Life Space sites raided

Children taken into custody

Japan Times/November 24, 1999

Chiba -- Chiba Prefectural Police raided several locations Wednesday linked to the self-enlightenment group Life Space.

The searches were conducted in connection with a mummified body of one of its members found earlier this month in a hotel room in Narita, Chiba Prefecture. The search warrants did not identify any suspect but were based on charges of abandoning a corpse.

During the raids, authorities said they found nine children inside some of the Life Space facilities and took them in to protective custody under the Child Welfare Law because they were determined to be receiving "inappropriate care."

A preliminary checkup determined that the children are in good health. Authorities said the children were wearing clean clothes and that there were no bruises or other visible signs of physical abuse.

A total of nine children were taken into custody, Tokyo Metropolitan Government welfare officials said.

Police found six girls aged between 13 and 17 in a small, one-room apartment in a condominium complex in Bunkyo Ward. Two girls and one boy between the ages of 9 and 11 were found in a two-room apartment in Shinjuku Ward that had a photograph of Life Space leader Koji Takahashi hanging on the wall.

The three grade-school age children were with four adults when police entered the Shinjuku apartment. There was no food in the refrigerator, and the only futon in the room was being used by an elderly woman, welfare officials said.

According to officials, the children made no move to resist when taken into custody. A few, however, told police they were hungry.

The nine children were taken to a child-care center in Shinjuku Ward, where they were given sandwiches and bowls of vegetable soup, authorities said.

Under the Child Welfare Law, authorities may temporarily detain children without guardians, those who do not attend school or youngsters in an "inappropriate or detrimental environment."

The sites raided included the offices of Life Space as well as those of a support group, Shakty Pat Guru Foundation, located in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. A hotel in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, where Takahashi and other followers are staying was also searched.

The raids were the investigators' first on the group since they found the mummified body of Shinichi Kobayashi, a former company employee from Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, on Nov. 11.

According to police, Kobayashi, 61, collapsed in late June after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to a hospital in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture.

Life Space members, including Kobayashi's son, removed him from the hospital on July 2 and took him to the Narita hotel, where the man is believed to have died.

Prefectural police sources said they believe Kobayashi died because Life Space followers did not give him proper medical care. The authorities were trying to establish a criminal case.

However, investigators were proceeding with caution to determine how to interpret the group's claims that they were "treating" the man and that he was still alive when police carted the mummified body away.

Life Space organizes self-enlightenment seminars. It was founded by Takahashi in 1983 in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. At its peak, it is said to have attracted nearly 10,000 people to its seminars, but that has dropped to around 150.

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