From 2018, the young woman’s behavior became increasingly strange. But only after the Abe assassination she started attacking her former religion.
by Masumi Fukuda
In February 2018, Sayuri witnessed a staff abusing a patient at a facility for the mentally disabled where she had worked part-time since she was a high school student. She filmed the abuse and reported it to the police and the public administration. She also mentioned this incident on Twitter, insisting that the patients should be separated from the staff. She also claimed that she herself was being abused by her supervisor. Probably because of this, she quitted the facility in March. The incident was featured on the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) news for the Tokai region on July 2 of the same year.
It was a puzzling case. I watched the video she uploaded at that time, but it did not look like it documented such a terrible abuse. Mentally disabled people often scream and go out of control, and those who care for them may have to hold them down strongly. This appeared to be such a case. Is it true that she was abused by her supervisor? First it was “sexual harassment,” then is “was abuse by her supervisor.”
“I was chased by a stalker.”
“I was sexually harassed.”
“I was abused by my supervisor.”
“I felt a man’s gaze.”
“Staff abuse disabled people at a specialized facility.”
“My family abused my grandmother.”
Although the truth is of course impossible to determine, considering the whole series of her statements, Sayuri appears as very self-conscious and paranoid. This is also admitted by her parents.
After Sayuri quit her part-time job at the disabled facility, she became more active in music, performing at live events and on the street.
On the less bright side, she also suffered from depression, and in mid-April 2018 she moved out of her apartment and back to her parents’ home.
At home, she stopped working and began sleeping all the time, which irritated her younger sister. So, she said to Sayuri, “Mom says behind your back, ‘When is she going to work? I want her to bring home some money soon.’” Masako does not remember saying this, but Sayuri was so upset with her sister’s words that she decided to leave her parents’ home again.
On May 24 of the same year 2018, Sayuri left home. She left a note where she said, “I’m a little tired, so I’m going to rest,” and went to stay with her current husband, with whom she was already in a relationship at that time. She seems to have met her future husband during her musical performances.
After running away from home, money troubles surfaced between Sayuri and her parents. Around June 2018, Sayuri repeatedly send text messages to her father, saying “Give me my money back”, as well as informing him that she wanted to leave the church.
“‘I gave you 100,000 yen every month from year this to year that, and I want them back.’ I was surprised to read that. It was not only about money, she also said ‘You people have destroyed my life,’” the father recalls.
She testified that she left the church when she was 20, around 2016, but she attended several church events in 2016 and beyond, so this does not make sense.
About the money, her mother Masako, explained, “It is true that I borrowed 160,000 yen from my daughter, when she was a high school student, and did not return it, because it was hard for us to pay for the tuition fees for our two elder sons. But I only borrowed those 160,000 yen from my daughter. In fact, on the day my daughter ran away from home, 220,000 yen were withdrawn from my husband’s Japan Agricultural Bank account at an ATM. Since nobody else in our family withdrew the money, we thought Sayuri had taken it, but we did not say anything because of the 160,000 yen.”
In addition, Sayuri often asked Yoshihiko to send money to her. Each time, Yoshihiko remitted several tens of thousands yen several times, totaling about 100,000 yen.
Again, in January 2021, Yoshihiko remitted 80,000 yen in response to Sayuri’s request. Then, he received a long message from Sayuri saying, “Thank you, I’m sorry, as I know you are in a difficult situation.” Along with this words of appreciation, she sent a long message, starting “I need to talk to you about something.” In summary, the message was as follows. “When I was 18-20 years old, my mom took all of my wages, around 100,000 yen every month, for my brothers’ tuition fees. I want you also to tell my brothers about this and ask them to help me. I told her I did not want to give her my money, but mom came to the place where I worked to get the money. I was really scared. I have had mental problems since I was eighteen, and I still have them. Now I am twenty-five, and I am still depressed and cannot keep a job. I think it is my family that robbed me of my future back then.”
Her parents were surprised. They were told a story they knew nothing about. However, since it was true that her two elder brothers had been helped by their sister Sayuri, the parents told her brothers this, and both transferred a sum of money to Sayuri’s account. In March, Sayuri returned the 80,000 yen that she had borrowed from her father.
Since then, the relationship between Sayuri and her parents has been good. Her parents frequently sent sweets and vegetables from their garden to Sayuri, and she also sent food and other items. In July, her parents and her second eldest brother visited Sayuri at her apartment, and in November, Yoshihiko and Sayuri kept in touch via LINE. In December 2021, Sayuri and her husband were married at Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura, and her parents and second eldest brother attended.
The following April 2022, when Sayuri gave birth to a baby boy, Masako stayed at her apartment to help her. Later, the parents visited the apartment and took pictures of everyone smiling around their newborn grandson.
The dark cloud now hanging over what had once been a good parent-child relationship was triggered by the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8, 2022. More exactly, immediately after the shooting there was still no significant change.
Shortly before this incident, Sayuri’s family had decided to move from an apartment to a house. She contacted Yoshihiko via LINE to tell him that they needed a car that she had purchased and left at her parents’ home. Therefore, on July 9, her parents delivered the car from Mie Prefecture to their daughter’s new home in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
On that evening, Sayuri sent a message via LINE to Masako saying, “Thank you for today. I am really sad that Mr. Abe was shot. The suspect Yamagami is from the Unification Church, right?” On July 11, she sent another message to Masako and asked, “Mom and others, are you okay? It seems the media are flooding to the church in Nara. Are you still going to the church? Please be careful.” She was concerned for her parents. On the same day, the Family Federation President Tomihiro Tanaka held a press conference, and admitted that the mother of the suspect Yamagami was a member of the Family Federation.
On July 13, however, Sayuri’s behavior changed drastically. As if she had become a completely different person, she started attacking both her parents and the church (see the part on the Twitter account “The Daughter of the Former Head Minister of the Unification Church” in the first article of this series).
On July 16, she sent this message via LINE to Yoshihiko: “As for the former Unification Church, it is very hard to believe that God would want the devotees to make large donations or to buy a book that costs 30 million yen, as the news say recently. If they had a legitimate reason for this, I think they should disclose how all the donations they are collecting are spent.”
The reason why Sayuri had changed might have been the press conference held on July 12 by the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, an anti-Unification-Church organization. This press conference started with a moment of silence for the late former Prime Minister Abe, prefaced by the words, “Such acts should never be allowed for any reason whatsoever,” but what followed was a fierce criticism of the former Unification Church.
They waved a book, saying that the price for a volume with Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s words was a whopping 30 million yen. Addressing the problems connected with the former Unification Church, the lawyers said that Abe’s assassin Tetsuya Yamagami and his mother were “100% victims of the former Unification Church,” and that the church was “100% the perpetrator,” describing it as a “terrible evil.”
Sayuri might have been greatly shocked by this press conference. In fact, she was showing in public an attitude distancing herself from the church since around 2017. Yoshihiko asked Sayuri’s sister for details, believing she might know more. She said that around that year, Sayuri might have been in contact with a former believer who had left the former Unification Church to join a Christian denomination and might have been exposed to some criticism of her parents’ religion. However, she never openly criticized the church at that time.
People of Sayuri’s age do not know from direct experience that the church has been severely slandered by the media in the past. It was impossible for her not to be influenced when she saw the church suddenly attacked by the media, with statement such as “The church is 100% evil and a terrible evil.” As an evidence, on the day of the press conference, she had already posted on Twitter, “It is fun to see the Unification Church on fire, LOL. Eog Manse!!!!!”
After this, Sayuri must have waited for a contact from the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales. At the Constitutional Democratic Party’s hearing, she stated emphatically, “The Unification Church is a cult that calls itself a religion. It is an antisocial organization that drives its believers’ families to collapse. I would like Japan to adopt the anti-cult law that already exists in France.” At the end of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan press conference, she said in a strong tone, “Please dissolve this organization.”
These statements are an exact copy of the claims of the members the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, such as Attorney Masaki Kito. In particular, “Dissolve the former Unification Church” is a kind of slogan that the Network has been using since its foundation in 1987. It is reasonable to assume that the Network coached Sayuri before her media and public appearances, and she was under their influence.
We have already described how Sayuri began to appear in the media in August 2022. At a hearing held by the Constitutional Democratic Party on August 23, her statements were already far away from the truth. Her parents spent many sleepless nights, worrying that more and more Japanese would misunderstand their church.