The Japanese media were not caught by surprise when police arrested Kazuyoshi Miura as he sat in his parked Nissan Fair Lady Z in a Tokyo hotel garage last month.

Inside the car with Miura was a camera crew from the Asahi television network. Outside it were more TV crews, reporters and photographers, close to 100 of them, jostling each other feverishly as they recorded an event that Japan had been awaiting for almost two years.

Miura is at the center of what is known as "The Los Angeles Mystery." He is accused of having arranged an unsuccessful murder attempt on his third wife in that city in August 1981. She died after being shot in a mysterious second attack there three months later.

Last week, he and one-time sex film actress Michiko Yazawa were indicted by the Tokyo prosecutor's office for the attempted murder of his late wife. In Los Angeles, the county prosecutor said last week that Miura was the sole suspect in his wife's slaying three months later, but a police spokesman said that detectives "do not have sufficient information to name anyone" in the slaying and that Miura, who was wounded slightly in the leg, was "viewed as a victim of a crime."

Attention given to the Miura case underlines this country's infatuation with scandal and crimes of passion.

Suspicions about Miura's involvement in his wife's death became widespread in January 1984. Since then, the Japanese media have maintained almost constant vigil outside his home waiting for the police to come, and interviewing the subject in the meantime.

Miura, 38, a tall, handsome man whose tinted glasses, designer jeans and gold chains are familiar to millions, took his notoriety in stride, often seeming to revel in it. He pleaded innocence in exclusive interviews, led reporters on a high-speed car chase and let them follow him into a supermarket and examine what he bought.

"There have been so many acts to this drama," says Tadashi Yoshioka, 35, a Tokyo white-collar worker who has followed it from the start. "People never got tired."

Miura's much-publicized affairs with a variety of women -- newspapers recently published charts to explain whom he was seeing when -- also have titillated readers in a country where extramarital liaisons are common but normally handled with discretion.

It has also shown that the Japanese media write their own ticket when they are on to a hot story. Reporters' aggressiveness has raised some eyebrows, but not many. "Curiosity in journalism is most important," wrote Gakushuin University sociology professor Takashi Fujitake in a recent magazine article, "but it should take the viewpoint of a humanitarian, not a Peeping Tom."

Media coverge of the man began on a totally different note. Before November 1981, he was an unknown importer of "sundry goods." That month, he flew to Los Angeles on a pleasure trip with his third wife, Kazumi. During their stay, she was shot in the head while they were walking together. The assailant was never arrested.

Initially the story was cast as the pathetic, albeit perhaps predictable, fate of innocents who had dared to venture into lawless America. Miura became a media hero, shedding tears before the television cameras for his unconscious wife. She died in a coma a year later.

He dropped out of sight until January 1984, when the Weekly Bunshun magazine began a series of articles about Miura. It was reported that he had taken out large amounts of insurance before the 1981 death of his wife and that something very similar had happened in 1979. Miura, it said, was in Los Angeles at the same time as a woman with whom he was involved, Chizuko Shiraishi. She had disappeared, and one month later her body was found in a suburb of the city. Her body was not identified until March 1984, five years after the incident.

After the magazine series, Miura was public property. As of last month, magazines have published 240 articles about him, probing his personal life. It was said that as a teen-ager he was sent to a reformatory for arson. Later, he reportedly spent seven years in a juveniles' prison for robbery.

Television networks assigned crews to follow him through the streets. He wrote a book providing his version of events. He got married a fourth time, to a woman with whom he recently opened a fancy teahouse.

The family of his former wife, meanwhile, collected 120,000 signatures calling for justice.

Another bombshell burst in June 1984, when yet another woman linked to Miura, the film actress Michiko Yazawa, was reported to have told police that she had been part of an attempt to kill his wife in August 1981, during a previous trip by the Miuras to Los Angeles. Miura promised to marry Yazawa if she succeeded, she reportedly told police.

Miura allegedly gave her a hammer-like weapon, and she reportedly set upon his wife in a room in Los Angeles' New Otani Hotel, inflicting head injuries serious enough to require hospital treatment. But his wife reportedly drove off her attacker. The shooting took place three months later.

When Miura finally was arrested just before midnight on Sept. 9, he had just finished another interview. Yazawa also was taken into custody.

Miura had taken the precaution of drafting a statement for release in the event of his arrest. On Sept. 12, his wife went on television to read it. The arrest was the result of pressure from "demagogic media," he said. "I have nothing to do with this case except as a victim."