Man wins battle for Life Space kid

Mainichi Daily News/November 24, 1999
By Koji Takahashi

Sapporo -- A man received custody of his granddaughter from a family court in Hokkaido because her parents, members of the controversial cult Life Space, had not been taking sufficient care of her, court sources have revealed.

The court made the man the legal guardian of his 6-year-old granddaughter after learning that she had been taken away from her parents, forced to live with about 20 other children under minimal adult supervision and given a daily allowance of 1,000 yen, which she was to use to buy her own food.

The girl's parents accused the grandfather of kidnapping the child, but the court rejected their arguments, saying that "the girl wanted to return to live with her grandfather of her own volition and that doing so was better for her welfare."

The names of those involved in the case and the location of the family court that awarded the man custody of the girl have been withheld to protect the child's identity.

Court sources said the girl's parents took her from Hokkaido first to Osaka, then to Tokyo to live in a hotel with other followers of the Life Space cult. The girl was separated from her parents and made to live with other Life Space children. The children were given a 1,000 yen daily food allowance and told to buy food for themselves.

The girl frequently made collect calls to her grandfather. The grandfather arranged to meet the girl at a railway station in Nagoya in October last year, then spirited her away. Soon after, the grandfather's lawyer contacted the girl's parents to inform them of their daughter's safety and that she was living with the older man.

The parents demanded their child be returned to the Tokyo hotel, but the grandfather refused.

When the two parties were unable to reach an amicable agreement, the grandfather decided to take the case to the courts. In July this year, the grandfather applied to a Hokkaido family court for legal guardianship over the girl. The parents objected, but earlier this month the family court sided with the older man.

Meanwhile, in Narita, Life Space leader and self-professed guru Koji Takahashi said he had not ordered the removal from hospital of a seriously ill male follower whose mummified corpse was found in a hotel room occupied by the group near Narita Airport earlier this month.

"I didn't give any orders," Koji Takahashi, 61, said.

The body was identified as that of Shinichi Kobayashi, 66, a resident of Itami, Osaka Prefecture, who had been hospitalized after a cerebral hemorrhage in late June.

"When Kobayashi's son came to see me on June 29 for advice on his treatment, I only said to him that if he was determined (to remove the father from the hospital), I would welcome it," Takahashi said.

A group member said he and six others accompanied Kobayashi to pick up his father early on the morning of July 2.

"We brought Kobayashi out in a wheelchair with consent from his doctor. A medic relayed the consent," the member said.

The members are believed to have brought the elder Kobayashi to Narita airport from Osaka Airport and to have checked in to the hotel and holed up in the room where the man's corpse was found Nov. 11.

Police believe Kobayashi had been dead for a couple of months when his corpse was found.

However, his son and other members of Takahashi's group insist he was alive until the police took the body away from the room.

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