According to news reports, Panawave (or Pana Wave Laboratory) is said to be either an alias of, or part of, Chino Shoho (Shoho organization), "an offshoot of a religious sect."
Some 40 members of a bizarre cult have taken over a 200-meter stretch of road in Gifu Prefecture, covering up crash barriers and roadside trees with huge white cloths, it was learned Tuesday.
Officials of Hachiman and Yamato, the two central Japan towns that manage the Omami road, have urged members of the Fukui-based cult, the "Panawave Laboratory," to move out but they have refused to comply.
"One of us fell ill while we were heading to Yamanashi Prefecture (so we can't move)," one of the cultists, who are dressed in all white and wear surgical masks, said as their reason for occupying the road since last Friday.
Cultist held a news conference Saturday after police calmed down both parties. "A senior member suffers from terminal cancer after she came under a microwave attack from communist guerrillas," a cult spokesman said. They added that they are wandering around Japan in search of a place without electric pylons, which emit electromagnetic waves and badly affect the woman's health.
Panawave was reportedly formed in the late 1970s and has an official membership of around 3,000, although the real number is believed to be considerably lower.
The group claims that electromagnetic waves are causing catastrophic environmental destruction, including a rise in temperature. The damages caused by the waves will ultimately result in the end of the earth, according to the cult.
They also allege that scalar wave attacks are being carried out by communist terrorists who have dispersed around the world following the break up of the Soviet Union.
Panawave members always wear white garments saying that they protect them from the ill-effects of electromagnetic waves. They have previously been in trouble with authorities for blocking traffic and covering road signs, signals and trees with white cloths.
The Panawave Laboratory cult
is also largely a mystery.
According to a report in the latest edition of the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, it is part of a religious group called Chino Shoho led by an elderly woman suffering from terminal cancer.
The group claims its leader is the victim of microwaves. Panawave members are believed to have taken her into the mountains to escape the waves.
Reports have ascribed a doomsday
character to the Chino Shoho group as it believes there is a 10th planet in the solar system and has warned that something cataclysmic will happen in mid-May when the planet approaches Earth.
Experts say the cult could one day become a social threat if the authorities leave it alone.
A lawyer who has worked for
victims of the Aum Shinrikyo
cult said Pana Wave Laboratory was an offshoot of a religious organization that emerged in the late 1970s.
Taro Takimoto said the group released a publication in the spring of 2002 that hinted at Armageddon.
The group said mankind would be destroyed if its founder, who is said to be ill, should die.
Japanese newspapers also said that a pamphlet issued last year by a religious cult that evolved into Pana Wave Laboratory said that if their leader died, they should "exterminate all humankind at once."
"Many of the residents here are elderly, and they are very worried. They say the group is weird," the police officer said.
But Taro Takimoto, a lawyer with extensive experience of helping Aum victims, said it was unlikely that the group posed a danger to the general public.
"I don't believe they'll do anything dangerous to outsiders, the way Aum did," he said. "If anything, it would be more likely to end in a mass suicide of group members."
A Panawave spokesman said the caravan was protecting Yuko Chino, 69, a self-proclaimed prophet who preaches a blend of Christianity, Buddhism and New Age doctrines.
According to the group's literature, Chino believes that a 10th planet is moving closer to the earth and will cause "cataclysmic" changes this summer.
After more than three hours of confrontation with the police, a group of about 40 white-garment cult members cleared out of a forest road in Gifu Prefecture on Thursday, moving slowly on a caravan of white wagon cars.
The group, which has been roaming around Tottori, Hyogo, Kyoto, Fukui, Shiga and Gifu recently, has been under police surveillance as authorities have expressed concern about their cult-like activities.
On Thursday, acting from orders from the National Police Agency (NPA), Gifu police sent 300 police officers to the scene and ordered the group to leave for allegedly violating the Road Traffic Law.
Earlier in the day, the NPA ordered local police authorities across Japan to crack down on illegal acts and strengthen information collection on the cult.
Sato said the police will apply all applicable laws to address any illegal acts.
According to the NPA, Pana Wave was established around 1977 and has some 1,200 members nationwide. The leader of the group is a 69-year-old woman.
Pana Wave, which is not recognized as a religious group, claims the world will end in the near future.
The group has facilities in Yamanashi and Fukui and began moving about in mountain and forest areas across the country in April 1994, saying they are protecting their leader from electromagnetic waves.
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