Fake Kyoto priest sought over scams on elderly

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept 17, 2007

Kyoto, Japan -- A man claiming to be a priest from a famous Kyoto temple and wearing purple priestly garb has sold Buddhist paintings and beads to at least 15 elderly people in Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures since April, after talking them into believing they had diseases, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Saturday.

The man reportedly gained the trust of his customers by showing them a name card that described him as a priest from Nanzenji temple, a head temple of the Rinzai sect, in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto.

The temple has posted a warning about the man on its Web site that says it is inexcusable for the man to misuse the temple's image and people's faith in Buddhism.

Police are investigating the cases.

According to the temple and other sources, the man approached elderly women at a coffee shop and other places and showed them his name card.

He would then recite an invocation, after which he would claim he could see they were suffering from cancer and would offer to sell them watercolor paintings and prayer beads for 5,000 yen to 20,000 yen.