White cult on the move as doomsday approaches

Mainichi Daily News/May 2, 2003

The expected arrival of the Panawave Laboratory doomsday cult in the normally tranquil Yamanashi Prefecture village of Oizumi has unsettled residents, as the motorcade of cultists continued to snake around central Japan on Friday.

The white-clad cult members, who were forced by police Thursday to leave Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture, where they had occupied a section of road for a week since April 25, made a short journey in their fleet of white vehicles and arrived at a neighboring village of Kiyomi in the predawn hours of Friday.

The dozens of cultists immediately covered crash barriers and trees alongside the road where they have parked their vehicles with white cloths, which they believe will protect them and their ailing guru from "harmful electromagnetic waves."

Local authorities have promptly demanded cult representative Keiichi Hasegawa to move out. The cult members are expected to move on from their latest stopover, which has put the residents of Oizumi, their likeliest final destination, on full alert.

In Oizumi, Panawave Laboratory members are constructing dome-shaped structures, which they claim to be resistant to any kind of natural disasters.

The cult's publications indicated that its members are convinced that the human race will be destroyed on May 15 this year because of a dramatic change in the angles of the Earth's axis.

In response, the Oizumi Municipal Government set up a task force Friday to deal with the cult.

Eighty members of the task force were drawn from local assembly members as well as representatives from Oizumi villagers. They will hold their first meeting on Saturday.

"All of us will work together to get rid of them if they do come to our village," Akira Kobayashi, a deputy mayor of Oizumi, said.

Meanwhile, the discovery of a mysterious white van in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu prompted residents to alert police.

Eyewitnesses said the vehicle has been parked at a parking lot in the city's Jindaiji district for the past couple of weeks.

Although there was no one was inside the van, the interior was all painted prompting police to investigate whether the vehicle, which bears number plates issued in Okayama, is related to the Panawave cult.

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