The cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Toru Goto for more than 12 years – one of thousands of human rights violations in Japan
2nd part of the amazing story of Toru Goto, told in his own words
See part 1
Toru Goto (後藤徹) shared his story at a special symposium on the theme “Abduction and Confinement – Who Destroys Families?” 10th September 2023 at the Shibuya, Tokyo headquarters of the Family Federation of Japan. It was organised by the the Japanese Victims’ Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion. At the symposium, several victims of horrendous deprogramming attempts spoke.
Here is part 2:
At last, I thought I’d reached the point where I could visit my parents’ home again. However, I was the only one who thought so, and behind the scenes, my family, under the guidance of an “exit counselor”, was steadily looking for an opportunity to abduct me a second time and lock me up to get me to leave the group.
And the opportunity came. On 11th September 1995, when I returned to my hometown, a total of eight people were waiting for me, including not only my family, but also relatives and employees of Takashi Miyamura’s company. I don’t think anyone, let alone me, could have imagined that this confinement would last for an incredible 12 years and five months.
For the first two and a half years, I was forcibly detained in an apartment in Niigata (新潟), and after my father’s death, the place of detention was moved to Ogikubo (荻窪), Tokyo. There, I was to confront Miyamura (宮村峻) again.
In the innermost room, the size of six tatami mats [ca. 9,7 m²], I was made to face Miyamura across a low tea table. Former believers surrounded him. As many as ten people had gathered together in that small room. There, a faith-breaking operation was carried out on one member of the Family Federation.
By the way, Fumiaki Tada (多田文明), who is often seen on TV as a journalist knowledgeable about fraud and malicious business practices, was one of the former believers who came many times to the flat where I was locked up in Ogikubo (荻窪) to persuade me to leave the group.
I was forced to hear only bad information day in and day out. I felt afraid and in despair as I was having my faith destroyed. My faith was more important to me than my own life. No words can express how terrible the pain was.
One time, I climbed up on the bathtub and put my hand on the ventilation opening and shouted, “Help me!” I yelled as loud as I could. Then, I was dragged down with tremendous force from behind. It was Miyamura.
I grabbed whatever object I could to prevent being dragged away, but one by one, those were knocked down. The kitchen became a mess, and I was dragged by force to the innermost six-mat room. Such violent acts were carried out in the place I was detained.
After ten years in captivity, I went on a hunger strike to protest my forcible detention. The third time I decided to go on an indefinite fast, I gave up on the 30th day because I felt my life was in danger. However, after that, I was not given proper food for many days, and I was on the verge of starvation.
The end of the confinement came suddenly.
It was the evening of 10th February 2008, one year and ten months after my last hunger strike.
Suddenly, I was thrown out the front door, penniless and with only the clothes I was wearing.
That’s how I was released from captivity.
If you are released from confinement after 12 years and five months, what do you think would be the first thing you would feel? I looked up and saw the blue sky above me. Just to watch it really moved me as I saw it for the first time in a long time.
The freedom to look up at the blue sky. At the time, I was deeply moved by the fact that I could look up and see the blue sky. How precious it was! How grateful I felt! How wonderful that freedom was! Now, it’s nothing special, but when I was released, I was in that kind of state.
This photo was taken by reporter Kazuhiro Yonemoto at the hospital where I was admitted on the third day after my release from confinement, I was in a physically debilitated state, penniless and without a livelihood. I did not know where my former acquaintances were.
The only church facility whose location I knew, was here at the Shoto (松濤) headquarters in Shibuya (渋谷). I started walking from Ogikubo (荻窪) towards the Shoto headquarters. I later checked it, and it turned out to be about a distance of 10km. After a while, I suddenly started to feel pain below both knees because I hadn’t walked for a long time.
I used a wooden stick that I found on the side of the road as a cane and slowly moved forward. When I reached the intersection of Shoto (松濤) 2-chome, I couldn’t move a single step due to severe knee pain. Four hours had passed since I left the apartment, and it was already 8 pm at night. At that time, I was wearing a sweater that had been torn in a scuffle, old jersey pants, and leather shoes. My hair had been cut with scissors, so I had a buzz cut. I was walking with that stick, so I guess I looked like a homeless person.
It was a cold day in February. There were hardly any people on Yamate Street (山手通) at night. I was prepared to die for my faith. A young woman walked by, so I took the plunge and spoke to her. She was startled and stopped. She looked at me with suspicion. When I explained my situation, she gradually relaxed, and the expression on her face became softer. She pulled out a hymnbook used for Family Federation services from her bag and showed it to me.
And I said, “I’m a member.” It was a Sunday, and there was a worship service. With the help of that woman, I was able to make it to the Shoto (松濤) headquarters alive. When I later spoke to her, she told me that she usually didn’t pass by that place at that time of night. However, that day she happened to be delayed by something. I am convinced that the living God helped me.
I’ll say it again. It is absolutely impossible for family members or relatives to force someone to leave a religious organisation by kidnapping him or her and keeping the person forcibly detained. A deprogrammer must always intervene as a third party, and the believer’s family must receive lectures before the deprogramming can begin.
In that sense, I believe that also my family is a victim. This concludes my story. Thank you for your attention.
See part 1
Featured image above: Toru Goto 3 days after being released from 12 years and 5 months of forcible detention on 10th Feb. 2008. Photo: Kazuhiro Yonemoto / Japanese Victims’ Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion.
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