Cops unwrap mummy mystery

Mainichi Daily News/November 14, 1999

Narita -- A cult apparently mummified a member's corpse and kept the body for four months in a room of a hotel near Narita Airport, police revealed on Saturday.

The deceased, a man from Hyogo Prefecture, had been hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage but was taken away by his cult-following son midway through his treatment.

The bathrobe-clad body of Shinichi Kobayashi, 66, an engraver from Kawanishi, was found on a bed in a 12th-floor room of the hotel, which was believed to have been occupied by Kobayashi's wife and his son since July 2, investigators said.

The pair, whose names are being withheld, reportedly told a police officer who tried to check the body, "Don't touch, he's still alive." According to officials of the Itami Municipal Hospital, where Kobayashi was treated for his brain hemorrhage in June this year, his son took Kobayashi away after only two weeks of hospitalization despite protests from doctors. The son then sent the hospital books and a downloaded copy of the Internet Web site of self-enlightening group turned cult Life Space, which Kobayashi was a member of and his family still belongs to.

Police are planning to question cultists about Kobayashi's death. The Web site argued that the hospital had misdiagnosed Kobayashi's condition, hospital officials said. Life Space, which is based in the city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture, originally started out as a self-enlightenment group, but in May this year, the group changed its purpose to organize seminars based on the teachings of an "Indian educational philosopher," Sathya Sai Baba, who is revered as a spiritual leader in some circles.

The cult's followers call its founder, Koji Takahashi, "guru," and pay as much as 5 million yen to attend a single seminar to "heal illness by nullifying one's bad karma," or to receive Takahashi's special spiritual power.

On the group's Internet home page updated Sept. 19, the group claimed that it had been prevented from administering "spiritual power" to Kobayashi for two months due to gross misdiagnosis by the hospital and its subsequent "murderous" treatment of him.

According to the hotel where the body was found, the cult duo never let hotel employees enter their incense-burning, candlelit room, saying that they had a sick person inside.

In September, they rejected the hotel's offer to call a doctor, because they did not trust doctors in Japan.

A neighbor of Kobayashi, who wished to remain anonymous, described him as a "quiet and honest" person.

"Kobayashi's wife told me that she was nursing her husband at a Chiba Prefecture hotel for his long-term illness," the neighbor said. "But I've never heard anything about religion or seminars."

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