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Japanese cult guru gives her first interview • Tuesday May 6, 2003

AFP, May 7, 2003

Tokyo: The woman claiming to be the guru of a bizarre Japanese cult said today she was terminally ill and would die soon, according to a reporter who met her and said she looked fine.

“I am in the last stages of cancer and seriously ill … I will die in four to five days,” the woman told the Fuji television network from a white-shrouded van while refusing to show her face.

The voice of a middle-aged woman broadcast by the private channel did not sound seriously ill.

The woman claims to be Yuko Chino, 69, who set up the doomsday sect Chino Shoho (True Law of Chino) in the 1970s.

Her companions and followers, white-clad members of Pana Wave Laboratory, an offshoot of the sect, have raised eyebrows and concern in Japan as their white-shrouded caravan of about 15 vehicles occupied roads in small villages.

They were expelled by residents every time they parked and erected white fabric screens along the roadside and wrapped nearby tree trunks in white.

Wearing surgical-style white robes, flowing headgear and face masks, they claim that white cloth can help them avoid exposure to harmful electromagnetic waves sent out by communists.

The woman told Fuji: “I cannot live in one place because of extremists.”

Tomoya Morishita, the Fuji reporter who obtained the exclusive interview with her, told other journalists later that the woman, who unlike her disciples, was dressed in a light-blue sweater and navy blue trousers, was “just like an ordinary granny.”

“She did not look like someone seriously ill,” the reporter said. She was quoted as saying, “I will be fine as long as I get energy from the heavens.”

The reporter said the inside of the van was covered with white paper and mysterious whirlpool patterns.

Morishita had to agree to wear a white robe, remove his trouser belt and other metal objects, and wrap a microphone and camera with white cloth, Jiji Press news agency said.

He added the woman spent 90 percent of the 25-minute interview talking about Japan’s celebrated stray wild seal, nicknamed “Tama-chan,” which she said was unable to find enough food.

The wild seal sparked a media frenzy after straying into a river along Tokyo’s industrial belt last year.

A group linked to the cult failed in its attempt to catch and transport the animal to a makeshift pool at a dome-like building owned by Pana Wave in the village of Oizumi, about 150 kilometres west of Tokyo.

The woman told Fuji the caravan would be heading to Oizumi, while the village vowed to block them.

The cult has been under scrutiny due to its perceived similarities to the Aum Supreme Truth sect, responsible for the deadly nerve gas attacks on Tokyo subways in 1995.

Aum shocked the world in March 1997 when it released the Nazi-invented sarin gas in crowded subway cars in Tokyo, killing 12 and injuring several thousands.

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