There Weren’t Skeletons In His Closet

If you have any young children in your house, they may have a routine they go through — or, that they make you go through — before they go to sleep. After getting in pajamas and brushing their teeth, they may ask you to check under their bed and in their closets to make sure that no monsters are lurking within. It’s not a big deal for an adult or older sibling to accommodate these concerns — fear of the dark isn’t all that uncommon among young kids, and as older folk, we know that monsters aren’t real. So we often play along, peeking under the bed and double-checking the closet before turning off the lights.

But with no kids around, we’re less likely to do that. If something were under your bed last night, would you really have known? When was the last time you checked? And if you have a closet in which you store stuff but rarely go into, the same question applies: could something — or someone — be living in your closet, unbeknownst to you? 

The answer, if an incident from Japan in 2008 is any indication, is “yes.” And for longer than you’d think.

That year, an unemployed 57-year-old man living in Kasuya — his name has gone unreported, ironically to protect his privacy — became concerned that he had been the victim of a string of burglaries. That’s a strange thing to be concerned about; typically, when one’s home is robbed, it’s rather obvious. But in this man’s case, none of his valuables had seemed to go missing — just his lunch. As the Guardian reported, “food had been mysteriously disappearing from his fridge.” But his valuables were untouched and there were no signs of a break-in.

Nevertheless, the man was concerned and, per the Guardian, “installed security cameras that transmitted images from the inside of his house directly to his mobile phone.” One day, he left his house to run an errand or two and got an alert — the cameras had proven his theory right. A woman, roughly his age, had somehow entered his apartment and was raiding his fridge. The man called the police, who arrived at his home before they did. 

The police immediately had a problem. Typically, when a burglar breaks into someone’s home, the police have no trouble getting access to the premises — they can just use whatever door or other entryway that the burglar went through. But in this case, the door was locked and the windows were closed. That often means that the burglar is still in the home — there’s no way to for someone without a key to lock the door after exiting. Once the police gained entry into the house, they had to search every inch to find the culprit. And finally, they found their woman.

She hadn’t broken in — at least, not recently. According to the Telegraph, “after an exhaustive search of the property, officers found the woman hiding in the top of a built-in cupboard designed to store bedding and mattresses. Behind the sliding door, she had laid out a thin futon and had several plastic drink bottles, police said. There was just enough room for her to lay down.” And she hadn’t just arrived. After a bit of question, per the Telegraph, the woman, a 58-year-old named Tatsuko Horikawa, “told police that she had nowhere to live and had first taken up residence in the cupboard, in a room that the man rarely used, about one year previously when the owner of the house had gone out and not locked the door.” 

The story, while strangely amusing, was also tragic. Horikawa was homeless when she stumbled across the man’s house and was probably looking for shelter more than a quick buck. As the Independent reported, she “had moved a mattress into the small space and apparently even took showers” but didn’t seem to steal anything other than food — per various reports, there were no valuables missing from the man’s house. She wasn’t looking to make a quick buck; she was just looking for a home.

But what she did, of course, was against the law. She was charged with trespassing and, likely, convicted.

Bonus fact: Living in closets isn’t a great idea, but it’s also not unique to people in Japan — it’s also something future TV stars do. Or, at least, Jay Leno once did. Early in his career, the now-formerTonight Show host moved to Los Angeles to get his big break but didn’t have a place to live nor the means to find one. His solution, as he told Time Magazine, was to trespass: “I just got on a plane one day and went to Los Angeles. I looked in the paper for open houses, say, from noon to 4 p.m., and I would get there at 3:30, and then I would hide in the closet. The realtor would leave and lock the door, and now I had a place to stay. Sometimes I could stay in a house two to three days. I didn’t wreck anything. I did get picked up twice for vagrancy on Hollywood Boulevard.”

From the Archives: The Oldest Man in Tokyo: He was stealing, kind of, but not because he was living in someone else’s home — he was definitely in his own home, just not the other part. (You’ll see!)