Shimatsu - The Dark Roots Of A Japanese Cult
By Yoichi Shimatsu, director of new Garry Greenwood video
Japan’s Mahikari sect hid its dark roots in Nanjing
By Yoichi Shimatsu, director of new Garry Greenwood video
More than 20 years after challenging the mainstream media cover-up of the political role of Aum Shinrikyo, the sect involved in the Tokyo subway gassing, writer-artist Garry Greenwood and I recently reconnected in the most unlikely place: Nanjing. Each of us has a variation on the same theme involving this city that’s synonymous with war atrocities, for me as former editor with The Japan Times, and Greenwood being a past organizer for the Australian branch of the Sukyo Mahikari cult whose apocalyptic vision sprouted from the seed of evil planted here.
For the Japanese political establishment and their neo-militarist supporters, Nanjing is the black hole of bad karma that threatens to suck in every last illusion of national pride and moral worth. Suppressed memories of the unimaginable crimes against humanity committed there in December 1937 have been cast into silence by the Japanese media and buried in inaccessible archives. Even the so-called peace-loving Japanese Buddhists and Shintoists have been cynically hypocritical about the war crimes perpetrated by their followers here. Therefore, this past May offered a rare chance to review the facts on site and rip down the Japanophile curtain of censorship to let in the light of truth.
Our improbable meeting here in the heart of China was possible only because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which forced me to leave my radioactive cabin in the mountains outside Tokyo to instead live out of a suitcase across the length of Asia over the past seven years. For Greenwood as well, Japan was once a haven during his 15 years as a devoted Sukyo Mahikari member. As an acolyte, he was encouraged to pay homage to the “tombs” of Jesus and Moses in Aomori Prefecture, those prophets supposedly descended from aliens (gods) who ruled Sumeria, the breeding ground of the Chosen People of superior bloodline; that’s according to Turanian mythologizers over a communion of matzoh balls with wasabi washed down by a bottle or three of Hungarian bull’s blood wine . . . . Some non-believers who camped out in the southern Japan Alps once told me about spotting bright UFOs descending over the cult headquarters in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, on one moonless night. Apparently these X-files visitations were routine, although well before drones came onto the commercial market.
Rush Hour madness
In 1995, I served as lead editor with the only two investigative journalism teams that defied the official cover-up of the Tokyo subway gassing and dared to track down the connections of the Aum Shinrikyo sect with a covert weapons of mass destruction project organized by political heavyweights, including Shintaro Abe, father of the current prime minister. Disgruntled members of the state-run spy cell inside the nominally Vajryana Buddhist sect told me that high-level intelligence officials had planted their secret agents inside predecessor groups, including the Unification Church or Moonies (sarin smuggler Kiyohide Hayakawa and his Kobe Steel-based associate Shinzo Abe were members) and an occultist neo-Shinto sect called Sukyo Mahikari, which had crafted most of the visionary prophecies of the near-blind Asahara.
Exporting arms research to Australia
By chance, weeks prior to the subway gassing, the late geologist Harry Mason was hired to investigate a “nuclear scale” blast that collapsed the tunnels of a gold mine in Western Australia. Aside from the local Aborigine community, the only other inhabitants in that far corner of the Outback were scientists with Aum Shinrikyo, who were conducting electromagnetism experiments along the ley lines, those natural conduits of ground current. Their lab facility at Banjawarn sheep station was acquired with the aid of a Perth resident, a female Japanese immigrant who was one of the founders of Mahikari Australia, and later a member of the Aum cadre. I managed to interview this key Mahikari-Aum operative when she visited Tokyo after the subway attack.
In Australia, Russia, Ukraine, North Korea and New York, new religions were providing cover for gaining advanced weapons-technology in violation of the postwar peace Constitution. That discovery, published in a New Age magazine, is what got Mahikari dropout Garry Greenwood, author of the dissenting “All the Emperor’s Men”, to contact my webmaster in Tokyo (The JT Weekly was Japan’s No.1 website in 1995, and therefore was soon shut down under a threat from Dentsu to block all ad revenues for our newspapers, further proof that the ruling elite was guilty as charged.)
Shadow of the Warlords
The production of a video about Mahikari’s obscure origins in the Nanjing Massacre was made possible by my volunteer efforts as media adviser to a small group of young Chinese doing online social media. By chance Garry had just been visiting the remote region of Ningxia, located along the north bend of the Yellow River on its course through the Gobi Desert, close to the Mongolia border. The lost kingdom of western Xia is legendary for its fierce resistance to the rising Mongol Empire. The verdant Xixia grasslands were where Genghis Khan died in contentment. To fulfill their chieftain’s dream of raising horses in the after-life, frustrated by Xixia resistance, the Mongol horde in a genocidal rampage exterminated the inhabitants down to the last infant.
Merciless warlordism stretches its long shadow over many haunted places in Asia, especially here, the walled city along the Yangtze River. Despite its pleasant atmosphere and greenery, this former capital is generally known for only one event: the massacre. To be honest, I had been skeptical about the claims of staggering numbers of disarmed soldiers and civilians being killed without pity or remorse. A sojourn in Nanjing has since changed my earlier Japanese-shaped opinion of casualties being grossly exaggerated by the vindictive Allies to justify the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
My preconceived notions were altered after walking and bicycling long distances beyond the ramparts. While the interior of the walled city was too small to account for the deaths of the official claim of 300,000 killed, the uncharted geographic reality lay in the hundreds of villages and towns along a web of waterways that provided food and fuel for Nan-Jing, the “Southern Capital”.
Historians have dominated the debate over the casualty numbers, and partisans on both sides of that profession limit their interpretations to conflicting sets of documents. Ignored was the fact that the military officers with the occupation force were not going to list their war crimes with ink on paper. Nothing’s changed about inaccuracy in tallies of civilian casualties even today in places like Syria, Iraq or Yemen. Anthropologists should therefore have done fieldwork on the kinship relations between agrarian villages and the inner city, and the household registration system for a more accurate assessment of the death toll in Nanjing. As discussed below, the Japanese military’s forceful confiscation of winter food supplies from the peasant households easily accounts for the higher estimate.
Makihari is mainly known to the public for its quasi-spiritual healing technique, a method called reiki or jorei, which uses hands to supposedly emit “light energy”. Don’t scoff at their claim, since medical research has shown that the red end of the light spectrum can in fact expedite healing. While the photon theory may be dubious when it comes to human limbs, the practice of linking the electromagnetic auras of two individuals aimed at achieving a balance in the patient could explain the reputed effectiveness of reiki (beyond a psychosomatic effect).
Reiki is not at issue here; the problem lies in the cult’s apocalyptic vision of mass murder on a global scale. Armaggedon is more than wishful thinking now that we’ve uncovered massive nuclear-weapons production at hidden sites inside the greater Fukushima zone, where the world’s earliest atomic bomb production started long before the Manhattan Project (as detailed in my video posted at rense.com).
The nightmare prophecy of super-weapons causing a worldwide Armageddon began with the founder of the “peaceful utopian” Mahikari movement, Yoshikazu Okada. He was by his own admission involved in the logistics for the slaughter at Nanjing. As a lieutenant colonel formerly with the Imperial Guard, Okada landed with the 10th Division at Hankow Bay to lead the 1st Railway division’s hijacking of the Chinese railways to Shanghai and Nanjing, a vital step for delivering ammunition to the troops.
In the cult founder’s memoir, as Greenwood noted in the video, the guru recalled his fondness for Chinese nurses, “Army jargon for rape”, during his stay at a hospital near Nanjing. (After the war he was expelled from other religious groups for his sexual predatory behavior toward female practitioners.) I previously had doubts about the term “Rape of Nanjing”, since poets in the old capital boasted of its brothel district hosting the most beautiful courtesans in China, some of them outright prostitutes. Soldiers on leave, right? It’s tolerated in the USA and Europe. Buddhist nurses in wartime do not fit that category of licensed sex workers. Okada’s recollections reek of guilt over his illicit dalliances while fellow soldiers were being killed or doing the killing. For women and children, war is hell in more ways than one as witnessed in our own lifetimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Okinawa and, more recently, Syria.
Nazis against Japanese Imperialism
One of the lesser-known aspects of the battles at Shanghai and Nanjing is that Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were on opposing sides. That explains the presence of the humanitarian Nazi Party member John Rabe, who tended to overlook Hitler’s military aid to the Kuomingtang Nationalist army. Immediately after his election as chancellor in 1933, Adolf Hitler threw his support behind the conservative Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek, who was a fervent anti-communist and potential foe of the Soviet Union.
The German aid to Chiang presaged the Nazi enthusiasm for Francisco Franco; and as it turned out the Nanjing Massacre coincided with the Spanish Civil War. (The alliance with Nazi Germany should not be over-dramatized since the Republic had diplomatic ties with more than 30 countries and its rightward stance was supported also by the Vatican.) The year 1937 should mark the actual beginning of World War II.
Not every German in China was an ardent latter-day Nazi, and to keep a balanced view as opposed to propagandist stereotypes, Hitler’s support for China was a continuation of the Weimer Republic’s trade policy and a legacy of the Kaiser’s paternalistic albeit colonialist campaigns in Asia. (The Boxer assault on the Beijing legation in 1900 was prompted by the high-handed behavior of the chief of the German legation.) At a commercial level, due to sanctions imposed by the Versailles treaty, the Nazi government sought to increases exports of armaments to China in a barter exchange for agricultural commodities. Berlin meanwhile, maintained its diplomatic ties with Tokyo under the Anti-Comintern Pact.
A more specific reason for the German tilt toward China was Hitler’s fuming rage against the untrustworthy Japanese. Japan had manipulated the Versailles conference that ended World War I in order to gain control over the captured German colonies in the Pacific and the Shantung Peninsula. (The radical students and professors of the May 4th movement were also furious that the victorious Allied powers gave the German colony on the Shantung Peninsula to Japan instead of rightfully returning it to the First Republic.) Underlying the dual betrayal of China and Germany was the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, created by the two royal houses against Russian expansionism.
Consideration of all these factors prompted the Japanese military to show Hitler that Tokyo was the only capital for the Germans to ally themselves with, and for that reason the Republic of China had to suffer a devastating and humiliating defeat.
A key figure behind Hitler’s lifelong distrust of the Japanese was his closest mentor from the Thule Society, fellow army veteran Karl Haushofer. As military attache in Tokyo prior to WWI, Haushofer created the academic field of Geostrategy, based on his prediction that the Japanese Navy would seize the Kaiser’s colonies in the Marshalls Marianas, Solomons, Carolines and other islands in the Pacific. That’s exactly what happened in World War I, with Japan taking the side of the Allies. The South Pacific islands were especially important for long-range plans to invade the Americas, which was the reason for aviator Amelia Earhart’s fateful flight over that distant region, her capture and subsequent execution in Saipan by a Japanese military firing squad (a topic I extensively researched with Jeff Rense).
Haushofer has become a legend of esoterica as the only foreign master in the Shingon school of Tantric Buddhism during his tour of duty in Tokyo. After the failed Munich putsch, Haushofer visited Hitler in prison, coached the rabble-rouser, and edited “Mein Kampf”, and also served as occult adviser to the Fuhrer and Himmler. His warlock figure has been enshrined in pop culture, for example, in the anime “Full Metal Alchemist”. If not for the horrors of the Second World War, the professor would probably now be remembered as a harmless crank guilty only of collecting arcane trophies stolen from museums.
A similar fascination with spiritual energy and sorcery was behind much of the Japanese looting of Buddhist relics in Nanjing, a “power center” ever since the Pure Land movement of the White Lotus Sect led the Ming rebellion that overthrew world history’s most powerful empire, the Mongol realm known here as the Yuan Dynasty. In early modern times, Nanjing was the headquarters of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, an offshoot of Taoism and the Protestant Reformation, a revolution that ended with a death toll of 100 million. Inspiration and massacre are recurrent themes in this religio-political epicenter. Adding an element of absurdity, 200 members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, led by their guru Shoko Asahara, organized a pilgrimage here to the palace of the first Ming emperor to validate his own claim to global empire.
Conquest by the Sword
The multi-pronged Japanese assault on Nanjing occurred between December 1 and 13, 1937, although the violence continued in the surrounding countryside throughout the winter. The continuing bloodshed was due to the invading army’s confiscation of food stocks and draft animals, oxen and horses, from the surrounding farmlands. The Japanese military, entangled in northern China, lacked supplies from a war-depleted Japan and had to forage for their sustenance. For farming families the Japanese seizure of bales of rice meant certain starvation until the summer harvest, while the loss of an ox or horse was like being deprived of a tractor, the horsepower needed for the next planting season.
Therefore, old men who resisted were bayoneted, and the young boys pressed into service as porters and construction workers to aid the invaders. Even though very few of the old villagers remain to tell their tales, the death toll estimated by the Chinese side must be much closer to the reality than the Japanese under-count, and that’s not including all the peasants who died of starvation, exposure and deprivation into and beyond the war.
The highest Japanese estimate stands at about 80,000 Chinese soldiers out of uniform being executed as “spies” and “guerrillas”. In any fair ethical judgment, however, a lack of legal protection under the Geneva Convention is no excuse for cold-blooded murder of helpless prisoners. Being in a hurry to pursue the retreating enemy is certainly not sufficient grounds for the tens of thousands of decapitations by the riverside.
Another claim from Japanese military “otaku” (fans, groupies) is that the war photos at the memorial hall were fabricated after the war by the Chinese, their American allies and Koreans. To avert catcalls from those fanatic fools, I decided not to use questionable photographs in the Greenwood video and focus on only those showing men whose posture and manner are undoubtedly Japanese (I am old enough to have met many war veterans in Japan).
After examining one suspicious photo at the memorial I later realized those smooth-faced stout men in Japanese uniforms, standing on a pile of bodies, were Mongols or Manchus conscripted in the puppet state of Manchukuo, whereas the slim poorly garbed soldiers were probably from Okinawa. Due to the Japanese occupation of northeast China, and creation of the puppet state of “Manchukuo”, entire units of allied militia were enlisted from the Five Friendly Nations (Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian and Han Chinese), much like how the German high command organized the foreign battalions of the Waffen SS. There is a caste system in warfare, whether it be the British Army in India or the Marines, National Guard, contractors and subcontractors in the Iraq campaign, with only one equalizing factor: To the victor go the spoils. Loot.
Taiwanese role at Nanjing
One of the darkest mysteries of the Nanjing events is the role of the Taiwanese troops in the imperial army, who served as translators for the Japanese. Indoctrinated in the superiority of the Japanese and “cultivated Chinese” over the ignorant rabble in mainland China, the Taiwanese enjoyed a somewhat privileged role. (Pathetically, that second-class colonial mentality still lingers in Taipei, much to my dismay.)
From what can be gleaned from war veterans in Tokyo and Taipei at sake bars (none would go on record), the Taiwanese felt betrayed by Nanjing residents who led them down narrow alleyways used as traps in urban guerrilla warfare. Neighborhoods involved in setting the ambushes were destroyed by the outraged troops and residents slaughtered. (Although major swaths were burned to the ground, especially in the old town by the Confucius Temple, most of the city structures remained intact.)
When the Japanese officers famously “lost control of their troops” who failed to mobilize in pursuit of the retreating Nationalist main force, this was partly due to the classic poems and songs about the “Eight most beautiful courtesans of China in Nanjing”, a vision that mesmerized the Taiwanese but was unfamiliar to Japanese indoctrinated in strict Confucianism. No Chinese ever dares mention such culturally rooted factors behind the more indecent crimes against women and children. (This sort of suggestive literature partly explains why the Cultural Revolution was later so hostile to “decadent” tradition.) The culture of glamorization is not limited to Asian exotica, just look at what Hollywood mythology has done to pervert Harvey Weinstein.
Actual Start of World War II
The assault on Nanjing was the third in a series of major battles in 1937 at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The original spark came with the Marco Polo Bridge incident (Luguo Qiao in Mandarin) in mid-July 1937 on the southwestern outskirts of Beijing. Provoked by steady military encroachment out of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, the shooting at the bridge precipitated the seizure of Beijing.
Republican leader Chiang Kai-shek, based at the presidential palace in Nanjing, responded by ordering his German-trained elite units to oust the Japanese garrison from Shanghai, downriver from the southern capital. His German military advisers had qualms about the attack due to the potential threat from Japanese naval artillery.
Anticipating a lightning victory in August, the Chinese troops failed to deploy the heavy artillery needed against the fortified bunkers and firewalls of the small Japanese garrison. When the Chinese attack faltered, the Japanese Imperial Navy counterattacked with landings of marines, sealing the fate of the trapped Chinese soldiers over three months of street-to-street fighting. All of this was witnessed close-up with fascinated shock by thousands of Western residents in Shanghai. Then, in November, the demoralized Bundeswehr-trained soldiers broke ranks and fled upriver in a rout.
The German military officers in Nanjing were horrified by the collapse of the Shanghai offensive and so drawing on the Prussian tactics of attrition in the Napoleonic wars ordered a scorched earth campaign, burning farmhouses and food supplies along the expected Japanese marching routes to Nanjing. The delay tactic not only added to the suffering of the Chinese people, it also incited the invaders to greater violence. As the old saying goes: When elephants fight, the grass is trampled. The Chinese peasants bore the brunt of a conflict between two foreign empires brimming with arrogance and disdain for common folk.
Preoccupied in northern China, the Japanese command lacked sufficient rations and ammunition for the counter-offensive. Prince Asaka, uncle of the emperor, took over the command from an ill General Iwane Matsui, During the Roaring Twenties, the wealthy aristocrat was a debonair art lover in Paris without the slightest exposure to the peasantry of Asia. To conserve scarce food supplies for his armies, the prince gave the fateful order to take no prisoners in hot pursuit of the retreating enemy. It was the rational decision of a sporting gentlemen, not the cruelty of a sadistic monster, that triggered the massacre.
Prelude to the Flying Tigers
One of the lesser known chapters of the Shanghai-Nanjing campaign was the air war, pitting the newest generation of single-wing Japanese bombers and fighters against the Republican’s small fleet of biplanes, Junkers and Heinkels. Long-range Nakajima and Mitsubishi bombers took off from airfields in Cheju Island, Korea; Matsushima airfield near Taipei, Taiwan; and Omura airbase, near Kumamoto, Kyushu. With overwhelming air cover, the Japanese offensive became unstoppable, and so the Nationalists hastily pulled their headquarters out of Nanjing and retreated to Wuhan, abandoning scattered outposts and patrols to face the onslaught arriving from several directions. The tall city walls that had stood since the Ming Dynasty were breached by sapper charges and collapsed in several places.
Nanjing today hosts a museum for the Allied Forces pilots and crew who died in combat against the Japanese aerial armada, including 2,200 Americans, many of them with the famous Flying Tigers corps. On a nearby hilltop there’s the Purple Mountain observatory with its large telescope donated by Adolf Hitler’s government. A single surviving photo suggests that anti-aircraft artillery batteries, probably fitted with Krupp 88mm flak guns, were positioned there at about 250 meters elevation to deter the Japanese bombers from the city center.
As Greenwood alludes to in the video, Okada was the operator of an aircraft-related factory in the Tokyo region, which was bombed by the U.S. Air Force toward war’s end. Presumably it was located in the Tama area near the Tachikawa air-test field (which was later the main logistics for the USAF during the Vietnam War, and today a park). The exact details are still a matter for inquiry since the Japanese defense industry often was often made up of combines jointly run by small companies and the big “zaibatsu” conglomerates.
Spoils of War
One of the questions that went unanswered in the video is how Okada and his Mahikari assistant Kiyoharu Tomomori (who survived the postwar court martial for the beheading of 33 American airmen at Fukuoka military prison) regained their fortunes after the wartime defeat. One glance at the massively gold-plated roof of the cult center in Takayama reveals the gleam of ill-gotten wealth.
The answer lies in Okada’s friend and superior, a former classmate at the Gakushuin Peers (aristocrats) school in Tokyo, Prince Chichibu aka Yasuhito, the second-in-line younger brother of Emperor Hirohito. Fluent in English due to his British education (and under the influence of the colonialist generation of UK Royals), the prince was aligned with the far right faction that staged the 1936 mutiny in Tokyo, known as the 226 Incident.
To evade charges of treason against his older brother, Yasuhito was send on a tour to Europe, where he attended the Nuremberg rally in September 1937. There on Nazi sacred ground, Prince Chichibu urged Chancellor Hitler to drop Germany’s support for Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and to instead ally with Japan. At that crux midway through the Battle of Shanghai, Hitler was still expecting the Chinese side to emerge victorious due to the German military aid and strategy provided by General Alexander von Falkenhausen, chief military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek.
The catastrophic defeats at Shanghai and Nanjing led to the pull-out of Falkenhausen and his staff, and German support for Japan. In 1940, Germany signed the Tripartite Pact, better known as the Axis. The battlefield successes in China boosted the Imperial myth of invincibility, plunging the General Staff in Tokyo into the fatal decision to attack Pearl Harbor.
In brief, Yasuhito was a supporter of biological warfare testing by Unit 731 in northern China and he toured occupied Nanjing after the massacre. As an Anglophile, he became the patron of rugby in the postwar period. The Prince Chichibu National Stadium, headquarters of the Japan Rugby League, is being demolished for a parking lot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will be held at other stadiums.
According to American researchers tracing the disappearance of Yamashita’s gold, Prince Chichibu during his retirement from the military due to illness toward the end of the war, organized the massive Asia-wide operation of thievery and armed robbery of the occupied territories, which filled the vaults of the Bank of Japan and dozens of hiding places with gems and gold. (I’ve met descendants in Guangdong and Malaysia whose grandfathers were murdered by the Japanese military police during the gold seizures.)
The flourishing of Japanese new religions after the defeat was in part a means for international money-laundering, which restored the Japanese imperium as a commercial empire and a pseudo-religious enterprise worldwide. The much-hailed “postwar economic miracle” that spawned the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was underwritten by the pillaging of Asia in the 1940s. There are crimes of the Mahikari founder yet to be uncovered.
Visit the Memorial Hall
From Karl Hauhofer to Shoko Asahara, Prince Chichibu to Shinzo Abe, this grim nightmare has cast a dark shadow over the planet. A foretaste of what’s to come can be seen inside the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre, which will shake any visitor to his or her core. Thanks to Garry Greenwood, “The Dark Roots of a Japanese Cult in the Nanjing Massacre” shows viewers the human toll and moral cost of surrendering to apocalyptic urges. If a “decent good Nazi” like John Rabe could risk everything to save innocent people, then each of us should try a little harder to prevent the coming mass destruction.
As director of this production, I tried not get hopelessly depressed by the facts and the sheer scale of inhumanity. The young Chinese video editor and cameraman who worked tirelessly on the production did emphasize: “The video at least has a happy beginning and a happy ending.” I suppose quiet humor is the best antidote to reality.