The Aum Supreme Truth cult aborted a plan to enter the welfare services industry, possibly aiming to attract more followers, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned Tuesday.
A 41-year-old female member of the cult, which has changed its name to Aleph, has started preparations to open an orphange in Nagano Prefecture in autumn last year, sources said.
The plans were drawn up with a man who lives in Nagano Prefecture, but had no previous connection to the cult, the sources said, adding that the project is currently at a standstill.
The cult denied any link to the project, but the cult’s leader, Fumihiro Joyu, 42, gathered its senior members in May and urged them to work on welfare services, the sources said.
Public security authorities have watched the cult closely as its attempt to enter the welfare field could lead to an increase in its membership.
According to the sources, a 74-year-old man, who runs a Japanese-style inn in the prefecture, came up with the idea to establish an orphanage and began seeking assistance three years ago. In October, a female member of Aum telephoned the man, saying she was interested in his idea and wanted to discuss it in person.
The two did not know each other before that first contact as the woman had learned of his project through an acquaintance, the man said.
At the meeting, the man outlined his idea to operate a facility where orphans could live together. The woman indicated that she would like to help him and said she could get about 10 people to support the project. But the woman did not reveal her connection with the cult.
The two then began drawing up detailed plans, including one in which the man would use the guest rooms in his inn to house children and signed a contract in February to rent a room on the first floor of a building in the prefecture as an administrative office for the project. They also opened a bank account for the project’s finances and had a telephone line installed at the office.
But the woman told the man in early March that she had found it difficult to get help, after which all progress on the plan stopped.
The man has said he did not know the woman was a member of Aum.
But public security authorities reportedly confirmed that Joyu’s car was parked near the man’s inn.
An Aum representative said the woman had told them that she saw the welfare activities as unrelated to the cult.
“The woman has never sought advice from Joyu and never gained his approval,” the representative added.
Public security authorities said Joyu called on about 70 of the cult’s senior members in May to assist nursing services.
Joyu told The Yomiuri Shimbun through his secretary, “We believe it’s a good way [for us] to get involved in contributing to society after the cult is accepted by society.”