Kigenkai Case (Jiadep Note: The scope of this case defies the imagination.) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2007/11/06

21 women arrested over fatal assault on religious group member October 16, 2007 NAGANO

— Police on Monday arrested a total of 21 female members ranging from 15 to 80 years old of the religious group Kigenkai based in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, on suspicion of beating to death another female member last month. The arrests came after the police questioned a number of members, including leaders of the group, which is officially registered with the government as a religious organization. Police also searched the group's headquarters and other related locations over allegations that Motoko Okuno, 63, died after an assault involving the leaders inside a Kigenkai facility in Komoro that may have had something to do with a religious rite. Police said those engaged in the assault punched and kicked the woman all over her body from around 11:30 p.m. on Sept 24 through 12:30 a.m. the following day. (Kyodo News)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 20 females held over sect member's beating death The Japan Times: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007 NAGANO (Kyodo)

Twenty female members ranging in age from 15 to 80 of the Shinto-linked sect Kigenkai were arrested Monday on suspicion of a fatal group assault last month on another sect member. page263_2

Police investigators enter the headquarters of the Shinto-linked religious group Kigenkai on Monday morning over the death of one of its members. KYODO PHOTO

The suspects allegedly hit and kicked Motoko Okuno, 63, over her entire body for around one hour within the grounds of the sect's head office in Komoro, eastern Nagano Prefecture, police sources said. Investigators weren't sure if it was simply an assault or part of a religious rite, according to the sources.
The police raided the sect's head office in the morning. About 120 investigators entered the white, three-story house, then left in the evening with around 20 cardboard boxes of confiscated items.

"(Kigenkai followers) didn't look like people who could commit murder. Now I'm scared," said a 25-year-old woman who lives near the sect's headquarters.

Kigenkai was formed in 1970. Hinomoto Okami, which roughly translates as "The Great God of the Sun," is the group's main god. As a registered religious group, the sect falls under the jurisdiction of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The death of Okuno, who ran a sushi restaurant, came to light when staff at a Komoro hospital told police Sept. 25 that a woman who was taken there had died and her corpse bore marks indicating she had been beaten.Following an autopsy that confirmed Okuno was beaten to death, police arrested four members of her family, including her husband and a daughter, on suspicion of assaulting her.

The relatives, also Kigenkai members, reportedly told police they assaulted Okuno at their home in Komoro in connection with a family rift. Police doubt their confessions due to inconsistencies, the sources said. They are now saying they were told by senior sect members to lie.

At around 7 a.m., some 120 Nagano Prefectural Police investigators gathered at Kigenkai's hilltop headquarters. Members of the sect initially tried to bar their entry but then let them go in.

"The group has never caused trouble in this neighborhood," said a 59-year-old woman living near the building. "But since 6 a.m. this morning, the situation got tense, with the group's buses carrying Kyoto and Hiroshima license plates gathering here."

A 65-year-old female acquaintance of Okuno who runs a business in the same neighborhood said the victim moved to the neighborhood around 20 years ago.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007


Senior sect member seen as key player in woman's death
NAGANO (Kyodo) A senior member of the religious group Kigenkai is suspected of playing a leading role in the fatal beating of a female member last month in Nagano Prefecture, police sources said Tuesday. The suspect has been identified as Yasuko Kubota, 49, one of 21 female Kigenkai members arrested Monday and sent to prosecutors Tuesday on suspicion of inflicting injuries resulting in the death of Motoko Okuno, 63, a sushi shop operator. Kubota is a relative of the founder of the Shinto-linked religious organization, headquartered in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture. Kubota appears to have had strong influence over group members. The suspects allegedly punched and kicked Okuno from around 11:30 p.m. Sept. 24 through 12:30 a.m. the following day. Dozens of Kigenkai members held a meeting Sept. 24 at the group's facility near its head office, during which Okuno and her family came under criticism over the way they were leading their lives, the sources said. Okuno eventually became the final target and anger toward her reportedly escalated to the point where sect members started beating and kicking her.
2007/10/15 Raid

400 police raid Japanese female sect October 15, 2007

HUNDREDS of police raided a mostly female sect in central Japan today on suspicion that a member was beaten to death for failing to carry out her religious rites. Television footage showed dozens of officers marching into the headquarters of Kigankai, a group which has been based for nearly 40 years in the mountain city of Nagano northwest of Tokyo. The sect was known for selling members "purified'' water and stones purported to cure all ills. "Today's raid was made on suspicion of murder,'' a police spokesman said, adding that it involved 400 officers. The victim was identified as Motoko Okuno, 63, who owned a sushi restaurant. News reports, quoting investigators, said Okuno was beaten to death by some 10 other sect members as punishment for laziness in religious rites. Police seized documents from the headquarters and questioned senior sect officials, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported online, saying police have obtained arrest warrants for 21 members of the group, all of them women. The case came to light when the woman's body was taken last month to a hospital, where doctors observed bruises indicating she had been beaten. Okuno's relatives initially came forward to police and said they had beaten her to death in a domestic dispute, but police grew suspicious that they were making false statements on behalf of the sect, news reports said. Kigankai was founded in 1970 with the professed goal of promoting Shintoism, Japan's indigenous faith, and was estimated to have some 400 members. Japan, where few people are fervently religious, has seen repeated crimes and scares involving small religious groups. In 1995, the Aum Supreme Truth cult, which preached of a coming apocalypse, unleashed Nazi-invented Sarin nerve gas on rush-hour Tokyo trains, killing 12 people and injuring thousands of others.
Ex-executive of religious group gets 12 years in prison
November 8, 2008

The Nagano District Court on Friday sentenced a former senior member of a religious group to 12 years in prison over a fatal assault against another member of the group, determining that the defendant played the leading role in the incident. Yasuko Kubota, 50, unleashed a deadly gang-bashing on Motoko Okuno, 63, together with other members of the religious group, the Kigenkai, at a group facility in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, in September last year, according to the ruling.


Senior member of sect denies beating woman to death
27th August, 2008

A senior member of the Shinto-linked sect Kigenkai denied in her first trial session Tuesday that the beating she inflicted on a fellow member last September directly caused the woman's death. Yasuko Kubota, 50, has been charged with inflicting injuries resulting in the death of Motoko Okuno, 63, at Kigenkai's headquarters in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, and of attempting to disrupt the police investigation by ordering sect members to make false statements. Kubota admitted assaulting Okuno but argued the beating wasnt harsh enough to kill her and suggested other sect members dealt the fatal blow. Kubota, a senior figure in Kigenkai, is accused of ordering other members to beat Okuno on Sept 24 and 25 after becoming angry with her. Okuno drew the scorn of many in the sect after her 27-year-old daughter, also a member, became romantically involved with a male sect member. The daughter was also beaten. Okuno's killing led to charges being leveled against 26 mostly female sect members, ranging in age from teenagers to some in their 80s, and 20 have so far been convicted. Kigenkai leader Motohiro Funahashi is on trial for making false statements about Okuno's death. The death of Okuno, who ran a sushi restaurant, came to light when staff at a Komoro hospital informed police Sept 25 that a woman who was taken there had died and her corpse bore signs she had been beaten. Four members of Okuno's family, also sect members, were later arrested and initially told police they assaulted Okuno at their home in Komoro amid a family rift, before admitting they were told by senior sect members to lie. Kigenkai was formed in 1970. Hinomoto Okami, which roughly translates as The Great God of the Sun, is the group's main god. As a registered religious group, the sect falls under the jurisdiction of the education ministry. 2008 Kyodo News.


Crackpot cult chief pinched for perjury
over member's fatal gang bashing

page263_1 ARRESTED: Kigenkai's Motohiro Funahashi (Mainichi file) KOMORO, Nagano -- One of the leading members of a controversial cult was arrested Tuesday for lying how an old woman member was fatally gang-bashed by other mostly female cultists, police said. Motohiro Funahashi, 42, an executive with the Kigenkai cult from Nagoya, was arrested for perjury. Police said Funahashi gave false testimony when called to testify during a hearing at the Nagano District Court on Nov. 22. Police said Funahashi told the court that he did not see the Sept. 24 beating of Motoko Okuno, who allegedly died that night after being pummeled by over 20 other female members of the cult. Nagano District Public Prosecutors Office wanted to question Funahashi about Okuno's death, but he refused, so they subpoenaed him to act as a witness in accordance with the code of criminal procedure. Prosecutors questioned Funahashi with a district court judge standing by and observing proceedings. Funahashi is registered with the Cultural Affairs Agency as a Kigenkai director. On Oct. 21, he told reporters that there was no violence at the cult apart from the incident that led to Okuno's death. However, police have since revealed that violence was a part of life in the cult's Komoro hideaway.