Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 22, 2003
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/

A man describing himself as a psychic and three women were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of defrauding passersby around train stations in Tokyo and its vicinity by charging money for “exorcising evil spirits,” police said.

The alleged mastermind of the scheme, Shunichi Miyazaki, 55, from Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and three followers were arrested on suspicion of fraud.

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Police also issued arrest warrants Tuesday for five other members of Miyazaki’s group.

The group is suspected of illegally extracting tens of millions of yen from more than 1,000 people–most of whom believed to be women in their 20s or 30s.

In February last year, prefectural police investigated what they called the group’s “place of worship” in Kamakura.

After questioning several of the group’s victims, they discovered the group had been engaged in an exorcism scam, police said.

Between spring 200l and February last year, Miyazaki and eight followers reportedly approached passersby at Yokohama, Kawasaki and Shimbashi and other stations in the Tokyo area, telling them they were haunted by evil spirits.

To increase their victims’ anxiety, they reportedly told them that “your back is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman, and she has attached strings to your neck,” or “the spirit of a dead man with severed legs is clinging to your waist.”

They then told their victims to visit their place of worship, where, in a closed room filled with the sounds of recorded sutras, Miyazaki carried out an exorcism using a crystal ball.

Miyazaki is suspected of charging between 30,000 yen and 1 million yen for each exorcism.

Miyazaki’s followers approached their victims dressed in tennis clothes and carrying tennis rackets or violin cases.

In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Miyazaki said he made his followers wear tennis clothes because he thought people tended to listen to people in such attire.

“When I was a high school student, I nearly drowned. After the incident I came to have a psychic power. I didn’t mean to cheat them, and it is not a fraud,” he said.

While active in the Kanto region, the group’s place of worship was a house in the mountains near Kitakamakura Station, Kanagawa Prefecture.

After February’s police investigation, the group temporarily relocated to Nagoya and Osaka where they allegedly carried out the same deception, establishing places of worship in hotel rooms near train stations.

Many of those who paid Miyazaki to perform exorcisms still believe they are haunted by evil spirits, with victims quoted as saying, “I’m too afraid to look in the mirror” or “I can’t sleep at night.”

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