A man found a small piece of skull next to a trail in Doshi Village on April 23. It was lying in the bed of a dry stream about 600 meters away from the campground that Misaki and her family visited in September 2019.
The man who made the discovery took photos and reported it to police two days later. He said he was unsure if the bone fragment was human.
Since then, police have found other items within an approximate 10-meter radius. They include another piece of human bone, confirmed to be part of a shoulder, and a child's sneaker, socks and shirt — all similar in shape and color to what Misaki was wearing when she disappeared.
Streams in the area fill with water during spells of heavy rain. At the time of Misaki's disappearance, a total of 1,700 police, firefighters, and Self-Defense Forces personnel conducted an extensive search that lasted 16 days.
The discoveries have thrown the spotlight back on the case. Forensic examination of the skull fragment has found it came from a young person and has been out in the open for several years. DNA testing has proved inconclusive.
Police say there are no signs of any digging or burial at the site where the items were located. Their search operation is ongoing with a focus on the dry stream bed and its surrounds.
Mother still holds hope
Misaki and her family, from Chiba Prefecture, were camping when she vanished while playing with other children. She was in first grade at the time.
Her mother Tomoko says Misaki was out of her sight for only 10 minutes before she realized her daughter was missing. She still holds hope, even after the latest developments.
"I received a report from the police that they couldn't identify an individual at this time," Tomoko said. "I am frankly relieved. I believe that Misaki will come back safely and I continue to wait while praying that the items do not belong to her."
Police are searching the area for new clues and further testing of the bone fragments is underway.