Fukuoka family cult members request pension payments from beyond the grave

Mainichi Daily News, Japan/April 13, 2007
By Ryann Connell

A bizarre cult is being used to explain the mysterious discovery of five skeletons found in a home in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, earlier this month, Shukan Asahi says.

The bodies belonged to Shigeo Nagae, his wife, two of their daughters and one of their sons.

Shigeo Nagae had been dead for more than 20 years, and would have been 99 were he still alive.

Another son is currently being questioned by the police about the bodies and has given them some clues about why they were there.

“First my mother started believing in a god. When my father died, my sister said that if the whole family prayed for him, he’d come back to life, so we left his body there and kept praying until it happened,” Shukan Asahi quotes the son’s story to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police.

Despite the apparent piety, none of the family members belonged to any particular religion, though neighbors say they remember some sort of ceremony going on in their Omuta home.

“It was about 10 years ago, but I remember this drum being beaten repeatedly in the same pattern for about two hours. There was also salt piled up outside the doors (for purification purposes). I never dreamed that there were all those bodies in there, though,” one neighbor tells the weekly.

Aside from the son being grilled by the cops, the family’s survivors include another son and two more daughters, all of who live together in an Omuta apartment where their rituals have again attracted the attention of those living nearby.

“I’ve seen the silhouette of one of the sisters through the glass as she’s knelt down to pray before a Buddhist altar,” another dweller of the same apartment tells Shukan Asahi. “The reek from the incense is absolutely putrid.”

But perhaps the reason for the bodies being left unburied had a more practical than spiritual side. Regardless of whatever they believed in, the Nagae family members were religiously meticulous in keeping their paperwork up to date. They paid all their taxes and nursing insurance bills. In fact, they also filed their annual reports requesting pension payments - even the five members who were dead.

“Their paperwork was perfect,” a spokesman for the Omuta Municipal Government tells Shukan Asahi. “That’s probably why it took so long to find the bodies.”

And the surviving Nagaes also apparently paid great attention to detail when it came to dealing with their relatives’ remains.

“One morning at about 3 o’clock I heard all this noise, so I looked to see what was going on and the brothers and sisters were fiddling around with the lock on the front door. They used to visit the home about once a week,” another resident of the area says. “A few years ago they made a bonfire and burned these white things that looked like diapers. It made a really vile smell that stuck in my nose. They lit so many fires I had to complain to them in the end.”

Another neighbor adds: “They used to sprinkle disinfectant around the yard every summer. Now that I know what happened, I guess it must have been to combat the reek of the bodies. I had thought they were only killing insects.”

The eldest surviving Nagae worked for the local government until 1997. His occasionally weird behavior while still an active member of the workforce has become easier for his old co-workers to understand with the discovery of the bodies.

“He refused to come on a workers’ vacation about 20 years ago because he said he had to look after his ailing parents,” a former colleague tells Shukan Asahi. “And he gave the same reason when he turned down the offer of a part-time job after he’d reached retirement age.”

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