Funabashi, Chiba — Unemployed Miyabe Hideteru (57) of Kasuga, Saitama, was arrested Jan. 5th by Chiba Prefectural Police at the Matsudo East Precinct on suspicion of defrauding a woman out of 5 million yen by telling her he was “the descendant of Mito Koumon.”
(Mito Koumon was a Tokugawa-era shadow ruler who was famous for traveling the countryside and checking up on the various fiefdoms. He’s been the subject of many many movies and TV shows, where he was famous for revealing himself by flashing a card showing his haiku pen name and shouting, “Can’t you see this seal?!”)
According to investigation, the man told a woman he met at Funabashi Health Center in April 2001 that, “I am the current head of the Mito household. That makes me his grandson,” and “I am going to sell land in Hokkaido to the government for 3.6 billion yen, so lend me the money to pay for the paper work. At the end of May I will pay you back double,” upon which he took 5 million yen from the woman.
Miyabe gave her his business card on which he claimed to be a part of the fictitious “Japan-America Friendship and Welfare Fund.” The woman had heard from her friend that “a man of great pedigree” was frequenting the Health Center, so she believed what he said.
Since he put his real name on the business card he immediately became the prime suspect. He is reported to have told investigators, “I wanted money to have fun with,” and has confessed to further offenses.
My Comment: The TV news took a trip to the man’s house and found that he was living alone in a small apartment in Saitama. His neighbors described him as extremely friendly and outgoing.
This story was of particular interest to me because I actually went to this Health Center my first night in Japan. We were going to spend the New Year there, but it was so crowded we went somewhere else instead. These Health Centers are by day similar to sento, or public baths, and by night become a makeshift hotel for people who have missed the last train. I stayed in one once when I was in Japan for college, and it was actually pretty nice, except when it came time to go to sleep. All the massage chairs (the ideal place to sleep at a place like this) were taken and we had to sleep on the hard floor of the banquet hall. So bottom line: if you want a good bath, go to an onsen or sento. If you want a cheap place to stay after you miss the last train, go to a net cafe and buy the night pack. And if you want to meet gullible middle-aged women and rip them off, go to a Health Center.