I know this sounds crazy and I’m still trying to process the whole situation as it happened just yesterday. But here is the story on how I was almost recruited into a Japanese religious cult.
I briefly knew of this girl from Instagram. We were both following each other and she was friends with my other friend. She seemed like a normal twenty year old who loved boy bands and hanging out with her friends. One day, when I was hanging out with my boyfriend in Shibuya, I heard a girl scream my name. It was her and we spoke briefly and hugged. Her and her friend were very nice.
A week later, she messaged me asking to hangout with her and her friends, just to get sushi and boba. We met at the sushi place and it was her and her friend, the same one from the first meeting. They were very sweet and welcoming. They kept asking me questions about my life and complimenting me, as you do when you meet someone for the first time. I often do the same thing.
We ate sushi together and were joking around, having a good time. Then they started asking me questions like…
Do you smoke weed in America or Japan?
Have you ever visited a shrine in Japan?
All of which are very common questions that didn’t really jump out to me… at the time.
Japanese people love to ask me about drugs in America because drugs are hard to come by in Japan. Also, Japanese shrines are tourist attractions.
But then they started asking me if I had ever seen a Buddha statue and if I wanted to visit a Japanese Buddhist temple, just for a couple minutes. As temples are beautiful, scenic tourist attractions in Japan, I agreed.
(Afterwards, they told me that they asked about the weed/drugs because apparently, you’re not allowed to go see Buddha if you have smoked weed illegally before??? Wtf?)
So after we got boba, we headed to the temple. It ended up being a lot farther of a train ride than I had expected. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. When we arrived at the temple, they pulled out papers from their backpack. One girl pulled out a form and she told me to write my name, my address, my phone number, and date of birth on this piece of paper. Another girl pulled out an English version of a prayer book that she created, I’m assuming just for me. This is when I started panicking. I felt so uncomfortable and scared. I wrote down a fake name, fake address, fake everything. I couldn’t trust these people anymore. I started to realize that they had planned this the whole time. They invited me out on completely false pretenses and were planning on bringing me here to their cult the whole time. Who knows how long they were planning this?
One girl brought my contact info somewhere inside the building and came back with a prayer book and prayer beads that she had bought for me. Then they told me to go inside, take off my shoes, and follow as they did.
I entered a large Japanese style room with many, many, many people sitting with their legs folded, getting ready for the prayer that was supposed to happen at 5pm. Before making any further movements, I was instructed to bow. To Buddha, I’m assuming? The two girls brought me all the way to the front of the room and told me to sit with my legs folded, holding my prayer beads in my hands and holding my prayer book to recite religious chants. At 5pm, the prayer began. Everyone in the room repeated the religious chants that were written in the 40 page prayer book. This went on for a long time. I started thinking “How did I fucking get myself into this?”. I just sat there, observing everyone. Their posture never faltered as uncomfortable as it was, they were too busy praying desperately with bulging eyes. I was amazed that nobody broke their gaze no matter how long the prayer went on. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. They kept repeating phrases in the prayer book in monotone and hypnotic voices.
When it was finally over, I felt relieved. I started asking the girls what was being said in those chants and what the prayer book meant. They said it was ancient Japanese writings and that it was hard to explain. I was thinking to myself, “Wtf… lol ok”, but at least I could finally leave. I started putting my shoes back on and the girls started laughing saying that we still had one more ceremony and that it was only 5 minutes this time. I was like, “FUCK”.
We entered a smaller room, this time with far less people. A woman in a suit called peoples’ names as well as mine (Well.. my fake name lol) and I answered to it. Then she started talking in Japanese, a lot of things I didn’t understand. The girls told me she was telling stories about Buddha. When I asked, they wouldn’t go into more detail than that. Again, we prayed with our prayer beads and I just waited until it was over.
When it finished, they pulled me aside and asked me for my address in America. They were aware that I was leaving Japan soon and that it would no longer be my permanent address. They wanted a permanent address. I asked, “Why? Will you be sending me something?”. They said they needed it in order to “make a connection with Buddha”…. I put a fake address again.
We finally started to head back to the station and they asked me what I thought of the whole experience. I told them I was confused. I asked them:
Why did you bring me here?
Were you planning this the whole time?
Why did you tell me you wanted to hangout when you actually wanted to bring me to a temple?
They told me that they brought me here because soon, in the coming year, Japan was to experience a huge earthquake and that it was important that they bring as many people as they can to the temple to pray for Japan and their family’s safety.
They told me that they were sorry, they didn’t mean to hurt me, they understood that I felt like I was tricked and that they just wanted to share something amazing with me so that I, too, could experience the miracles of their religion.
I began to grow quiet on the train ride back… I felt so uncomfortable and scared. I confronted them saying that I thought it made me feel really uncomfortable that they had planned this thing the whole time. I told them that they shouldn’t have told me that they just wanted to hangout under completely different false pretenses. It was wrong. They kept apologizing, saying they just wanted me to experience the miracles and phenomenons of their religion. I asked the girls, “What kind of wishes did you make to the Buddha that came true?”. One girl replied that he helped her with her panic attacks and the other responded that he helped her with conflicts in her workplace. To me, I felt that it sounded skeptical, but I don’t want to put judgement on a person’s religious experiences, as I am not a religious person.
They asked if they could make it up to me and said that the next time that we hangout, that we could anything that I wanted to do. I told them some bullshit, knowing damn well that I wouldn’t be seeing them ever again. I felt the need to stay calm in the situation because I just wanted to escape as soon as possible, without any problems.
Afterwards, I felt really weird about the whole experience. They were planning this recruitment, who knows how long in advance, and priming me during lunch with questions that they needed to know about me before bringing me to their temple. They never had any intentions of getting to know me or hanging out. They literally just wanted me as a new member of their cult lol wow, what a crazy experience.
This is what she messaged me after I confronted her and told her that it was wrong to trick and deceive people into going to their Buddhist temple.
Let me know what you guys think. Is this a cult or are they just crazy religious freaks?? Do you think what they did was wrong? What do you think of her message?