"Having been taunted by the opponents, the parents could reconcile with their daughter after realizing truth about the Unification Church"
Ms. Akiko Nishi (49, fictitious name) who lives in the Tohoku district of Japan, has had three experiences in the past, of being forced by her parents and Christian ministers, to leave the Unification Church. In 1983, she was placed under house arrest at her home, while in 1993 and 1995, she was confined in an apartment for nearly two months, each time.
On the other hand, her father, Mr. Toshio Takahashi (81, fictitious name), who resorted to kidnapping and confining his daughter, now looks back on the past, feeling strongly that he was "deceived by the anti-Unificationists." He became anxious, provoked by the media's anti-Unificationist coverage/reports. Intent on "saving his daughter," he attended the churches of opposition ministers for some two years. Having implemented the kidnapping and confinement three times, under the ministers' instructions, he now says "We've lost a fortune," and deeply regrets what he has done.
The First Time, a House Arrest
Akiko's family consisted of her parents and an older brother. Her father, who worked for a major shipping company, traveled worldwide on merchant ships, and was away from home for ten months out of the year. As her brother was much older and on his own, Akiko and her mother lived by themselves for quite a long time.
It was in 1983, soon after Akiko graduated from college, at age 23, that she was put under house arrest. Her mother, Mrs. Yoshiko Takahashi (deceased, fictitious name), was told bad rumors about the Church from an acquaintance who was left-leaning, and advised her that "It's better to confine your daughter and persuade her to leave." Akiko was locked up from the outside, in a room on the second floor of her home. There was a portable toilet set up in the room.
Akiko studied the Divine Principle about the time she was a high school student. From the start, the mother and the daughter argued over Akiko's faith, but starting from about 1979, her mother's protest began to get more intense.
Yoshiko, the mother, was a bold, "big-hearted Mom" type of person. She fretted that Akiko became involved with something awful while her husband was away, and decided to try the house arrest. She was bent on "just having her daughter back," and said nothing about it to her husband.
"While I was locked up at home, my mother tried to persuade me to leave the Church. I was once even chased in the middle of the night by my mom, who had a knife in her hand, and had to run into a police box. At the time, I was about to dedicate myself to church work, but I think she let me go, as I told her, 'I will continue with my job for now.'" (Akiko)
Kidnapped and Confined, Ten Years Later
Following her house arrest in 1983, Akiko was kidnapped and confined ten years later, in mid-February, 1993, with the involvement of anti-Unificationists. Akiko had taken part in the International Marriage Blessing of 30,000 couples, which took place the year before, in August 1992, in Seoul, Korea.
"I went to report to my mother about receiving the Blessing, and my mother said, 'Is that soc' and bought me a dress."
Perhaps, the mother had begun to accept the fact that her daughter chose her faith. However, half a year after the Marriage Blessing, various people started sending Toshio, who was now retired from the shipping company, and Yoshiko, information criticizing the Unification Church. Some even recommended that, "It's better to make her leave the Church."
"At the time, the only information that came to our ears was bad things. The TV, the newspapers, all had stories, for example, that [the Unification Church] deceived people and took their money. There was not one piece of good news," said Toshio.
As the parents became more and more anxious, N., a friend of Akiko, introduced them to a group of parents who opposed the Unification Church ('Opposed Parents' Association') in Tokyo. N. used to go to piano classes together with Akiko before.
"Before the confinement, my wife and I visited a Christian church in Tokyo several times to attend a meeting of the Opposed Parents' Association. That church was full of parents whose child was a member of the Unification Church. At that time, we received the information that 'in order to carry out a kidnapping and confinement, all-out cooperation of the parents and family is needed,'" says Toshio. As the couple took part in the meetings and study groups in Tokyo, they gradually acquired specific know-how regarding abduction and confinement.
Soon, Toshio's couple was introduced to a former member who was carrying out the forced conversion of Unification Church members in Miyagi prefecture, the late Mr. Tamiya Taguchi. And so, the actual date of kidnapping Akiko approached.
Akiko, who had been working for the church devotedly for about six months after participating in the Marriage Blessing, developed a backache. During a break, she visited a treatment clinic near the home of N., which was reported by N. to her parents.
When Akiko visited the clinic for the second time in mid-February of 1993, she was abducted by her parents and relatives waiting there, and was confined in an apartment in Sendai City of Miyagi prefecture.
"As parents, all we wanted was to rescue our daughter, at all costs. We were ready to continue, by any means, until she quit the Church," says Toshio.
The apartment seemed to be a facility prepared exclusively for confinement. Toshio states, "In the rooms of the apartment that Mr. Taguchi guided us to, saying, 'Please stay here,' there were devices installed so that doors and windows would not open."
Akiko testifies, "I recall being told when I was put into the apartment, 'We've told the neighbors that we are in the process of persuading you [against the Church], so that they won't notify the police. No matter how much you scream, the police will not come.'"
For the first week after the incarceration began, former members came one after the other, to persuade Akiko. Eventually, the wife of Mr. Tamiya Taguchi and former member, the late Kazuko, also joined the visitation. Then, a week later, Mr. Taguchi himself, started coming to the apartment to talk to Akiko, and repeatedly criticized the teachings of the Unification Church.
Akiko felt that arguing about theory with Mr. Taguchi would only prolong the confinement, and decided to "pretend to be converted." She learned during this time, that her husband, Takashi (fictitious name), had officially registered their marriage on the day she was abducted, making her all the more eager to "get out quickly."
So, she began to agree with the speakers, saying, "I was in fact getting tired of the church's activities. I myself thought things were strange, so I am ready to quit." Then began their investigation of whether I was truly converted or not. Day after day, former members came and questioned me, 'What do you think of this point?' and so on. I almost went mad."
Finally, the last person to come to the apartment, was the daughter of Mr. Taguchi.
"She seemed to be very spiritually sensitive, and I was told that 'she could basically determine whether someone was converted or not.' This daughter was to make the final examination. She looked at me, saying, it was a '50-50' situation, and seemed to be very cautious."
As the "examination" continued, a chance for Akiko to escape opened up. This was in late March of 1993, approximately two months after the confinement had begun.
"Perhaps my father had begun to trust me, and one day, the front door was left unlocked. That night, I escaped in my bare feet. When I left the apartment, there was a painful feeling of, Am I going to leave behind my parents who are so distressed, and just get out? I felt as if I were going to jump off a cliff."
The following morning, after learning that his daughter was gone, Toshio collapsed from a heart attack and was taken away in an ambulance. In addition to the anxiety so far, the shock of her escape was thought to be the cause. Fortunately, he recovered, but Akiko was to be told of this incident about two and a half years later, at the site of her third confinement.
The Third Forced Conversion Attempt
Following the failure of the second attempt, Toshio and his wife began preparing right away for the next course. At first, they were commuting to Tokyo from the Tohoku district, to study at the Anti-Unificationist Parents Association meetings. They were then introduced to Rev. Yasutomo Matsunaga of Niitsu City, Niigata prefecture, and began to attend his church every weekend. Every Saturday, they traveled to Niigata, a four-hour drive one way, by car. This continued for two years.
"Sunday morning we attended the sermon, and in the afternoon, there was a study group about the rescue. There, we would learn how to go about with the kidnapping."
At the study group, parents of former members, who had abducted, confined and converted their own children, gave explanations such as, "This rescue will be difficult without the cooperation of at least four family members and relatives," along with their own experiences.
Toshio says, "Rev. Matsunaga gave a few words of greetings in the morning, and did not show up after that. He was probably busy flying here and there, to do conversions."
"In Niigata, at the time, there were over 280 people on the wait list (for conversions). There was no paper list as such, of members to be abducted that was posted in the church, but we were told, 'You are number so-and-so.'"
It seems the kidnapping and confinement took place, basically in the order of those numbers. Forced conversion attempts toward Unificationists were completely systematized.
Immediately before a kidnapping operation was to take place, we received direct instructions from Rev. Matsunaga.
"Rev. Matsunaga told us, 'It is now your turn, so bring her quickly.' There were specific instructions given for the kidnapping. Content such as, when the member is on her way back from work, place relatives in position well, and push her into the vehicle so that she cannot get away. Rev. Matsunaga gathered several of our relatives, and gave such instructions."
Akiko lived in Fukushima prefecture, where her husband's home was, at the time. The target date was in early November, 1995, at 6:30 pm, when Akiko was on her way back from work.
Akiko, who had a part-time office job at a primary school at the time, came out to the school parking lot after work. There, she was abruptly kidnapped by her parents, older brother and relatives. She was taken straight to an apartment in Niitsu City, of Niigata prefecture, and incarcerated there until the end of December.
Toshio and his wife had hired a private detective to locate where Akiko was living. They say that investigation fee alone cost about one million yen (roughly 10,000USD).
"A private detective located her. They looked into what kind of a life she was living, after which we went directly and confirmed that it was our daughter. They also found out what time she would leave work to return home."
The direction from Rev. Matsunaga at the time was, "Please bring her to the apartment. We will do the rest and persuade her."
When the confinement at the apartment in Niigata began, about five former members came by every day, one after the other, sympathizing with Akiko and saying things like, "What an ordeal for you (to be locked up)!" "We also went through this, ourselves," and so on.
Rev. Matsunaga came to speak to her about a week later.
Akiko states, "As for myself, I was only thinking about how to fulfill the Blessing marriage. If I got into an argument with them, the confinement would only become longer, so I said, 'We've left the church, and are leading a normal life.' But, even at the time of Mr. Taguchi, I told him I had quit, and then ran away, so I was prepared for more difficulty this time. Yet, I told my parents, 'My husband is a really good man, and because I believe I could be happy with him, I married him.' I think my father accepted that."
As with the second confinement, Akiko pretended that she was converted. She says that when she met with Rev. Matsunaga, she truly felt her life was on the line.
"Rev. Matsunaga seemed to be checking everything that I said, later, so when I thought each time about 'what would happen when I say this,' it felt like my insides were jumping out of my mouth.
And Rev. Matsunaga would always explain the situation to my father, after each interview, saying things like "At this stage, I don't think she is lying, but it's still suspect." It was really as if someone was pointing a knife at me, and every single day was a continuous spiritual battle."
Following the direct examinations by Rev. Matsunaga, there were checks by former members, as at the time of the second confinement.
"They called it 'rehabilitation,' and myself and others, only those who had been converted, would go out to eat, and talk about personal things and so on. But even then, if I got up to go to the toilet, one person would stand in front of me, and another followed from behind. The 'rehab' normally took place during the final stage of the confinement."
After several such examinations, Akiko was released. This was because Rev. Matsunaga had decided that Akiko 'had left the Church,' but the father, Toshio, also supported her release.
"I spoke with him at length, and my father also approved of me, saying, 'If you're happy, then that's fine,'" says Akiko.
The day Akiko was released was already the end of the year, Dec. 29, 1995, a cold, sleety day. Akiko was allowed to return to her husband, after approximately two months.
Money Spent on Abduction and Confinement
After being released, Akiko visited the president of the Anti-Unificationist Parents Association, to greet her together with her parents. She was Ms. O, who lived in Niigata, and taught the Japanese Way of Tea.
This lady was the owner of the apartment unit where Akiko was confined, but there was something that Toshio once noticed about her.
"It was in mid-winter, and we had not used the air conditioning at all, but this person charged us for air conditioning expenses. When I said, 'Oh, what is this? Isn't that strange..,' she replied, 'Oh, right,' and deleted it from the bill. It was a good thing I pointed it out, but perhaps the person before us had also been charged in this way. At that instant, I knew by intuition, 'this person is collaborating / in cahoots with Matsunaga.'"
"My wife paid all of the apartment expenses and I don't recall the exact amount, but my wife said, 'We paid an awful lot.' It definitely was beyond the level of normal rent." Toshio suspected that the extra (apartment fees) went to Rev. Matsunaga.
After the second confinement in Niigata was over, Toshio never set foot again in Rev. Matsunaga's church.
"It was because I felt that it was a conspiracy among those involved. Since then, mail requesting donations and such came to our home, but I tossed them out without looking."
Until just recently, bank remittance slips for monthly dues of 3,000 yen were also being sent by the Anti-Unificationist Parents Association.
Toshio now feels strongly that he was "deceived" by Rev. Matsunaga and the rest. Whenever he sees friends, he will often say, "We lost a fortune!"
"If I ever see Rev. Matsunaga again, I won't let him get away easily. 'I want to beat him up,' that's really how I feel now. We commuted that distance by car for two years, waiting for over 280 people."
Toshio had believed meekly in the words of the anti-Unificationist ministers without protest, and ventured twice to kidnap and confine his daughter, intent on "not making her a criminal." His late wife Yoshiko, who passed away last year, appeared in his dreams several times, and backed by this experience, he gradually began to visit the Unification Church. As his understanding of the Church deepened, the image imprinted in his mind by the opposition ministers, of "the Unification Church = criminal group," disappeared.
Toshio said, "When I actually went to the Church, I got the clear feeling that this was not a bad place. My daughter's couple, whom I live with, are working actively with the Church, so I also felt I should go, and that is how I started attending."
Taunted by the opponents, Akiko's parents tried the deprogramming methods.
But after visiting the Unification Church, they could correct their perception, leading to their reconciliation with her. For this, Akiko is most grateful. "Through attending the Unification Church, my father and I have come to understand each other more deeply. I wish Pastor Matsunaga would also come to appreciate Heavenly Father better by studying the Divine Principle.
Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion