chefs who specialize in fugu undergo rigorous training to master the art of safe and exquisite preparation, rendering the dish a thrilling and exclusive experience for adventurous diners. Christa stood out on the apartment’s balcony, overlooking the sea, Yuji gave the woman another glass of wine, which she threw back quickly, too quickly, so quickly that she finished drinking just as the acrid taste of the wine connected to her brain. Christa stood there and just thought to herself, “Oh Fuck” and instantly it was as if she had been given a paralytic drug and she was already too drugged to even feel afraid.
Christa blinked awake, as soon as she was conscious, her brain took her back to the last moments she remembered and she immediately assumed this man had raped her, but as she took stock of things, she realized that she did not feel soar, as if something had happened and she realized that all of her clothing was still on her body. Yuji was still in the apartment, just milling around, apparently waiting on Christa to wake up. Christa was scared about what was going to happen next, what if this man did not take her home? She was sure that he had done something to her while she was knocked out, but he was acting completely normal. After gathering her thoughts and contemplating what to do, Christa asked Yuji to drive her home, and so he did, he drove back to Tokyo and dropped her off at the club, after this incident Yuji never came into Christa’s club again.
After toying around the country for a couple of years, Christa found herself living in Tokyo’s sister city, Osaka. This is one of my personal favorite cities in Japan. Osaka, is a vibrant city that dances to its own beat, it is like the "okonomiyaki" of Japanese destinations—bold, flavorful, and a bit unconventional. Just as the city's neon lights reflect off the Dotonbori River, its unique blend of modernity and tradition create a captivating juxtaposition, much like a futuristic robot strolling alongside a graceful geisha. From the bustling market stalls of Kuromon Ichiba reminiscent of a culinary treasure hunt, to the majestic Osaka Castle standing tall like a sentinel from centuries past, the city is a tapestry of flavors, history, and surprises waiting to be unraveled around every corner.
It was while living here that Christa received a phone call from one of her friends, this friend had worked with Christa as a hostess in Tokyo, but was now back living in London. The girl’s younger sister was going to be traveling to Tokyo with a friend and she wanted to know if Christa could get them the hook up. Christa agreed to help and after she hung up the phone, she began making reservations for a room at the Sasaki House for Louise Phillips and Lucie Blackman. It had been Christa who awaited the girl’s arrival at the Narita airport and it was she who took them, for the first time, to the shithouse.
It was two months after this, when Christa was back in Osaka, living her normal day to day life, that she heard about Lucie Blackman’s disappearance. Louise explained to Christa that a man had taken Lucie out for a dohan and they had not seen her since. After hearing the details about the situation from Louise, Christa was absolutely sure that the man who had taken Lucie was Yuji. Christa was trepidatious about the situation and she assumed that if this was the same man, he would release Lucie after she awoke from his drug laden drinks, just as he had done with her. After two days passed and Lucie had not found her way home, Christa boarded a bullet train bound for Tokyo and when she arrived, she traveled directly to the Azabu Police Station.
I know that the police in the United States of America have quite a, difficult, reputation for many reasons, however in Japan this is not the case. Japanese citizens hold their police officers in high esteem, valuing their professionalism, approachability, and role in maintaining societal order. These officers are viewed as symbols of security and authority, often seen as helpful and willing to engage with the community. Their dedication to community-oriented policing, combined with Japan's low crime rate and minimal corruption, fosters a positive perception of their effectiveness in ensuring public safety. This respect for law enforcement is further shaped by the officers' non-aggressive image, cultural sensitivity, and reputation for efficient crime-solving, creating an overall favorable view of their role in Japanese society. The symbol of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is not an aggressive animal like we would use in the US, but rather a cheerful orange fairy named Pipo-Kun.
I say all of this to illuminate one thing, images can be deceiving. For all of the outward respect and professionalism the Tokyo Police portray, they are just as cold and authoritarian as police in the United States. So, when Christa marched into the Azabu Police Station, after traveling all the way from Osaka and having personal experience with the possible perpetrator of this crime, the Tokyo Police simply told Christa that the case was none of her business and that she should return home.
However, Christa was not the only woman with a story about a man driving them out to his seaside apartment, and in the bustling area of Roppongi, word spreads fast and soon several more woman started to come forward with their own stories.
Katie Vickers was an American woman who had spent time in 1997 working at a hostess club in Roppongi called Club Cadeau. It was there that she met a well-dressed, middle aged man named Koji, who took her to his seaside apartment, as part of a dohan. Koji gave Katie a gin and tonic and then she woke up 15 hours later. As she awoke, she realized that she was in her underwear, lying on a sofa. Koji quickly explained to Katie that there had been a gas leak, which rendered her unconscious, he still had a terrible headache from the leak as well. Koji drove Katie half way back to Tokyo, before stopping and calling a cab to take her the rest of the way back. He handed her a handbag filled with cash and taxi vouchers and sent her on her way. Katie walked back into Club Cadeau, staggering and unsteady, her lips were a distinct and disturbing shade of blue. The club owner rushed Katie to the hospital and then to the Azabu Police Station, but the police showed little to no interest in her situation. The officer at the front desk did not even have Katie go to a private room to take a statement, he just had her lay it all out there at the front desk. One of Katie’s Japanese friends called one of his friends who worked as a police officer, but this officer just said, “these foreign women, hostesses, they all take drugs. It is her personal problem, just forget about it.”
Three years later when Lucie Blackman went missing, Katie was still living in Tokyo and after hearing the details of Lucie’s disappearance, Katie knew that Koji had struck again, she returned to the police station, but all she was met with was the same indifference.
The owner of Club Cadeau, the club Katie worked at, was named Kai and Kai found the summer of 2000 especially difficult. Lucie Blackman’s disappearance dominated the news and journalists were crawling all over Roppongi trying to find a story, but this was bad for business. One day in August, Kai received a phone call from the Azabu Police Station, they wanted to follow up on the girl he had brought to the police station, claiming to have been drugged and sexually assaulted. Kai took Katie and met up with two detectives, they wanted to take Kai and Katie for a drive to the coast, they hoped that Kaite could locate the seaside apartment building, she had claimed to have been taken to.
As they drove along the seaside highway, they soon reached an area called Zushi Marina, this area had originally been built in the 1970s and in its heyday, it had been a glamorous resort, a place for rich couples to retire and a place where Tokyo celebrities purchased seaside vacation homes with views of Mt. Fuji. Yasunari Kawabata, the esteemed Japanese author and the very first Japanese Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, tragically took his own life through self-immolation on April 16, 1972, at the age of 72 in his apartment at Zushi Marina. The unexpected suicide marked the end of a distinguished literary career that had profoundly explored human emotions and introspection.
Tokyo police had received phone records from Lucie’s wireless provider and through these records they were able to locate the tower that Lucie’s phone pinged off of during the last phone call she had made, a call to Louise Phillips and the tower was located in a town called Zushi.
Tune in next Thursday for our next episode as we embark on a captivating journey to uncover the mysteries concealed within Zushi Marina, where the rugged charm of its rocky beachfront just might be harboring some intriguing secrets. We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.
End of Part 3 – Searching for Lucie
To preserve the confidentiality of those affected, certain names and nationalities have been modified.
All descriptions of Tokyo, Japan, observations about Japanese culture, and impressions of the warmth of the Japanese people stem from my extensive travel experiences in Japan and are reflective of my personal insights. – John W. Dodson
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