An Irie shows reporters on Jan. 18 the Tokyo house where a family of four, including her sister, was murdered in December 2000. (Rei Kishitsu)

In a box with an opened lid at the Tokyo house where a family of four was murdered in December 2000 sit a pair of pink boots and a pair of red boots.

The pink ones were 8-year-old Niina Miyazawa’s. The red ones had her 6-year-old brother Rei’s name written on them.

“I think Rei was given Niina’s old boots,” said An Irie, 62, a relative of the deceased family.

Niina and Rei were children of Mikio, 44, and his 41-year-old wife, Yasuko.

Irie, Yasuke's sister, is calling for the preservation of the house in Setagaya Ward where all four members of the Miyazawa family were found slain as Tokyo police plan to demolish the aging structure despite the case remaining open.

“Is it appropriate to demolish the house when the murder case remains unsolved?” Irie asked reporters from The Asahi Shimbun and other media outlets as she let them in the home on Jan. 18. “There definitely are things that can be felt only at a crime scene. I would like people to get a sense of how they lived their lives. That sense could lead to a break in the case.”

She decided to open the house to the public after she received a notice dated Dec. 26 from local police “out of the blue” they will no longer honor her request for preserving the Miyazawas’ house on the grounds that police work to retain all evidence related to the case was completed.

The land on which house stands belongs to the Tokyo metropolitan government. If the request for preservation, originally made in March, is nullified, the house is expected to be demolished.

Irie submitted a document asking for the police notice to be withdrawn on Jan. 18.

Police were alerted to the murder of the family on the morning of Dec. 31, 2000.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department and other sources say that a perpetrator broke into their house late on the night of Dec. 30, 2000, attacking Mikio, Yasuko and Niina with a knife. Rei was strangled to death.

After killing the family, the culprit, who is believed to be a male with the blood type A, apparently had ice cream and had tea in the house. There were signs that he browsed the Internet on the computer in the house and that he took steps to stem his bleeding.

Two decades later, the MPD is still looking for leads that they hope will lead to the arrest of the suspect, assigning 35 investigators exclusively to this case.

SMALL HOUSE OF MEMORIES

Mikio, a company employee, used part of the first floor as his study before he was attacked.

Shelves that used to cover the walls are now empty. Numerous numbered cardboard boxes with MPD written on the outside are piled up, containing the victims’ belongings.

Irie said being inside the house allows a glimpse into the family’s modest lifestyle.

“If you come here, you know this is a small house,” she said. “The family lived humbly and worked hard.”

In the back of the first floor, there were nine stairs leading to the mezzanine floor. Mikio’s body was believed to be lying at the foot of the stairs and the bodies of Yasuko and Niina were discovered on the mezzanine landing.

“In this small house, you are not left with much space to flee to if you encounter the perpetrator,” she said. “They must have been extremely terrified.”

There were signs marking the children’s height on the living room of the second floor. The mark shown at the highest came from November 2000. The one below it showed the letter Ni, apparently for Niina, from August 2000. Another mark slightly below said Re, for Rei. These marks indicated that the brother was nearly as tall as his older sister.

“It is heart-wrenching to be in this house,” said Irie, who used to live in the house next door. “I am still deeply sorry that I could not save them.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Michiko Kawahara and Yosuke Takashima.)