Cult leader set tough goals for followers

Yomiuri Shimbun, December 4, 1999

The leader of the Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo religious group, whose offices and facilities were searched by police Wednesday on suspicion of fraud, set cult members strict recruitment goals in a bid to swell the group's ranks, a source said Friday.

The goals included having a book on the group read by 10 million people, and having 3,000 people a month attend the group's religious training program, according to a former follower. Hogen Fukunaga, 54, also ordered his followers to try to entice 300,000 visitors to the group's headquarters in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, the source said.

The recruitment performances of followers were reported to the self-styled guru, who was reportedly outraged when goals were not met. Separate goals were set for each of the group's branch offices. Every Saturday, branch heads would meet at headquarters to listen to Fukunaga summarize attendance figures and book sales, while exhorting them to try harder.

Fukunaga reportedly said that the figure of 300,000 was given to him by a heavenly voice.

The names of the ten followers who had the best results in meeting his goals were displayed at headquarters.

When the cult's new facility was being built, at a cost of 600 million yen, Fukunaga reportedly ordered cult members to work toward an even harder goal--to get more than 300 people to attend each training session. In 1992, Fukunaga visited Nagasaki Prefecture--the year after the Fugen volcano in the Unzen Mountains erupted --and told local followers, "If 7,000 people in the prefecture underwent training for one year, there would be no more eruptions."

A former senior member of the group said that when one official failed to carry out an assigned task, Fukunaga shouted at him, adding that at one time Fukunaga had even slapped another official.

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