Japanese court throws book at foot cult

The cult tells followers they'll die if their feet aren't inspected.

Published May 9, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Pull those socks off. According to Japanese cult Ho-no-hana Sampogyo, if you have short toes, you have a short temper, too. Fat toes? Your life will be filled with good fortune.

Sounds innocent enough, but Japanese cult leader Hogen Fukunaga also told his followers that they could die if they did not have the soles of their feet inspected, according to the Associated Press. Of course, this foot inspection did not come free -- some believers paid Fukunaga up to U.S.$935,000 in order to ensure their health.

There's nothing like getting ripped off to make you come to your senses. Four years ago, some of Fukunaga's followers began to defect, and 1,000 of them eventually filed lawsuits. Fukuoka District Court Judge Motoaki Kimura recently proclaimed the cult legally responsible for defrauding its followers, and ordered it to pay U.S.$2.12 million to 27 former members.

Judge Kimura explained to the Kyodo News Agency that the cult "significantly deviated from the range of what is permissible in the name of religious training."

By J.A. Getzlaff

J.A. Getzlaff's Daily Planet appears every weekday. Do you have a tip or tale for J.A.? Send it to DailyPlanet@salon.com.

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