The huge headquarters of the Sukyo Mahikari religious sect dominates the mountainous skyline to the west of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture.
The World Shrine (Suza) is believed by followers of Sukyo Mahikari to enshrine the Su God, the creator of the universe.
The building, completed in 1984 at a reported cost of USD 500 million, is monumental in size topped with a large red globe (munadama) and contains many symbols and features that may be familar to followers of other religions.
The two Towers of Light resembles Islamic minarets, the Star of David and the Wheel of Dhamma is much in evidence and there is a reconstruction of the Quetzalcoatl Fountain from Mexico in the courtyard of the building.
The scarlet interior Great Hall of Worship (no photography allowed) is reminiscent of a massive North Korean movie theater. Adult visitors receive a small shot of local sake after their visit to the Great Hall of Worship.
Founded by Okada Yoshikazu (1901-1974), aka Okada Kotama, in the 1960s, Sukyo Mahikari is a mystifying, convoluted fusion of Japan-centric Buddhist, Christian and Shinto beliefs and appears to have much in common with another "new religion" Omotokyo.
Okada, an ex-army officer, seemingly Nazi sympathizer and committed Japanese imperialist, supposedly began receiving divine revelations from God in 1959, and it is these "revelations" that are the basis of the cult's creed.
A central feature of the cult is the ritual practice of "purification by divine light" (okiyome), in which a divine, healing light is transmitted from the palm of an initiate to another believer and the wearing of a locket (omitama) after new members have attended a three-day, paid initiation course.
Sukyo Mahikari, now lead by Okada's adopted daughter Keishu Okada, rejects much of modern medicine and promotes a form of organic farming (yoko agriculture).
There are estimated to be around 300,000 followers worldwide of Sukyo Mahikari with centers in Australia, the USA, Africa and South America.
6-83 Kamiokamoto-machi, Takayama, Gifu, 506-0055
Tel: 0577 34 7008
Takayama can be reached by express train from Nagoya Station in just over 2 hours. The World Shrine is about 25 minutes on foot from Takayama Station on national highway 158.
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Saturday, August 04, 2007