Dakota Datebook

Takako Konishi Urban Myth

Thursday, November 12, 2009

 

It was this week, in 2001, a Japanese woman was discovered dead after a mysterious cross-state sojourn that many believed was her search for the lost treasure depicted in the Coen brothers’ movie, FARGO.

Takako Konishi was first noticed by a trucker who spotted the petite 28 year-old wandering near a landfill on the outskirts of Bismarck; she was wearing a black miniskirt that marked her as an out-of-towner, especially considering the cold November weather.

He took Takako to the Bismarck police station where she pulled out a hand-drawn map. Officer Jesse Hellman described it as a white piece of paper on which she had drawn a road and a tree. He said, “That’s where she wanted to go, she kept pointing at it. She kept saying something over and over, like ‘Fargo’ or some word like that. Like that’s where she wanted to go… But in North Dakota, practically everywhere you look, there’s a road and a tree. So that didn’t really help much.”

After several hours, it was surmised that Takako was there to find the bag filled with ransom money that was buried in the snow by one of the movie’s central characters.

Although the film, itself, begins with a tag line saying it was based on a true story, the men knew that it was all fictitious. But because of the language barrier, they were unable to convince Takako that her dream of buried treasure was based on myth. Finally, they gave up, helped her buy a bus ticket to Fargo and let her go.
Takako spent the next several days at a hotel in Fargo, where later the clerk said she kept asking questions that seemed to him to be about where she could best watch stars.

One report states that there was a meteor shower during this time, and maybe she was trying to find a good place to view it.

Unfortunately, several days later, a hunter found Takako’s body leaning against a tree in a pine grove in nearby Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. There was no apparent cause of death except, perhaps, exposure. Medical examiners were unable to come up with anything else, except for a trace of sedatives in her blood.

The theory of her quest for treasure immediately became the stuff of legends. People either mocked her or felt sorry for her, but few really searched for – or even really wanted to find – another reason for Takako’s death.

But three weeks later, Takako’s family in Japan received a suicide letter she sent to them from Bismarck. It appears that she was on a quest to end her life and had gone so far as to dispose of all her belongings before leaving Bismarck for Fargo. As the story goes, Takako had fallen in love with a married Minnesota man who had jilted her and left her broken-hearted. Sadly, he was the last person she tried to call before she let the elements drain away her life beneath the stars.

Whether Takako had also come to North Dakota to find $920,000 in the snow, however… is, and will always remain, a mystery.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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