End of the world? Cult gets date wrong

The Straits Times/May 17, 2003
By Kwan Weng Kin

Tokyo -- If you are reading this story, then clearly the world did not end as predicted by a bizarre Japanese cult which claimed that the Earth was to have been devastated by a major catastrophe yesterday.

The cult, which recently achieved notoriety throughout Japan for the all-white costumes of its members and their apocalyptic ravings, had predicted that the North and South poles would switch polarities, triggering a gigantic earthquake.

The pale and disheveled 69-year-old female leader of the cult, Ms Yuko Chino, told a television interviewer recently: 'There will be an earthquake of magnitude 15. That's why I want to die.'

Her group apparently believes that there is a 10th planet in the solar system, which will trigger cataclysmic events when it approaches the Earth in the middle of this month.

But yesterday, members of the Pana Wave Laboratory group - part of her Chino Shoho cult - spent an uneventful day preparing premises at their headquarters in Fukui prefecture for her to move in.

Decked all in white, including cap and facemask, they covered an entire building in white cloth, including the roof, believing that the colour repels harmful electromagnetic waves.

The day before, cult members had found themselves surrounded by swarms of policemen who raided the group's 12 facilities throughout the country in a bid to uncover its darkest secrets.

Two investigators who questioned Ms Chino were obliged to drape themselves in white before she would allow them to talk to her.

In all, police reportedly confiscated some 400 items, including directories of members, accounts, personal computers and two vehicles.

No weapons or other dangerous substances were found.

Police also discovered that three vehicles used by the cult had been falsely registered under the name of a former 55-year-old member in Okayama prefecture.

The latest issue of the Shukan Bunshun weekly, which went on sale yesterday, peeled away some of the mystery that surrounds both the cult and its leader.

A former Pana Wave member told the weekly that Ms Chino is plagued by hallucinations, given to hysterics and loves green tea-flavoured pudding.

The former member also disclosed that the cult's No. 2, a man who runs its publishing arm, is a science fiction fanatic who is obsessed with tales about Earth's annihilation.

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