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Shinya Matsuoka: 20 Seconds To 33 Years

Shinya Matsuoka, 4 years old, lived with his parents, an older sister, and a younger brother in Ibaraki prefecture. When his maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away on the 5th of March 1989, the whole family went to Tokushima to attend her funeral which took place the next day. Afterward, the family drove one hour away to a relative of the mum and stayed there for the night.

The Disappearance Of Shinya

Pic: Day News

On the morning of the 7th of March, at around 8 AM, the father, Shinya, and the youngest sibling, 2 years old at the time, went for a walk. When Shinya didn’t want to go home after about 10 minutes as his dad suggested, they decided to drop off Shiny A’s brother and walk another round in the neighborhood, which was in a very small area with few houses.

Leading up to the home they were staying at, there is a flight of stairs, about 10 meters long. Shinya’s dad, carrying the toddler in his arms, walks ahead of Shinya, who slowly but certainly made his way up. The dad saw that Shinya had made it to the very top of the stairs. He steps into the entrance and hands over his younger son to the mother.

A matter that takes a few seconds at most.

The father acknowledges that Shinya hadn’t followed him into the home and steps outside to see where he is. Shinya is nowhere to be seen. The father searches around the estate but isn’t able to discover his son. Very soon, family and relatives begin joining the search effort, after a while, the local fire brigade also begins to look for the 4 years old. Because there was a problem he had gotten lost in the mountains, people started searching there, as well.

The disappearance became a matter of law enforcement just afternoon. The initial team consisting of 15 officers and about 100 riot police officers, firefighters, and citizens saw the addition of officers to a total of 200 by the following day.

For the following 3 months, the search proceeded, but there were no leads that could help discover Shinya.

After the disappearance

The most baffling aspect of this case is the short duration within which Shinya disappeared.

To explain what facts investigators were faced with:

The area where the family was living was very distant and the house was located at the end of the town’s road. This means that few people would go there if they didn’t live in that corner.

People performing fieldwork just 100 meters away from the scene didn’t notice any strange cars. And there were no clues of traffic accidents in the area.

No one outside the neighborhood realized that the family was staying at the relative’s home.

Even though Shinya was extremely mature for his age and had no problems saying his parents’ phone number, home address, and names, investigators thought the chances of him having become a victim of a crime were low for the reasons mentioned above.

The strange phone call

Instantly after the disappearance of their son, the family set up a recording device on the phone located in the relative’s home.

On the 16th of March, the day before the family had schemed to come back home, the phone rang.

Shinya’s father picks up.

“Is your wife there?” a female voice asks, with a conventional Tokushima accent.

The father hands the phone to his wife.

“I am Mariko Nakahara’s mother. My kid is in group ‘Moon’ of the Seikei kindergarten”

The name of the kindergarten was familiar to her – that’s where Shinya’s older sister went at the time.

The voice continues. “We have put together some cash to assist you. Where should we send it? Are you returning home soon?”

The mother told the individual at the other end of the line they were going to return home the next day.

Sometime later, the mother hadn’t listened to anything about the fund yet but hesitated to inquire about it out of politeness. No phone calls from Mariko’s mother, either.

Days went by and the mother decides to enquire about the cash that was supposedly obtained for her family.
Turns out, there was no student named Mariko Nakahara and no cash was collected for this objective, either.

Thinking about it, the mother felt that it was odd that the call came from someone with a Tokushima accent when they resided in Ibaraki. It made no sense that a guardian of one of the kindergarten students knew the number to the family’s relative’s home, anyway.

But then, how would someone from Tokushima realize the name of her daughter’s kindergarten?

Sadly, no helpful lead came from this unusual incident.

Sightings since

Shinya’s disappearance gathered some scrutiny from the public and his family had made over 50 TV appearances and even made their house telephone number public to get as much data as someone may know as possible.

This is a list assembling all of the supposed sightings of Shinya. (This is a translation by me of the list featured on this website).

May 1989 – A man carrying a boy with an identical appearance to Shinya was noticed by the ocean in Tokushima. When the observer attempted to take a closer look at the boy’s face, the man turned away and got into a white car. The region is known to be a place where North Korean ships come by.

April 1990 – A housewife from Tokushima directly phoned the family’s home phone and said it was obvious she had seen Shinya. His dad met this person to get more details. He handed all of the data to the police and requested to have the sighting analyzed to be of Shinya. When he investigated about it after not hearing from the police, the head of the department said he had been busy because his dad had passed. No leads.


1990 – Hearing that a boy looking identical to Shinya was noticed in front of a mall in Yamagata, his dad went there. And handed out flyers of his missing kid to locals, who verified they had seen the boy at a store on a playground. No further leads.

1991 – The mother was notified that a couple was seen with a kid who, judging by their age difference, wasn’t theirs, at a temple in Shikoku. She went there and looked for them, but couldn’t discover them.

1995 – An elderly man living in Hokkaidou claims he knew someone who told him they had gotten a kid named Shinya as a gift from the main island. No leads.

1997 – A woman on her way home from work allegedly saw Shinya in a subway in Yokohama. He was sitting next to her and she told him she got goosebumps. Because he looked so identical to the missing kid. He seemed to have injuries to his wrists, was barely covered by a bandage, and overall looked not being cared for well. She conversed with him and he told her he was being mistreated by an older man. She gave him her number in case he needs help and just once, he called her. No further leads.

1998 – A cashier at a video rental store in the Chugoku area claims he saw a kid with injured wrists who took a Titanic postcard. Showed it to a man who looked like a yakuza member and who seemed to be keeping him under watch, and bought the card. The employee instantly told the store owner and the two went looking for the boy, but they were already gone.

The Man who claimed to be Shinya

In 2018, a man named Ryuto Wada was shown on TV, and he claimed to be the missing Shinya Matsuoka. I recall this well, as the Japanese corner of the internet was excited. Could this be the end of the mystery and the painful search for Shinya? Could there be eventually closure? Ryuto did look quite identical to Shinya, some said, and people were highly predicting the results of the DNA test. Which would conclusively tell the whole nation whether this was, in fact, the kid who went missing nearly 3 decades ago.

Source: Sub Reddit Unresolved Mystery

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