White cult paranoia infects Saitama residents

Mainichi Daily News (Japan), May 10, 2003

SAITAMA — Six white vans similar to those owned by the “white cult,” parked in Saitama Prefecture, created a stir in the local community Friday, but later proved to be vehicles used by a TV broadcaster, police said Saturday.

Also about 25 leaflets — bearing a swirling pattern similar to that used by the Panawave Laboratory cult — were found on utility poles and other public places in the prefecture, but they have turned to be advertisements for a local restaurant.

Police did not issue any warning to the TV crew because they were acting within the law, but removed the leaflets on the grounds that they could cause anxiety among local residents.

At around 2 p.m., Friday, police received a phone call saying that several white vans covered with white sheets were parked in the Shimoniikura district of Wako.

Police officers rushed to the scene and found six cars that matched the caller’s description. The officers questioned people in the cars and discovered that they were Nippon TV (NTV) crew members who were producing a program to be broadcast Sunday.

The TV crew explained that they were filming a scene in which they tried to see how long it took to cover vans with white sheets just as the doomsday cult does. Since they broke no law, the officers neither instructed them to stop the practice nor issued any warning to them.

“The TV crew did not put any stickers on their vans and were dressed normally. We’ve heard that police officers said what they did was acceptable,” a spokesman for NTV said.

On the same day, leaflets bearing a pattern similar to a swirling pattern on stickers that the bizarre cult pastes onto windows of its vehicles were found on utility poles and other public places near Kasumigaseki Station on the Tobu Tojo Line.

The leaflets were advertisements of the opening of a restaurant after refurbishment. However, the local police station removed all of the 25 leaflets after deeming that they could cause anxiety among local residents.

Police intend to instruct the restaurant owner not to put up such leaflets.

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