Oct 10, 2018

Aum's former poster boy Joyu finds a new gig

Japan Today
October 3, 2018

Aum Supreme Truth guru Shoko Asahara and a dozen other top leaders of the doomsday cult went to the gallows during the summer, but one prominent cult member remains among the living. And in the news.

At the height of his celebrity, Fumihiro Joyu could be described as Aum's poster boy. Bright, well spoken and photogenic, with a degree in engineering from Waseda University, the Fukuoka native served as a magnet to attract new female adherents. He also debunked the image of Aum acolytes as brainwashed automatons. After the subway attacks he frequently appeared on TV and in abrasive question-and-answer sessions with reporters he gave as good as he got.

Most important, Joyu had an airtight alibi that absolved him from complicity in the March 20, 1995 toxic nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Metro. He had been assigned to Aum's office in Moscow, engaged in proselytizing efforts in Russia at the time. Nevertheless, authorities arrested him on suspicion of document forgery in October 1995 and he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. Upon release, Joyu became the de facto head of what was left of the cult, renamed Aleph. Most of the time he stayed out of the public eye.

At age 55, Joyu has been unable to wean himself from lure of the spiritual world. In 2007 he broke away from Aleph to organize his own group, called The Circle of Rainbow Light. He was recently in the TV news again, commenting after the execution of guru Asahara and other cult members found guilty of various capital crimes.

Now, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Oct 18), Joyu's diversifying. According to materials distributed during an appearance at a recent seminar, he is peddling such merchandise as incense and other Buddhist paraphernalia. The materials also invited people to partake of his services as a fortuneteller.

Utilizing traditional Indian astrology, Joyu will make prognostications about the future for a fee of 20,000 yen.

When asked if that fee could be considered expensive or cheap, another fortuneteller -- perhaps reluctant to speak negatively of a fellow member of the profession -- said, "Considering the amount of 'data processing' that Joyu will do, I suppose the charge is appropriate."

A female office worker who attended Joyu's seminar was quoted as saying, "Joyu-san had seemed very scholarly, so I was surprised when he suddenly turned into a salesman and began pitching fortunetelling and good-luck charms. It's no different from the kind of hokum that other new religions do."

Joyu has reiterated that his group disavows Asahara, and has also broken off all ties to Aum's current incarnation, called Aleph. Moreover, he denies his group is a religious organization, describing it a "Buddhist philosophy study group."

That still raises questions over why, all of a sudden, his group has become so entrepreneurial.

A spokesperson for the group replied, "There is nothing sudden about it. Mr Joyu had been studying Indian astrology previously, and had even told fortunes when he was involved with Aleph. I suppose some people were surprised because this is the first time he made the information available in writing."

In the background, in September 2017, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of Joyu's group, invalidating an investigation of his group by the Public Security Agency. (The state did not appeal the verdict.) A person in the agency remarked bitterly that the verdict effectively concealed the "real situation." Another view is that following Asahara's execution, people are less likely to associate Joyu with Asahara, which gives him free rein to engage in activities more openly.

Shukan Jitsuwa also offers readers a taste of one of Joyu's recent prognostications. "He predicted that 'Abenomics and the Tokyo Olympics are creating another real estate bubble, which will soon be over,'" said a person who attended the seminar. "But he didn't say what's going to happen afterwards."

Well, the writer concludes sarcastically, that prediction is so obvious just about any Tom, Dick or Harry can make it. So come on, Joyu-san, how about telling us what's really going to happen to the Japanese economy after the post-Olympic bubble collapses?


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