Doomsday cult makes waves in Japan
Tuesday May 6, 2003
Less than a fortnight before the day it predicts the world will end,
Japan's latest high-profile cult rolled slowly and bizarrely away from
a confrontation with the police yesterday, leaving behind sniggers,
fears and a mountainside draped in white sheets.
Until recently, little was known about Pana Wave Laboratory - one of
Japan's many small and mysterious sects - but the group has been given
prominence in the past week, which has seen a standoff with the
authorities and a raid by hundreds of riot police.
The cult believes most of humankind will be destroyed on May 15, when
an undiscovered 10th planet approaches Earth, reversing the magnetic
pole and causing floods and tidal waves.
To prepare for the final day, a group of about 40 believers have formed
a convoy of a dozen white vans that travel Japan's mountain roads in
search of an area free from electromagnetic waves.
The group ended a five-day standoff with police early on Friday when
faced with the threat of arrest and has since moved camp twice to its
current site, an unused road in the mountainous village of Kiyomi, 170
miles west of Tokyo.
It says communists are using such waves to try to kill their ailing
guru, Yuko Chino, a 69-year-old self-proclaimed prophet who is said to
be suffering from cancer.
In what it claims is a form of defence, followers dress from head to
toe in white, drive white vans and cover the trees and roads around
their camp in white sheets.
While most Japanese have been amused at such antics, others have made
alarming comparisons with the Aum Supreme Truth cult which was scorned
for its outlandishness before stunning the country with a sarin gas
attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995.
Hidehiko Sato, the director-general of the national police agency,
indicated that the authorities were assuming the worst about Pana Wave
Laboratory. "The group is similar to Aum Shinrikyo in its early
stages," Mr Sato said. "We're going to crack down on any possible
illegal activities of the group."
So far, however, the closest the cult has come to criminal activity is
a couple of parking violations - for obstructing the view of its
drivers by filling their vans' windscreens with white stickers.
One follower claimed the cult had been trying to save Tamachan, a seal
that has been in the news for making his home in a river near Tokyo.
But any sympathy this might have generated was destroyed by a statement
from the group that said: "People without the ears to hear will all
The Japanese media said the cult released a pamphlet last year urging
members to "exterminate all humankind" if their leader died.
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