Books on hypnosis were found Thursday at the home of Hirohito Shibuya, who was arrested Thursday on suspicion of threatening a 20-year-old woman in an attempt to get her to live with him, the police said.
Following his arrest, Shibuya, 57, a self-professed fortune-teller, was found to be living with 11 women in Higashi-Yamato, Tokyo. Psychologists said the women in the house may have been subjected to mind-control techniques.
The police also suspect Shibuya of threatening other women in an attempt to make them join his commune.
Though Shibuya said he lived with 10 women and a baby girl, police now say he lived with 11 women and a baby girl.
After Shibuya's arrest was reported, several women who claimed to have been threatened by him contacted the Metropolitan Police Department.
Of the 11 women who lived with Shibuya, eight met with the police Thursday to provide further information. They were believed to have been questioned about their motives for moving in with the fortune-teller.
Shibuya would conduct his fortune-telling in a darkened room and hold a lamp close to his clients' faces as he told stories, a practice that made some of them feel nervous, sources said Friday.
Police suspect the women were driven by fear into living with Shibuya.
Shibuya began his fortune-telling business in April 2000. He reportedly told his female clients they were haunted by evil spirits that would bring them bad luck.
After the sessions, some women allegedly ran to a neighboring house in tears to seek help.
According to psychologists knowledgeable about mind-control techniques used by cult groups, people tend to become dependent on a speaker who frightens them in dark, mysterious situations.
The use of light in the dark is also a technique often used to lure people into buying goods they do not need.
One of the hypnosis books the MPD seized explained how to use a method identical to the technique Shibuya employed.
The book also says there are "fortune-tellers" who use hypnosis techniques and that "Group hypnosis is, to be honest, very easy."
"My daughter joined [Shibuya's] commune after she became psychologically unstable when a friend committed suicide and for other reasons," said the mother of one woman living with Shibuya.
Another woman's mother said, "She was asked to join the group at a time when she was job-hopping."
Shibuya was married 12 times
Shibuya has lived with many women since about 2000, and has married 10 women a total of 12 times.
He divorced one of his wives after just nine days of marriage. On eight occasions, Shibuya married a woman on the same day he divorced a previous wife.
Shibuya said he divorced his first wife in 1999, after about 25 years of marriage.
He began to live with several women after he went into the fortune-telling business in about April 2000.
Shibuya's unusual pattern of marriages and divorces began after he registered his marriage with a 52-year-old woman in December 2002. He divorced the woman one month later, in January 2003, and registered his marriage to his third wife a mere nine days later.
He was married only for nine days to his eighth wife, who was 25 and was only married for 10 days to his ninth wife, a 26-year-old.
Shibuya remarried then redivorced two of the women living with him.
He has not divorced anyone since August 2004, when he married another 25-year-old.
The baby girl found at the house was born to this wife.
"Although it's illegal in Japan, I'm virtually a polygamist," Shibuya said. "I contacted my ward office, and officials there said it was not illegal to repeatedly marry and divorce, although they did say it was unprecedented."
The ward office at which Shibuya reported his marriages refused to comment on the case, saying it would violate his privacy.