Have you ever seen the movie Fargo? If the answer isn’t “Yah, you betcha,” then you should probably check it out. Widely hailed as one of the best films of the ’90s, Fargo won multiple awards and was inducted into the US National Film Registry. It also inspired one of the weirdest legends in cinema history . . . a story that’s almost completely untrue.
In November 2001, citizens of Bismarck, North Dakota noticed a stranger in their city. After all, she was hard to miss. She was Japanese, couldn’t really speak English, and was wearing a miniskirt, boots, and a black leather backpack. As one police officer later pointed out, “Girls in North Dakota don’t dress like that. Probably ’cause of the weather.” In other words, she stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.
A worried truck driver dropped the young woman off at the local police station, hoping the officers could help her out. Instead, they were completely baffled. They learned that the girl’s name was Takako Konishi and that she was from Tokyo. Other than that, they were at a loss, especially when she pulled out her homemade map. She obviously wanted to go someplace but where and why? That’s when Takako started saying the word “Fargo.”
Suddenly, one of the more film-savvy officers remembered the plot to the Coen Brother’s classic crime drama. In the film, a bumbling car salesman desperately needs some cash, so he concocts a crazy scheme to kidnap his wife for ransom. Unfortunately, he hires two idiotic crooks to carry out the plot, and as you might guess, it doesn’t go according to plan. After a whole lot of bloodshed, one of the kidnappers ends up with a suitcase full of money. Wanting to hide the dough from his partner, he buries it in a snow bank and marks the spot with a red ice scraper.
Of course, he never makes it back to pick up the cash, and the suitcase is lost in a Midwestern blizzard. So what did this have to do with Takako’s map? Well, at the beginning of Fargo, there’s a title card that reads, “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987.” Naturally, the officers assumed Takako was looking for the lost treasure . . . only it didn’t exist. The “true story” bit was just a joke on the part of directors Joel and Ethan Coen. The movie Fargo was completely fictional.
But the cops couldn’t explain this to Takako. They couldn’t speak Japanese, and her English dictionary wasn’t helping any. They even tried phoning several Chinese restaurants in search of a translator, but by the end of the day, they still hadn’t gotten through to her. She eventually wandered away, and the next morning, they received a phone call from a Minnesota detective. Takako had been found dead in the woods near the town of Detroit Lakes. She’d died looking for the ransom money.
At least that’s what the media said. Newspapers across the nation ran the story of a confused Japanese girl looking for a suitcase that wasn’t even real. Eventually, the tale became part of movie lore, but just like Fargo, the legend of Takako Konishi is a work of fiction. True, she really died in the woods, but she wasn’t looking for any money. Three weeks after her death, Takako’s parents received a suicide note in the mail. As it turns out, Takako had fallen in love with a married American businessman. The couple had even visited Minnesota on several occasions, but now the guy wanted to end the relationship.
Lonely and depressed, Takako flew to North Dakota, searching for her lover. Sadly, no one understood what she was talking about or who she was looking for and couldn’t give her directions. They thought she was just a big Coen brother fan hunting for buried loot. And when she couldn’t find her old admirer, she decided to kill herself. On her last night alive, Takako managed to ask a hotel clerk for a good place to look at the stars, and that’s how a heartbroken girl from Tokyo ended up dead in the Minnesota woods.