Toru Goto’s Testimony At the founding assembly of Association to Eliminate Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion
February 15, 2009
Many of you may find it hard to believe, but I would like to share the horrifying truth of my confinement that I experienced for 12 years and 5 months here in Japan. But before talking about my actual experience in confinement, I would like to share some of the details leading up to my confinement.
I have experienced religious kidnapping and forced conversion twice in my life. The first time I was kidnapped, I have to go back 23 years. In the summer of 1986, through my older brother’s guidance, I came to believe in the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC or the Unification Church) when I was a senior in college. Besides my older brother, I have a younger sister, and she too, through my brother’s invitation, joined the Unification Church. The three of us were deeply inspired by the teachings of the Unification Church and believed in it with such passion.
However, in the spring of 1987, my brother’s whereabouts were suddenly unknown. At that time, our parents were strongly opposed to the church and became involved with others who were looking for ways to have members de-converted from the UC movement. After discussing with these people, my parents were told to first have my older brother “deprogrammed”. Therefore, he was abducted and held in confinement for this purpose. The figure who undertook my brother’s “deprogramming” assignment from my parents was a man named Shun Miyamura, who resides in Ogikubo, Suginami Ward in Tokyo. Miyamura, a professional “deprogrammer” was able to de-convert my older brother, and he decided to leave the Unification Church. Once leaving the movement, my older brother, feeling guilty that he had invited my sister and I to the Unification Church, determined to “deprogram” us as well.
One day five months after my brother disappeared, I received a call from him saying, “I have something I want to tell you about the Unification Church.” He called me out to meet at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, and when I walked in to one of the rooms, I found my parents waiting there for me. I, all of a sudden realized that the door was made so that it couldn’t be opened from the inside. Knowing the unreasonable treatment that accompanies forced conversion by confinement, I became enraged and protested, yelling, “Let me out of here!”
However, I was pinned down by my brother and father and they left me immovable. The following days, Miyamura, who de-converted my older brother, came to bring in several former-Unification Church members. They repeatedly cursed and denounced the Unification Church and Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Once after they had surrounded me, Miyamura asked one of the male former-members a question, “What does Sun Myung Moon mean to you now?”
After pausing to think for a while, without even saying a word, he pointed at the Miyamura’s cigarette butts with an expression full of contempt. I figured that I would not be able to leave the room if I continued to show how much I believed in the Church, so against my will, I pretended that I had been “deprogrammed”. After that, once they started to ease their watch on me, I planned my getaway and was able to return to the Unification Church.
Thereafter, fearing that I would face confinement again, I severed all contact with my family. During that time, my sister, who had been a fervent believer in the Unification Church, also was kidnapped and then “deprogrammed”. On the other hand, my brother started working for the company that was managed by Shun Miyamura, the professional deprogrammer who de-converted him. Together, with Miyamura, my brother came to work vigorously to “deprogram” members. He eventually married a woman, who like him, was a former-member and had been de-converted through abduction and confinement.
I started thinking that maybe my family was plotting to kidnap me again, so over the years, I started contacting my family slowly by slowly to check up on things. Time had passed, and seven years had gone since my (first) kidnapping. At that time, being still alarmed for another kidnap attempt, I had thought, “My family, no matter how stubborn they are, must have given up by now.” I sometimes even showed up at my parents’ doorsteps in my hometown of Hoya city, Tokyo.
Just at that moment (when things seemed safe and sound), I was kidnapped for the second time, which took place 8 years after my first abduction. At that time, while the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the subway terror attacks by Aum Shinrikyo were causing civil unrest throughout the world, on the night of September 11, 1995, I had returned to my hometown of Hoya-city in Tokyo. There, my father called me over, “Toru, I want to have a talk with you,” and from there, the state of my family took a turn for the worse. Realizing that I would be abducted and confined again, fear took over me and my body stiffened and I couldn’t move. My father and brother grabbed each of my arms, and I was dragged and forced into a wagon car parked in front of the house. In the yard, there was a man who I did not recognize making sure I could not escape. The wagon sped at a high-speed and parallel-parked next to a condominium (apartment building) in Niigata-shi, and I was confined on the 6th floor of that condo. I was contained with such anger for being kidnapped a second time, I began yelling in protest, “You guys confining me again?! Let me out!” However, my family didn’t even bother turning their ear to listen to me. As I examined the room, all the windows were equipped with a special lock on the inside and were securely locked so they could not be opened. The front door, also, had a special type of lock on the inside that once locked, you could not go outside. (I thought about jumping from the window, but) I didn’t think anybody could be safe jumping out of a 6th floor window.
As I could not hide my anger towards the cruel and inhumane treatment I was put through, my brother told me, “Just to let you know, I will never forgive this problem. I will never let you leave here until this problem is solved. You will stay here as it is. No matter how much pain we have to go through, I’m going to put an end to this once and for all. You better make up your mind!”
My brother’s words were no exaggeration. Starting with my brother’s disgust, my family’s abnormal determination to have me “deprogrammed” led me to be confined for 12 years and 5 months.
A few days later, Minister Matsunaga Toridechi of the Niitsu Evangelical Christian Church brought several former Unification Church members and they repeatedly criticized and denounced the UC movement. I once again thought that I would not be able to leave this room while showing my faith, and much like the first confinement at Keio Plaza Hotel, against my will I pretended that I had been “deprogrammed”. On top of vowing that I had left the Unification Church, I even wrote a letter to the church that I would withdraw my membership, drank alcohol which had been forbidden by the church, repeated criticisms and denouncements that the former members had told. I went through all types of loyalty test. Afterwards (agreeing to all of these against my will), I continued to wait for the moment that I would be set completely free from this confinement. However, no matter how long I waited, I was never released from confinement. After what had happened from my first confinement, my family had become very discreet about my release.
Two years of standstill while I was in confinement had passed when my father, who had been hospitalized after placing me in confinement because of his declining health condition, hadpassed away. For this reason, they transferred my confinement location from Niigata to Ogikubo,Sugianmi Ward, Tokyo. After being confined for half a year in a condo in Ogikubo, I was< transferred to room 804 (on the 8th floor) of a condo called “Flowerhome” in the same town of Ogikubo. Right after being taken to Flowerhome in Ogikubo, as I took a look at the front door, the door had been locked with the special lock on the inside and was padlocked. Also, much like the condo in Niigata, the windows had been shut so they could not be opened. Two years had pssed since I had been confined in the condo at Niigata and expressed my withdrawal from the Unification Church against my will. Because the situation had not really changed, I really couldn’t keep on faking that I had abandoned my faith.
At that point, a little while after being transferred to room 804, I insisted that I had pretended to be “deprogrammed” so that I could be released from confinement and that I actually still believed in the Unification Church. I strongly advocated that what my family was doing –religious kidnapping and forced conversion– were totally unjust and violated human rights. After knowing that I had only pretended to be “deprogrammed”, my family seemed very upset. Soon after, Shun Miyamura, who converted my brother and sister and who lives in Suginami Ward, came to visit room 804 with other former members. This was January 1998. The last time I had seen Miyamura was 10 years earlier during my first abduction. Towards Miyamura, I strongly accused him that what he was doing – unfair religious kidnapping and forced conversion – was a severe violation of human rights. However, he didn’t even bother listening to me and told me the following, “I am not holding you in confinement. Your family is protecting you (from the Unification Church).” “If you want to be released, tell your family yourself. Unless you are able tothink clearly with your head, you will not be able to leave here.” ‘If my child didn’t quit the Unification Church, I would make a room for confinement at home and lock him up until he dies!”
Beginning with Miyamura, the former members would continue to come to room 804 several days in a row and repeatedly cursed the church. I wasn’t able to go outside let alone contact someone. I was completely shunned by the outside world, and as the days passed by, I was continually forced to hear curses and criticism towards the church. Miyamura and the former members frequently called me “stupid” and “idiot,” and kept showering me with degradations. On one occasion, one of the female former members, while she was speaking, all of a sudden grabbed a cup of tea and splashed it in my face making my clothes completely wet. My brother, while denouncing me, suddenly stood up and screamed in my face, “Seriously, I could knock the living hell out of you! No matter how much we tell you, you still don’t realize? I’ll bring you to your senses.” With that he would slap me (as hard as he could). My sister, who is usually calm, would intimidate me by shouting, “If you’re going to stay like this, you better be prepared because this will last forever.”
At times, more than ten people would come to room 804, which had been turned into a confinement room, and continuously denounce, criticize, and slander me, Rev. Moon, and the Unification Church. In the midst of all this, because of the extreme mental agony that I was put through, there were times where I even thought, “I just want to die.”
Five years since I had been confined – it was around February 2001 – a fear of remaining in isolation and never being able to take a step outside again started to haunt me. Nevertheless, it was an 8th floor condo and I could only get as far as the front door. Even if I beat up my family, it was clear that they would not give me the keys to the special lock on the door, wherever it might be. Reluctantly, I decided to break down the door by force by running into it. Naturally, my family would hold me down. In order to escape, I would later yell things with the strength that I could muster so that the neighbors could hear like, “Let me out of here,” “This is a confinement room,” “Help me!” and “Call the police.” Not wanting the neighbors to hear my shouts, my family then pinned me down on the floor, placed a blanket over me, and covered my mouth. I was not able to breathe, but even as I was being suffocated, I continually yelled for help. My hands and feet started bleeding, and this blood had dripped on the tatami. My voice was completely gone from the yelling and there were bruises all over my body. Because of the pain, I was not able to sleep at all that night.
Around that time, Miyamura came and visited room 804 and grabbed me by my shirt collar and forced me into one of the farther rooms in the condo. I yelled, “Stop this confinement. Let me out of here.” I started violently hitting the desk with my bleeding hand, and when I began protesting, Miyamura coldly said, “This is not working,” and left the room. My family seemed more worried through my protests, so they decided to lock a gate, which was placed between the front door and the room. They made sure that it could not be opened from the inside. With this, there essentially was a double lock to the room. I would continue protests in this manner for roughly a month. However, no matter how hard I tried to escape, I would be held down and eventually, no one would come and rescue me. Not only was I placed in strict confinement, but on top of that I was overwhelmed with lethargy and despair, and finally I gave up escaping by force.
Time would pass, and after 8 years of confinement –around April 2004 – I determined to go on several hunger-strikes. I ended up doing three hunger-strikes; two 21-day strikes and one 30-day strike. As I fasted, I would muster all my will power and constantly complained about the unjust and criminal act of religious kidnapping and forced conversion, and about its grave violation towards human rights. However, towards this, they would tell me that it was an emergency refuge and protection by the family. They would insist that is was neither confinement nor a crime, and never admitted that it was confinement.
Being enraged towards my attitude of protest through fasting, my brother and his wife would kneel in front of me and hit my face several times as hard as they could. When they got agitated, they would put ice and water in a big bowl. As they told me to open up my eyes, they would splash that freezing water down my back. After I finished the third hunger-strike (30-day fast), my family was filled with fury towards my repeated attitude and action of fasting. Even after telling them that I had finished my fast, as punishment they didn’t bring me any food. After feeling the dangerous effects towards my life, I reluctantly asked my family to bring me some food.
However, after that, for 70 days, they only gave me rice gruel and Pocari-sweat (sport drink). My suffering and pain was brought to that limit, and if this continued as it was, I thought I would starve to death. Underneath my family’s surveillance, I would quietly eat rice that had been rinsed before cooking or apple peals that had been left in the sink. Through that, I was able to avoid death by starvation. I could never have imagined that my family would go this far. After that, my family somehow started bringing me food. The members of my family would eat normal food, but I was left to eat shabby foods such as side-dishes and pickled plums. This would continue for several days. Their reasoning was this, “We have deeply thought about you and have gone through much suffering to protect you. We have created an environment where you can think straight. However, you’ve still not decided to think straight. That kind of person doesn’t have the qualification to eat normal food.” This kind of punishment through controlling my meals would continue for 2 years until I was liberated from my confinement.
Time would pass, and this life of confinement, that I resigned myself to would continue to my death, had finally come to an end. On the evening of February 10th, 2008, after 12 years and 5 months of confinement, my family told me, “If you don’t feel like admitting to the mistakes of the Unification Church, get the hell out of here at once!” With that, they suddenly ordered me to leave room 804. I was significantly weak, and wasn’t even given any of my personal belongings such as my wallet, so I protested, “You’ve kept me in confinement for 12 years and you’re throwing me out with no money. That’s just wrong.” And then, I got into an argument with my family. However, they forcibly dragged me and threw me out of the front door. As I lay on the ground, they threw the pair of shoes that I had worn at the time of abduction at me and slammed and locked the front door.
I was absolutely stunned that I had finally been liberated from my confinement and was now free. However, physically, I was considerably weak and had no belongings, didn’t have a place to live, had no means of living, and didn’t even know the whereabouts of people I once knew. “How am I supposed to live?” This kind of fear started to take over my mind. Left with no choice, I was left to go to the only place I knew in Tokyo – the headquarters of the Unification Church in Shibuya Ward – and started walking in that direction. On the way, there was a police station, and I explained my situation, but they would not believe my story nor give me some spare change. I took a right at the intersection from Oumekaidou to Nakanosakaue and went to Yamanote Road. When I came to Shibuya Ward, I guess because I had not walked for a long time, the bottom of my knees started to ache. As I kept walking, the pain would keep getting worse, so I picked up a tree branch on the side of the road and used is as a cane. My pace had slowed, but I kept pushing forward. However, the pain in my knees became too much to bear and finally I was not able to walk anymore. Night had fallen and because I did not know the streets, I started asking pedestrians the directions to the Unification Church’s headquarters. The second person I asked just happened to be a follower of the Unification Church and he paid for a taxi. That’s how I managed to arrive at church headquarters.
I finally arrived at church headquarters and wanted to use the restroom. However, I could not go without crawling, and I even had problems once in the bathroom. In this condition, I was taken to Isshin Hospital in Otsuka and received a night check-up. They told me I was severely malnourished and because I couldn’t walk, I was hospitalized. At that time, I weighed 39kg and at first, I had to be in a wheelchair, but after 50 days of being in the hospital, I was able to leave the hospital on March 31st. On the third day after being hospitalized, a reporter named Kazuhiro Yonemoto came and visited me at the hospital. This picture is a picture that Mr. Yonemoto took at that time.
The above-mentioned testimony was 12 years and 5 months of my experience of abduction and confinement in its entirety.
Lastly, when I reflect on the 12 years and 5 years of confinement, I can never feel like I was treated like a human being. While I was held in confinement, I muttered to myself many times, “Is this really Japan?!” And even to this present day, no matter how hard it is to believe, here in Japan, which should be a democratic country protecting the freedom and rights of its people, there are cases of deprogramming through abduction and confinement taking place in lawless condo’s and hotel rooms almost like the witch hunting in the Mid-Evil Ages. I was 31 years old when I was abducted. However, after finally being released and freed from confinement, I had become 44 years old. To make up for this lost and precious time, I am fighting desperately for my life; to live.
Originally, people of my family were not one’s to commit such shocking acts of violence. My family originally was composed of good-natured people. What and who on earth caused my family to change in this way? I especially and absolutely cannot forgive those that introduced and taught my family the methods of abduction and confinement used for deprogramming people.
Last June, falling under Article 220 of Criminal Law of attempted coercion, I filed chargesto the Ogikubo Police towards Shun Miyamura, the person who held me in confinement, Matsunaga, as well as my family. Thereafter, the police finished their investigation, and on the third of this month, the report was sent to the prosecutor’s office. Currently, it is being investigated by the prosecutors. For the prosecutors, I hope for a fair and strict criminal investigation and for strict judgment to be passed down. On top of that, I wish from the bottom of my heart that these kinds of cruel criminal acts of abduction and confinement that I experienced, violation of human rights, and family breakdown can be rooted out of Japan, a democratic country in which freedom and human rights have been protected, so such an event would never happen again.
Thank you very much.