Forced De-Conversion Victim Statements
Confined: August 1993-October 1993
Faith-breaker: Minister Makoto Sugimoto
I was born in Aichi Prefecture on May 30, 1959. After graduating from Ichinomiya Commercial High School, I married Isamu Sato (whom I met while working) on January 11, 1981, giving birth to two sons and one daughter.
In December 1990, I joined the Unification Church through an introduction by Kazuyo Yamamoto, a senior co-worker in the company I was working for.
Deceived, kidnapped and confined
Toward the end of August 1993, when I came home after delivering newspapers, my husband told me, “I am going away on a trip for a while.” He put his clothes in a bag and left. It was so sudden and I felt uneasy, not knowing what to do. Then my aunt, Misako Noda, called me, saying, “Isamu-san just came to my house and is saying he would be away from home for a while. What is going on between him and you? I want to talk to you, so I want you to come here now.” I immediately went to my aunt’s house. A few relatives were there and we got into a discussion.
While I was talking with my aunt and others, my uncle Yasuro Sato started saying, “The grandchildren are here and it is too noisy. Let’s go to some other place.” Thus, I was put in a car to go somewhere else. I was not told where we were going and felt uneasy. Nevertheless, I was hoping that I could get help in improving my relationship with my husband, and I got in the car. I assumed we would go to some place nearby, but we did not get to the destination even after 30 minutes. I felt even more uneasy, but my uncle told me, “There is a place I rent in Toyota, so let’s have a discussion there.” It takes about one and a half hours to get there, so I was wondering why we needed to go that far. But my mind was preoccupied with the problems with my husband, so I just obeyed.
When we arrived at the destination and entered the room, relatives had gathered, waiting for me. The relatives told me, “You seem to be attending the Unification Church, but what is the church teaching? Explain everything to us.” I had a hopeful expectation that they would listen to my explanation about the Unification Church, so I explained about God and the spirit world according to the Unification Church teaching. But my uncle commented, “What a stupid thing you believe in!” My uncle and others did not have an open attitude to listen to my explanation, and I thought we would be going nowhere even if we continued discussing. So I told them I was going home. Then my uncle told me, “You don’t have to go home. Let us continue discussing here.” My aunt, Minako Ishikawa, tried to prevent me from going outside, telling me, “Why don’t you take a bath?” Surprised about the unexpected development, I asked my husband, who was there, “What is going on?” My husband then told me, “This is a forced confinement,” adding“I have entrusted our children to aunts.”
Life of confinement
I grew concerned about my children and tried hard to figure out a way to escape from the place. However, all entry and exit points of the room were locked, and it was not possible to get out. From that day on, my life in the room in the presence of my husband and uncle started. I was forced to read books and magazines critical of the church under the pretext of ‘discussions.’ Although they said they would listen to my explanation, they had no desire to understand what I was explaining.
About a week later, my uncle started saying, “Since we don’t understand religious matters, we are going to get an expert involved.” I asked him who he was talking about, and I was told it was Minister Makoto Sugimoto of the United Church of Christ in Japan. I was told that my husband had visited Minister Sugimoto’s church and asked for his help. I was very anxious about my children, so I was allowed to see them or communicate with them during the confinement.
Minister Makoto Sugimoto
From that time on, Sugimoto came to the room every day and talked to me for two to three hours. He told me to leave the church as if he was lecturing me, saying, “I have made everyone I talked to leave the church. If you do not end up leaving the church, you would be the first such person. You don’t know the Divine Principle. Is it all right for you to leave the children as they are?” and “You are a housewife, but what are you thinking? You have to think more about your husband and relatives.” It seemed that the details of my daily life there were all reported to Sugimoto. My husband persistently told me that I must read the books left by the minister.
I tried not to pay attention to the various things said by the minister. My mother had died, and I had a strong desire to find out about the existence of the spirit world. The Unification Church revealed teachings that clearly explained about the spirit world. But Sugimoto did not respond to my questions and was saying, “I don’t know whether it exists or not.” Because of things like that, I could not believe what Sugimoto was telling me.
In October, a typhoon was approaching, and my uncle grew worried about the vulnerability of his own house. He went away, saying he would check on the safety of his house. Subsequently, while my husband was taking a bath, I checked the entrance door, saw that it was unlocked and escaped to the outside. I desperately rushed into a nearby house, which happened to be a residence of a Unification Church member.
For a while after that, I hid in a house of a Unification Church member in Fushimi, Kyoto Prefecture, for fear of being kidnapped again. I lived there, while writing letters to my family. I later learned that my husband found I had escaped and became worried that I might have committed suicide out of despair. He asked the police to search for me. One month later, I made sure that there was no danger of being kidnapped again and returned home.
My life after return
After I escaped from the room where I was confined, my husband was blamed by Sugimoto, who scolded him: “It is because of your inadequate supervision.” He apparently continued communicating with the minister for a while, but he has no contact with him now. My relatives feel they were betrayed by me, and it is difficult to relate with them at present. I now have an ordinary life with my husband, but the fear of being kidnapped and confined again anytime does not go away from my mind.