Friday, November 20, 2009

Mummies, mass murder and pseudo-science! Top 3 Cults of Japan!

Since my previous list of top worst image characters of Japan proved to be such a roaring success I thought I should provide you all with another ranking of a very similar subject: cults.

If you start looking I’m sure there’s plenty of freaky cults out there and please let me know if there’s one out there that you think could provide me with some entertainment and maybe be a candidate for an updated list at some point. The criteria I have used here is to have a cult that for one reason or another has made an impact on the mainstream news.

No. 3 Aleph – Aum Reloaded

To have Aum Shinrikyo on the list is a no brainer I think, but this once evil and dangerous cult has now degenerated into something more pathetic. After the horrible subway sarin gas attack and the subsequent dismantling of the cult, spiced up with good 'ol guru Shoko receiving the death penalty as he's gone completely over the edge flinging his feces around him as he talks jibberish naked in his cell (yeah, he's gone from dangerously insane to outright loon-crazy) the cult has been struggling. However, the cult did not completely die after the incident, although it obviously lost members and financial assets pretty radically. What makes this amusing is how some PR genius in the cult realized that “hey guys, maybe the name “Aum” has too much negativity now, let’s change the name” and the cult officially stated that the sarine attacks had been misguided and disowned former guru Shoko Asahara (but yeah, basically only the mass murder of innocent people, otherwise they still think he’s an all right dude) and changed the name to Aleph. And yeah, for some reason this great PR coupe didn’t create the boom that they expected, but I’m sure they’ll be back in the media later on!

No 2. Life Space – Return of the (Dead) Mummy

This cult was relatively benign, at least compared to Aum/Aleph and without having studied the details of their teachings, I believe that they originated from Sai Baba's new age mumbo jumbo and the cult leader had the pseudo-India cult leader look down pefectly. They were a pretty small cult and hit the news when a member had fallen sick (to be fair, it was an elderly person if I’'m not mistaken) and the cult had refused (probably with the consent of the patient) to get her the proper modern care that could have saved her. Instead the cult chanted and was going to save her through faith and their own interesting treatments. To no surprise the patient pretty soon passed away, but it's here where things took a turn to the bizarre. Instead of accepting that the individual had passed, the cult insisted that she was just recovering in a coma and would wake up very soon if they could just continue their “care”. This “treatment” carried on for considerable time and by the time police had been alerted to strange on-goings and odors and intervened at the apartment, the "sick" cult member had reached a stage of mummification…

Still, the cult would not acknowledge that she was actually very very dead but insisted that she could wake up any second. If I remember it correctly, the guru got a light prison sentence and the cult fell back into obscurity, but they should be credited with putting mummies on the news!

No 1. Pana Wave Research Institute - Whiteout!

This was a really hard choice, but from a personal stand point I do have to admit a weakness for sci-fi cults based on pseudo/bogus-science. I mean, who doesn't have fond memories of something relating to Heaven's Gate and Scientology? Some people probably would argue that a real cult should have a real bearded guru in the top and while I can understand that sentiment I do not completely agree. A large cult like scientology and smaller more radical ones such as Heaven's gate has shown that even the guru or fervent preacher deal is not the only route a cult can take these days.

Pana Wave hit the news some years ago as they were traveling around Japan in huge convoys with their white vans, cars and trucks and randomly (to an observer, internally I'm sure they had perfectly “logical” reasons) set up camps in the country side and only ventured outside dressed in white contamination protection suits, complete with goggles and facemasks. They put up huge white sheets around the areas where they performed their “work” – exactly what they were working with is still a bit unclear, but it seems like it was connected to saving the world from certain destruction (I do that every day so I know it can be tiring).

For a while they were regulars in the news as they moved around the country and made people highly uncomfortable with their mysterious activities. But it does seem that the cult was relatively benign and they were actually out to save the world and not to bring about its destruction… To my disappointment, the cult has been very silent recent years and since the founder and leader (a woman which is nice for a change) passed away a few years ago it is possible that the cult will fall into obscurity again.

Recently there has been few cult news here in Japan, but I'm sure something really bizarre will show up sooner or later, it always does...


aimlesswanderer said...

They sound pretty quack. There must be more strange cults out there, with so many people in Japan, and the odd culture.

There are some strange ones in Australia too, generally garden variety ones like Scientology, which is in the news recently.

My aunt is part of one, whose guru apparently has dozens of rolls royces and only visits places with 5 star hotels. My aunt has acted as a location scout, in order to make sure the hotels are up to standard. Thankfully she has agreed to not try and convert the family.

Martin said...

That must be great Aimless. You have a first hand view and don´t need to do any strange rituals, donate all your income and stuff.

However, calling Scientology a garden cult might be a sign of brainwashing. Are you really sure your not one of them?

Mr. Salaryman said...

Well yeah, Scientology really haven't got much to put up against Heaven's gate and the really freaky ones.

Sounds like your aunt might be onto something there, if she can "try" out all these locations first she might actually get something out of it! Could you please put in a good word for me Aimless?

aimlesswanderer said...

Martin, I say that Scientology is a garden variety cult because they exhibit the classic signs of a cult, and the weirdest thing about them (apart from Tom Cruise) is that they believe in Xenu and those silly dodgy meter thingamies. They are more successful than the average cult (sadly), but that's about it.

I don't see the cult aunt very much, since she's in Hongkers most of the time. And she does't talk explicitly about the cult to the family, just that she went to a city and there she "met some of her friends". She does heaps of travelling, coincidentally nearly all to places the cult has "meetings"/"spontaneous gatherings" (of people from different countries!).

Years ago she tried to convert a cousin, and that eventually led to a big family meeting of the oldies, and after that she agreed not to convert any of the relos. Thankfully, so I don't know that much, and don't want to!

Sadly I doubt she gets reimbursed for her scouting, as she seems to see it as her duty and is happy about doing it. After all, the head of the cult tends to acquire its members money, so no reimbursements for you! AFAIK she normally stays in cheaper accommodation and only inspects the 5 star hotels. So I don't think it's what you're after Mr Salaryman. They'd be happy for you to join though!

What is most scary is that she is highly educated and intelligent, and so, as is usual, are most of the cult members. I'm just glad that this particular cult doesn't seem to have any particularly quack beliefs or aims.

jlpt2kyu said...

Why would a 5 star hotel require inspection?

Sounds like the leader is simply running of jobs to assign people to keep them busy...

"hey Molly, patrol the garden to make sure there is still oxygen out there. Sandra, you watch the windows to make sure they don't break suddenly."

aimlesswanderer said...

I guess that not having stayed in a 5 star hotel I can only guess that not all 5 star hotels were created equal? Perhaps the guru has particular needs that not all hotels can meet?

Mr. Salaryman said...

"hey Molly, patrol the garden to make sure there is still oxygen out there. Sandra, you watch the windows to make sure they don't break suddenly." - that was really funny!

But yeah, I can see the point though, if I was a cult leader, I'd like to make sure that the hotels were up to my standard. He might have a lot of freaky special demands that he needs to not mess up his karma. If I have to pay it out of pocket it doesn'T really sound as attractive anymore though... But, yeah, as long as it's not a cult that completely robs its members and destroys them as human beings, I guess it's not the worst...

Foggia said...

A couple other cults:

幸福の科学, or Happy Science,seems loony enough to me, starting with a name like that. I think they lost a lot of their money trying to get people in the diet during last election (幸福実現党)

生長の家 has big fat HQ in Harajuku, right next to Takeshita street, with a statue of a Japanese-looking bearded Jesus on top of the front door.(visible on the Wikipedia page)

霊友会 has a huge temple right in Roppongi with a chimney to channel pray-energy on top of a standing buddha...

And of course, 創価学会, the local Scientology in terms of spying on people and pulling lots of strings in business and politics.

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