Fukunaga reinvents self as spokesman for God

Yomiuri Shimbun/May 10, 2000

Hogen Fukunaga, the founder of the controversial Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo religious group who was arrested on suspicion of fraud Tuesday, is certainly a man who has experienced the tides of fortune.

Last December, Fukunaga told The Yomiuri Shimbun: "All I did was deliver the 'vox dei,' (voice of God). Why is it called fraud?"

Fukunaga calls a pricey condominium with a monthly rent of 2 million yen home and dons 500,000 yen suits. But he did not always enjoy such opulence.

Fukunaga was born in 1945 in Ajisucho, Yamaguchi Prefecture. His father died before his birth during World War II and he was raised by his mother. He studied at a night high school in the prefecture and paid his own tuition fees.

After graduating from the school, Fukunaga moved with his mother to Tokyo, where he studied at a junior college while working for an electric appliance manufacturer.

In 1976, Fukunaga established a company to produce and sell an electric massager in Yokohama. Later, his company expanded steadily and at one time employed 180 people and enjoyed annual sales of 800 million yen. But the good times did not last. The company went under in 1979 as the victim of a scam.

Then, according to a book he authored, Fukunaga heard "vox dei" for the first time in January 1980 when he attempted to commit suicide in his house. Fukunaga is married, with a son and daughter at primary school.

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