The Telegraph (England), May 16, 2003
By Colin Joyce in Godaishi
Members of a bizarre Japanese cult were busy draping trees and buildings in white sheets yesterday, apparently unconcerned as their deadline for the end of the world came and went.
Japan has for weeks obsessively watched the Panawave Laboratory cult as its members, dressed all in white, have blocked mountain roads in a convoy of white vans.
Members claim that communist guerrillas are trying to kill them with electro-magnetic waves. The cult also plotted to capture a celebrity seal. Dozens of police and scores of journalists kept watch yesterday on the inaccessible mountain village of Godaishi, in central Japan, where some 60 cultists are camping in their vans beside a disused school.
The cult’s nearby headquarters was established a decade ago when its leader, Yuko Chino, decided to seek a secluded spot free of the electro-magnetic waves she says are destroying the world and her health. The cult believes white deflects the waves.
The convoy arrived in Godaishi after being chased from one spot to another across Japan by hostile local authorities. The cult has disturbed the country with its claims that the approach of a 10th planet would trigger the destruction of the earth on May 15. A spokesman now says the apocalypse has been postponed until next Thursday.
The cult’s dire predictions have brought back bad memories of the apocalyptic Aum Supreme Truth cult, which committed mass murder by releasing sarin gas on the Tokyo underground in 1995. The attack killed 12 and left thousands suffering side-effects.
Tatsuhiko Sato, a local taxi driver, said yesterday: “What Panawave say has no basis in reality so you can only call them a cult. It reminds me of Aum. They seem only one step away from turning into a terrorist group.”
Japanese have been alarmed at Panawave literature that says Miss Chino is the only hope for the earth and that her death could trigger holy war.
Miss Chino claims that she is terminally ill with cancer and will die within days. But in a television interview last week, she seemed healthy for a 69-year-old and local media note that she has been ‘dying’ for almost a decade.
The Aum cult’s crimes were a major humiliation for the police, who missed clear signs that it had turned violent, and the authorities are desperate to be seen to be keeping close watch on Panawave.
Riot police are on permanent guard and on Wednesday investigators raided Panawave facilities across Japan, though so far the cult stands accused of nothing more serious than a few traffic offences.
Interest in Panawave was raised dramatically when it emerged the cult had planned to capture a bearded seal, which became the darling of the nation after it began appearing in rivers around Tokyo last year.
The cult has argued that Tama-chan, or Dear Little Tama, as the seal is known, was led thousands of miles from her natural habitat by electro-magnetic waves.
It now says the lost seal may be able to save the world.
The cult keeps a huge number of animals, especially cats, in an obsession that is reported to date back to Miss Chino’s childhood.
Police estimate that Pana wave, which was founded 25 years ago, now has around 1,200 members. They fear that it may become violent, while cubsession that is reported to date back to Miss Chino’s childhood.
Police estimate that Pana wave, which was founded 25 years ago, now has around 1,200 members. They fear that it may become violent, ers into paying thousands of pounds to ward off bad karma it claimed to have detected by reading the soles of their feet.
Another, the Life Space cult, kept a dead man in a hotel room for several months, claiming that it could cure him by patting his head.