The Japan Times, May 9, 2003
FUKUI (Kyodo) A mysterious sect that dresses all in white, calls itself the Pana Wave Laboratory and has been closely watched by police and the media as it drove around central Japan in a caravan of all-white vehicles returned to Fukui Prefecture on Friday.
The sect’s path was blocked, however, when about 100 residents of the village of Izumi, where the group had squatted for six months before starting its circuitous journey, barricaded a road and blocked its entry.
Members of the group told the Fukui Prefectural Government in the afternoon that the convoy of about 20 vans would head for a “facility” owned by the sect in Fukui city.
The group had left Fukui Prefecture on April 25 after repeated requests from residents of Izumi that it leave. The group members drove around neighboring Gifu Prefecture before entering Nagano Prefecture on Tuesday.
Earlier Friday, the Fukui government declared the group persona non-grata and requested that it not return to the prefecture. The group reportedly operates three facilities in Fukui.
“We strongly urge that they do not head toward Fukui Prefecture,” the prefectural government said in a statement released early in the day.
Official antagonism toward the group intensified as local authorities, wary of its activities, have sought to prevent it from traveling to areas within their jurisdictions.
The group says it is not a cult, but its members claim the world will end on Thursday and that white clothing protects them from electromagnetic waves.
On Thursday, National Police Agency Director General Hidehiko Sato said the police will continue to monitor the group due to public concerns arising from the bizarre attire and behavior of its members.
The NPA has stepped up surveillance of the group, saying there are similarities between Pana Wave and the early stages of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, whose members committed the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack.
On Friday, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama also said surveillance will continue and compared the group to Aum Shinrikyo.
“In order to reduce worries among the public, we would like to continue making sufficient studies of this group,” Moriyama said. “Considering that the former Aum Shinrikyo cult behaved peculiarly before engaging in malicious terrorist acts, I am worried about the possibility that this group might also damage public safety in the future.”
Also on Friday, Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka criticized the national government for likening Pana Wave to Aum.
“If (the government) says the group resembles Aum Shinrikyo in its early phase, then it should provide evidence supporting such an allegation. Careless remarks like that are fueling public concern,” Tanaka said. “We cannot rule out the danger that an unexpected and mutually undesirable development could result in pushing them to a corner.”