Group Mentality: Police search white cult’s facilities

Asahi News (Japan), May 15, 2003
http://www.asahi.com/

Investigators say they want to get to the bottom of Pana Wave’s bizarre antics.

Police on Wednesday searched facilities of Pana Wave Laboratory, the group of oddball, white-clad doomsayers obsessed with electromagnetic waves and the celebrity seal Tama-chan.

The searches at 12 facilities in Tokyo and Fukui, Yamanashi, Okayama and Fukuoka prefectures appeared to be more about fear of the unknown than any serious crime. The police action was based on allegations the cult used falsely registered vehicles.

“We want to snuff out any social anxiety at an early stage,” a senior officer said.

Police said they intend to grasp the true nature of the so-far docile cult. Members said they have done no harm. But their journey through Gifu, Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures starting in late April raised fears among residents.

The cultists covered their caravan of vehicles in white, dressed like surgeons and draped white sheets over trees and bushes during their stops. They said the measures were needed to protect members from electromagnetic waves.

Adding to the strange ambience surrounding the case, investigators in Gotaishi, Fukui Prefecture, donned white lab coats at the group’s request before questioning the cult leader, Yuko Chino, 69, in a white-covered vehicle.

According to Tokyo police, the group instructed a 55-year-old man living in Okayama Prefecture to buy three trucks between June and September 1998. The vehicles were used by Pana Wave Laboratory but were falsely registered under the man’s name with the regional transport bureau, police said.

The man, a former cult member, told police: “I lent my name to an acquaintance. I am not with the group anymore.”

The searches on Pana Wave facilities were carried out without incident.

In Gotaishi, police targeted the cult’s main facility-Pana Wave Laboratory-and 17 vehicles shrouded in white on the grounds of a nearby school.

More than a dozen Yamanashi prefectural police officers descended on the village of Oizumi to investigate a domed building owned by a 66-year-old member who claims to be the cult’s “No. 2 strongman.” Police also searched an inn rented by group members.

Prior to the searches in Yamanashi, a person affiliated with the group said, “If you take a good look at us, you will find that we are not an aggressive group, like Aum Shinrikyo.”

However, Pana Wave’s behavior has prompted comparisons to Aum, a group that had long been ridiculed until members started killing people in the 1990s. Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama and others have voiced concerns about Pana Wave’s odd behavior.

“The group’s activities were way too bizarre, making residents feel uneasy. I hope police can reveal the truth of the matter,” said Susumu Yamada, the chief of Oizumi village.

One of the cult’s activities has been to build a pool inside the domed building. Pana Wave plans to use the pool to protect Tama-chan, the bearded seal living in Tokyo-area rivers who has drawn as much attention as the cult.

Pana Wave also predicted a cataclysmic event would occur today.

A person living in the building that houses the cult’s ominously named facility “Seisen Iji Center” (holy war maintenance center) on the outskirts of Tokyo, said: “I can’t tell you much because I’m not even sure what the group does. But they weren’t causing any nuisance.”

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