In the 5th chapter of "Lost in Tokyo," the pursuit of the elusive truth intensifies. With Joji Obara now in police custody and facing interrogation for the mysterious disappearance of Lucie Blackman, revelations come to light that exposes the sinister depths of his crimes.
As detectives delve into Obara's chilling notebooks, the shocking extent of his actions becomes clear. Meanwhile, the connection between Carita Ridgway's tragic fate and the Lucie Blackman case deepens, as a hospital receipt reveals a crucial link. Join us in this suspenseful episode, marked by twists and revelations, where darkness collides with justice. Listener discretion is advised.
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With a suspect now in custody, the search for Lucie Blackman, whether dead or alive, continues to elude authorities. Today marks the moment of truth.
[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]
The Tokyo Police have arrested business owner Joji Obara for the assault of Clara Mendez and he is being interrogated for the assault of Katie Vickers. What the police are truly trying to solve was the mysterious disappearance of Lucie Blackman. At the end of part 4: Joji Obara, I was telling you about all of the physical evidence the police were putting together in their attempt to solve the Lucie Blackman case and I am going to continue talking about physical evidence now, but I need to warn you that this episode will contain a lot of references to sexual assault, so listener discretion is advised.
The detectives had begun examining a new interesting piece of evidence, in the form of notebooks, logs really, used by Joji Obara to record all of his sexual conquests, dating all the way back to 1970. 53 years of this man’s sexual life recorded on paper like a tally sheet. A man’s little black book is his own business, however; the details that accompanied each entry is what the police found most interesting. Obara listed out his sexual conquests in strange ways, they were tallied by the number of women per year, or by their nationality and he also listed how he coerced these women into sleeping with him, 1973-woman number 63, Chloroform, Sleeping drug; 1983, woman number 95, chloroform, and so on. And there were notes about the experiences, “Sleeping drug was good, but chloroform was unnecessary, and she ended up vomiting badly”. At this point the police realize that Joji Obara was a prolific serial rapist, who had gone unchecked for half a century. Around 1983 he makes notes that he began taking photos and videos of his victims while they were being assaulted. This note led the detectives to begin examining the pile of video tapes they had recovered from Obara’s properties. Some of the videos were labeled with just a date, some were not labeled at all, police even recovered some videos that were on the old-style beta-max tapes.
Police set up a video watching lab of sorts and they rotated the officers in and out of the video room, they needed to watch the grotesque videos and notate every detail, but they did not want the officers mentally affected by having to watch all of the videos, so they rotated the officers in and out of the video lab. The videos all followed a similar format, the shot would open on a girl, she seems to be having a good time, laughing as she raises her glass and takes a drink. The shot then cuts to the same young woman laying naked on a bed, noticeably impaired almost comatose. A man enters the frame wearing a mask and a prolonged sexual assault takes place on camara. There were 170 of these video tapes, featuring 150 separate women being assaulted.
Clara Mendez was invited to come back to the police headquarters, the police showed Clara still shots from the video police believed to be her, Clara confirmed that it was her in the video from 1996, when she had traveled to Obara’s apartment in Zushi. Clara said of the images, “It was just me, unconscious, lying on a bed, still in my cloths. It was very creepy. I just looked like a doll, a girl-shaped doll.”
The police began contacting as many of the victims as they could. They connected the dots between the videos and Obara’s notebooks, but many of the girls had been gaijin, or foreign club hostesses who had left the country years ago. On November 17, prosecutors formally charged Obara with drugging and raping Katie Vickers. The police then rearrested Obara again for the assault of a Japanese woman named Fusako Yoshimoto. And the charges just kept coming, name after name was added to the list and while this was happening, detectives discovered something else very interesting.
The day after Lucie Blackman went missing, Obara made a phone call to the Zushi Fire Station. During the call, he expressed urgency and inquired about the location of the nearest emergency hospital. Following this, he contacted the hospital to inquire about their opening hours. It's worth noting that Obara didn't actually visit this hospital. However, a few days later, he entered a hospital in Tokyo seeking treatment for a severe rash that had been caused by caterpillars.
The police held a strong belief about Lucie Blackman's fate. They suspected that Obara had given drugs to her, possibly leading to her death, which he then had to conceal by disposing of her body. Yet, the challenge remained to gathering enough evidence to substantiate this theory. Lucie's name did not appear in Obara's notebooks, nor was she visible on any of his video tapes. Although they were aware that Lucie had spent her final day at Obara's apartment and noticed his peculiar behavior after her disappearance, the critical questions remained: What had transpired between them, and how could they build a solid case to prove it?
Police were sent to search the beach and cliff sides close to Blue Sea Aburatsubo, but as the scent dogs moved around the beach, the detectives decided not to venture into the cave areas, because the grass was too tall and they were afraid to encounter venomous snakes in the grass.
The story of Lucie Blackman, the Tokyo Club Hostess who had disappeared and the arrest of a prolific serial rapist became big news and it traveled all around the world, but it was when the story reached the residents of Australia that things really took a turn.
[Music Change – Story Change]
Carita Ridgway was from Perth, Australia, one of the most isolated cites on planet earth. Carita was an energetic girl who loved to dance, act and read. After her parents divorced, things took a turn for Carita and she become withdrawn and depressed. These emotional challenges manifested in her, and she found herself grappling with feelings of isolation and depression. Matters escalated to a point where Carita even confided in her mother about having thoughts of self-harm, prompting her mother to make the difficult decision of admitting Carita into a psychiatric facility for professional care. After leaving the hospital, Carita dropped out of school and she led a pretty unremarkable life for a few years. One day Carita’s best friend, Lynda Dark, suggested that they should move to Sydney and so Carita thought, why the hell not, and the girls endured the grueling task of hitchhiking across the Western Desert.
After arriving in Sydney, Carita met a man named Robert Finnigan, who had just moved to Sydney from Britian, the two fell fast in love and moved in together. They would remain together for the next 5 years. They lived a frugal lifestyle, moving from one cheaply rented home to another. They worked casual jobs and did not take life too seriously. One of the couple’s favorite things to do was to travel, they went to Nepal, Mexico, America and the Philippines and then Carita’s best friend Lynda came up with a suggestion, they should travel to Tokyo and get jobs at a club as hostesses.
Robert was concerned over this idea; he would not go with them and so he would be separated from his girlfriend for a long time. Lynda had done this before, traveling to Tokyo and working at clubs and she reassured Robert that it was one of the safest things they could do to earn money while in Japan. And so, with their adventurous spirit guiding their way, the two women flew to Tokyo, Japan, to have some adventure and live life to its fullest.
This separation was difficult for Robert, not only did he have separation anxiety, he also had a difficult time imagining the life Carita was living apart from him. She sent postcards and letters; they arranged a phone call every other week. The girls were not in Tokyo, but rather Utsunomiya, a bland city which sits about an hour north of Tokyo. They had obtained jobs as hostesses at two different clubs, Madam Adam, which I think is an awesome name, and Tiger’s Lair, which I think is a completely lame name. Carita was a popular hostess and she was offered many dohans right away. One of her regular customers took her out in his Ferrari, which was driven by a chauffeur. After three months working in Japan, Carita left her hostess job and flew to Hong Kong to meet up with Robert, after arriving in Hong Kong the pair went on an adventure traveling through Singapore and Thailand.
Three years down the road, Carita and Lynda were eager to return to Japan for another 3-month stint of club work and exciting escapades. This time the girls got jobs at a club in Roppongi, where they were required to dance, Carita did not like this work as much as traditional hostess work and she quickly called it quits and flew back to Sydney to be with Robert. The following year Carita decided to give Tokyo another chance, this time her sister Samantha would go with her, Samantha had a Japanese boyfriend and she was going to teach English while they lived in Japan.
The two lived in a gaijin house close to Samantha’s school and Carita obtained a job at a club located in Ginza called Ayakoji. Ginza, a vibrant district nestled in the heart of Tokyo, stands as a testament to modern elegance and sophistication. Its bustling streets are adorned with neon lights, casting a kaleidoscope of colors upon the eager crowds that stroll along its wide sidewalks. Towering skyscrapers and designer boutiques line the avenues, exuding an air of luxury that's hard to ignore. This is a glitzier part of Tokyo. From the inviting aromas wafting from high-end restaurants to the harmonious blend of traditional Japanese charm and contemporary urban life, Ginza paints a mesmerizing picture of a city perpetually in motion, where each corner holds the promise of a new experience waiting to be uncovered.
Ayakoji was quite a unique hostess club that required its hostesses to wear giant ruffly old-fashioned dresses with petticoats, but Carita did not mind. Carita and Samantha spent December and January of 1992 in Tokyo together and then one Monday in February, Samantha called Robert in Australia in a state of panic. Carita had gone out for the weekend but she had not come back. Now Carita was in a Tokyo hospital, unconscious and fighting for her life.
Carita’s parents, Annette and Nigel, immediately booked flights to Tokyo, with Robert right by their side. Carita was a very healthy young woman, she very rarely even caught a cold, she did not drink, nor did she take drugs, this all seemed very wrong. All they knew was that Carita had gone in for her normal shift on Monday evening and the following morning a Japanese man named Akira Nishida, had brought her to the hospital, dropped her off and then he immediately left. Later that day, Carita had fallen unconscious, hours later, Carita began experiencing liver failure, the doctors were only giving Carita a 50% chance of survival.
Arriving in Tokyo on Wednesday, Carita's family, accompanied by her boyfriend Robert, immediately headed to the hospital. Upon their arrival, Carita was still clinging to life, sustained by artificial means, although her skin had taken on a yellow hue due to jaundice. While the Japanese medical team employed every possible life-saving intervention, Carita's family took turns sitting beside her in the hospital room. Carita was moved to a bigger and better equipped hospital, but by the following week, she had begun having convulsions and finally the doctors told the family, what they already suspected to be true, Carita Ridgway's brain was no longer functioning.
Samantha and Robert could not accept that this was the end for their vibrant sister and partner, but Carita’s parents made the difficult decision to turn off the machines. On Saturday, February 29th, all 4 of Carita's family members spent their final moments with Carita in her hospital room.
[Music Change – Somber]
Watching someone, anyone die, is a horrible experience, too difficult for some. After Nigel, Annette, Samantha and Robert spent time with Carita in her room, the nurses asked the family to leave the room for a few moments. When the family reentered the room, the nurses had redressed Carita in a beautiful pink kimono with her hands reverently crossed on her chest and the entire bed was surrounded by beautiful flowers. After this, Carita’s body was taken to the Buddhist alter located in the basement of the hospital. Carita’s parents sat in the chapel with her, the entire night, one last night of watching over their now sleeping angel. The next day Carita was taken to a crematorium on the outskirts of Tokyo, the whole family traveled with her, and they said a final goodbye to Carita as she lay in a coffin filled with rose petals.
Diverse cultures span the globe, each one special in its own unique way. It is important to note this as we delve into the next part of our story. Hailing from Australia, Carita's family held their own cultural background and traditions, while Robert hailed from Britain. What unfolded at the crematorium next caught them all off guard, highlighting the contrasts between their traditions and traditions in Japan.
After Carita’s body had been cremated, the family was led to another part of the building. They entered a room and each of them was given a pair of white gloves and a pair of long chopsticks, one chopstick was made of wood and the other was made from bamboo. The family was very confused, they were not quite sure what was happening and then they saw the steel platform containing Carita’s cremated remains. There was no cloth, nor any hair or flesh, instead there was ash, small pieces of bones and larger bones that were easily recognizable as Carita’s leg and arm bones, her skull was on the platform as well.
A traditional part of every Japanese cremation was now upon the Ridgway family, it was now their job to use the chopsticks they had been given to pick up each of Carita’s charred bones and lovingly place them inside of her urn. Robert could not handle this practice and he expressed his concerns that this practice was macabre, but Carita’s parents and her sister took the task on as their last vestige of caring for their child and sister, it almost made them feel calmer, as if they were looking after Carita one last time, a final watch over her eternal journey.
Carita Ridgway was just three days short of her 22nd birthday and the reason for her death was still a mystery. The doctors attempted to explain away her death by stating that she must have been using drugs which caused her liver to fail, however; all of Carita’s family and her friends insisted that Carita never used drugs. It seemed that the only person who could provide answers would be the man who had dropped Carita off at the hospital, they needed to find this Mr. Nishida and ask him some questions. Mr. Nishida had left no details, nor any contact information, but Mr. Nishida had Samantha’s phone number and during the harrowing week that Carita’s family watched her slowly die, the man had called Samantha several times. Mr. Nishida spoke very fluent English and he was very concerned about Carita’s state in the hospital.
Samantha demanded that the man tell her his address and phone number, but the man refused. Samantha’s boyfriend, Hideki, called the Tokyo Police and urged them to investigate this Mr. Nishida. Two police officers came to the hospital, and they accused Hideki of being a drug dealer and they suggested that he was the one who had caused Carita’s sickness. Samantha stated that after this incident they no longer felt safe speaking to the police about the situation.
The day of Carita’s death, Mr. Nishida called Samantha’s phone yet again and he spoke with her boyfriend Hideki, Mr. Nishida said that he wanted to contribute to the family, to assist in paying for their travel and funeral expenses. The day after Carita’s death her family drove to a hotel to meet Mr. Nishida, they waited in the hotel lobby for almost an hour until Nishida called them up to a room he had rented for the day. He only wanted to speak with Nigel and Annette, Carita’s parents. As they arrived at the hotel room, they sat at a low coffee table, Mr. Nishida sat across from them. They spent almost 45 minutes speaking with the man, it was all very strange, he kept apologizing and he told them of the last day he had spent with Carita, but in the end, they received no clarity about what had happened to their daughter to make her so ill. Mr. Nishida gave the couple a box which contained a gold necklace and a diamond ring, these, he stated, were to be Carita’s birthday presents he would have given her the following week, he told the couple that he had loved their daughter and that he had wanted to spend as much time with her as he could.
Carita’s parents flew home with her remains the day after her funeral. Samantha would stay in Tokyo for a few more months while Robert, Carita’s partner, flew back to Sydney, and returned to the apartment they had shared together. Robert had a gapping hole in his heart, it was as if he was sleepwalking through life, and he cried himself to sleep every night for the next 7 months. Robert stayed in the apartment he had shared with Clarita, taking care of their fur baby Sinbad. Somehow Robert finished his schooling and earned his law degree, he was then hired as a solicitor for one of the biggest law firms in Australia. One afternoon as he sat in his office on Market Street reading the Sydney Morning Herald, he came across a story about Lucie Blackman disappearing in Tokyo, in this article they spoke of the man who had been arrested, Joji Obara, Robert sat up a bit straighter in his chair as a realization flashed through his mind, something he was 100% certain about, Joji Obara, was Mr. Nishida.
[Music Change – Story Change back to Lucie]
Tokyo Police Superintendent Udo remained in charge of the organization and categorization of the numerous items of evidence gathered from Joji Obara's private residences. As the year drew to a close, with 2001 looming, Udo's attention was captured by an intriguing discovery amidst the stack of neglected items. Within the accumulation of dusty odds and ends, he came across a small hospital receipt bearing the name of a patient: Carita Ridgway.
Meanwhile, Robert Finnigan found himself in Sydney, engaged in persistent communication with the Australian embassy. His aim was to implore them to intervene in Carita's situation and establish contact with the Tokyo Police. Once Robert convinced the embassy to contact the Tokyo Police things escalated quickly.
The discovery of the receipt prompted Udo to trace its origins back to Hideshima Hospital, where Carita had been left in a weakened condition by Mr. Nishida. Following his visit there, Udo's journey led him to the Tokyo Women's Hospital, which ultimately became the place where Carita's life would come to an end. In an effort to assist the detectives scrutinizing Obara's collection of explicit videos, Udo provided them with a photograph of Carita Ridgway. This enabled them to swiftly locate a video featuring Carita's unconscious visage amidst the heap of recordings. The distressing video, spanning several hours, depicted a highly explicit sexual assault. Obara's actions included shaking chloroform onto a cloth and positioning it beneath Carita's nose to maintain her unconscious state.
Subsequently, it came to light that the Tokyo Women's Hospital had retained a sample of Carita's liver. This sample underwent retesting, revealing traces of chloroform.
Robert had only been in contact with Nigel and Annette Ridgway a few times since Carita’s death, but once all of his doubts were gone, he picked up the phone and called them. On this call Robert told the Ridgway’s that the man who had called himself Mr. Nishida was actually the accused serial rapist Joji Obara and that when he had raped Carita, he had killed her rather than helping her. Robert and Annette traveled together back to Tokyo to speak with the police. After this initial trip, Annette made an additional trip back to Tokyo by herself to file the legal papers to make a criminal complaint.
Joji Obara admitted to police that he had been Mr. Nishida, but when it came to the allegations in front of him, Obara was obstinate and gave this statement through his lawyers, “I feel unspeakable indignation about the allegation that I raped and killed her, I had a romantic relationship with her and even took her to the hospital out of concern.” Robert was ready with a statement of his own, “Not only has Obara drugged and raped women, he now insults his victims and humiliates their families. Obara is the worst type of human being. He shows no remorse whatsoever. It is hoped his true nature will be revealed in a Japanese court of law.”
Obara had now been kept in a solitary cell for three months and the police were no closer to connecting Obara to the missing Lucie Blackman than they had been at the beginning of their investigation. Obara still refused to admit that he had done anything wrong.
Mark your calendars for next Thursday as we unveil the finale of this saga, where the pivotal question remains: will the Japanese courts succeed in convicting Joji Obara for his dastardly deeds? We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.
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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Joji Obara. (2023, September 21). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joji_Obara
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Episode Specific Sources:
Mehrotra, K. (2023, July 27). Carita Ridgway’s Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her? The Cinemaholic. https://thecinemaholic.com/carita-ridgways-murder/
Suzanne, V. (2022, January 6). Carita Ridgway: Joji Obara’s Forgotten Victim - Crime Scenes - Medium. Medium. https://medium.com/crime-scenes/carita-ridgway-joji-obaras-forgotten-victim-1c386742a77f
Vanished in Tokyo: “We’ll Never Have Peace.” (2008, March 3). ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=4361278&page=1
Australian, W. (2010, December 12). Father’s relief at killer’s jail term. The West Australian. https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/fathers-relief-at-killers-jail-term-ng-ya-188121
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Man cleared over death of Lucie. (n.d.). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6241831.stm
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