Cult raided

Mainichi Shimbun, Thursday 25 November 1999

Controversial cult Life Space was hit with nationwide police raids on Wednesday and nine children found at its facilities in Tokyo were taken into official care, investigators said.

The raids were connected to the recent finding of the mummified body of a cultist in a Narita hotel room.

Six of the children were found at the headquarters of a cult-affiliated group called Shakty Pat Guru Foundation in Shinjuku-ku, and the other three were spotted in a Life Space office in Bunkyo-ku, both in Tokyo, police said.

No exact ages of the children were known, but they were believed to be from elementary to high school age.

The children would be taken into temporary care at a metropolitan child welfare center in Shinjuku-ku before police contacted their families.

If social workers determine that the children's families could not provide them with a suitable environment, they may be sent to children's homes, center officials said.

Many Life Space cultists are reportedly not letting their children attend schools, and police are probing the children's cases carefully to see whether child welfare laws have been breached.

The children were found during police raids on Life Space offices and its related facilities in Tokyo and Nagoya. A hotel in Ibaraki's Oarai, where the cult's accountant-turned-guru, Koji Takahashi, 61, and other members were staying, was also raided.

Police said they searched the locations in connection with the death of Shinichi Kobayashi. He was a cult member from Kawanishi in Hyogo Prefecture whose mummified body was found at the Narita hotel on Nov. 11.

Kobayashi died because he was unable to receive proper treatment for a brain hemorrhage he suffered in June this year, police believe.

He was transferred from a hospital in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, to the Narita hotel by his 31-year-old son, who is also a cult member, after only two weeks of hospitalization. He was to receive spiritual healing called shakty pat from Takahashi.

The healing reportedly involves the guru patting patients' heads.

Kobayashi's son and other Life Space members insist that Kobayashi was alive and recovering from his illness until police took the body away for postmortem examination.

In April last year, another 43-year-old follower of the cult died from his illness, after refusing to receive hospital treatment.

Takahashi founded Life Space, which started out as a self-enlightenment group, in 1983 in Suita, Osaka Prefecture.

The group reportedly charges its members as much as 5 million yen to attend a single seminar.

At its peak from the late 1980s until the early 1990s, the group drew nearly 10,000 people to its seminars, but recently the number has dwindled to around 150, sources said.