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Fake monks scam foreign tourists out of their cash in Tokyo

50 Comments
By SoraNews24

Japan has a reputation for being a safe place to travel to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your wits about you while visiting the country’s top tourist spots. One such spot where you should be particularly careful is Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Taito Ward, Tokyo, where there have been recent reports of fake monks scamming tourists out of their money.

▼ Ueno Toshogu Shrine is located within Ueno Park, one of the country’s most popular hanami viewing spots during sakura season.

Screen-Shot-2023-10-03-at-8.28.47.png

Fake monks have actually been appearing at this particular shrine since as far back as 2016, and in 2017, a Chinese national posing as a fake monk was arrested in relation to the scam. With tourists now back in increasingly high numbers, the fake monks have returned to the shrine grounds as well, and similarly to previous years, they are selling prayer beads and amulets, under the guise that the money paid for them will act as a donation to help repair the shrine.

One recent news reporter witnessed a tourist being scammed out of their money at the shrine, as the monk, dressed in an orange robe, approached them and gave them the amulet. Thinking it to be a gift, the tourist thanked the monk, who then insisted they needed to pay for it, with the price being 10,000 yen.

After the transaction had been made, the reporter approached the tourist to ask them what had just happened. The tourist showed the reporter the amulet and explained that he’d bought it from the monk. The reporter then informed them that it was a scam, and the tourist appeared stunned, having fully believed the monk was associated with the shrine.

According to the news report, there wasn’t just one fake monk at the shrine when they visited, but several, with two women in navy blue robes also approaching tourists as well. Upon speaking to one of the women, she told the reporter she was from Thailand, but refused to answer any more questions, instead heading to the public restroom at Ueno Station where she later emerged wearing civilian clothes.

The fake monks are believed to work in groups, with some acting as executioners who approach the tourists and others acting as lookouts. Ueno Toshogu Shrine says it is aware of the problem but it is difficult to file a damage report as they are targeting foreign tourists and not the shrine directly. However, staff members are patrolling the grounds and asking people to be careful.

So if you or anyone you know is travelling to Japan, be sure to let them know about the scam so they don’t fall victim to it. Monks or other staff at temples and shrines in Japan will never approach visitors to sell products, so if you are approached by someone it’s important to refuse the item first to avoid being in a situation where you feel obliged to pay for it. And it’s not just at Ueno Toshogu Shrine that you have to be careful — there have been reports of fake monks at tourists sites in Kyoto and other areas around Tokyo.

Source: FNN via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

50 Comments
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These foreigners scamming foreigners need to be rounded up and deported ASAP. Despicable. And it ruins the reputation of Japan too.

20 ( +24 / -4 )

Upon speaking to one of the women, she told the reporter she was from Thailand, but refused to answer any more questions, 

Anyone can say they are not Japanese and from another country! Yes, there are also bad criminal Japanese that are out and about!

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Thinking it to be a gift, the tourist thanked the monk, who then insisted they needed to pay for it, with the price being 10,000 yen.

Oh dear. A bit of the "King's English" with a word derived from the Latin future and Old German, would have sorted that scoundrel out.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Latin futuere*

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Fake monks have actually been appearing at this particular shrine since as far back as 2016, and in 2017, a Chinese national posing as a fake monk was arrested in relation to the scam.

Oh it's the Chinese or Koreans. This is rich coming just after the news about the Moonies and LDP.

How about removing all religious groups tax exemptions and benefits so you do not have 'monks' and priests tooling about in luxury cars and jets?

Talk about a train on society, not to mention their malign influence on politics.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

On passing temples and shrines in Japan, I am always surprised to see the quality of cars in the driveways.There are also parking spaces being rented out by some local shrines where I am-the proceeds are tax free.

Who would really take the trouble to worry about people dressing up and trying to make a living fooling rich ignorant tourists?

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Should be easy enough to catch them.

Surely J-Police can handle this.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Aren't all monks fakes?

5 ( +16 / -11 )

Obviously not.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Thinking it to be a gift, the tourist thanked the monk, who then insisted they needed to pay for it, with the price being 10,000 yen.

I would have thrown it back into his face

5 ( +11 / -6 )

I’d imagine the people getting caught by the scammers are easy marks. You know the type. Come to Asia to feel spiritual or something, has a “monk” dressed in completely different garb than the shrine they are in front of but not like they would notice, and had no idea that shrine workers don’t peddle on the street. But hey, it made them feel special and connected

don’t buy stuff off people on the street is the lesson

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I've yet to meet a 'real' monk who declines donations.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I would prefer to give money to scammers than to an actual monk.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I've seen the "free gift" scam for at least 15 years now, first from a Hari Krishna in the US offering a "free book" that he then wanted me to pay for, again from a very fake-looking monk in Kuala Lumpur with some little amulet.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I would prefer to give money to scammers than to an actual monk.

That's got to have a back story worth sharing.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

a Chinese national posing as a fake monk 

The sentences say it all.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

There are also reports of Chinese taxi drivers scammers at Narita.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

fake priests doing same thing at wedding venues...

But you know he is fake at the wedding.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Who would really take the trouble to worry about people dressing up and trying to make a living fooling rich ignorant tourists?

Because it damages the reputation of the country and it makes it harder for legitimate charities to raise money.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

a Chinese national posing as a fake monk 

the Chinese language has the idiom 能骗就骗 "if you can cheat, then cheat

4 ( +9 / -5 )

So if you or anyone you know is travelling to Japan, be sure to let them know about the scam so they don’t fall victim to it. 

I'm telling everyone!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Look take the amulet, offer up and prayer walk away and insist it is a gift.

Let the Monk call the police, and watch all and sundry stumble back and forth attempting to crash the language barrier.

Keep bowing thanking the Monk for his generosity.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Ueno Toshogu Shrine says it is aware of the problem but it is difficult to file a damage report as they are targeting foreign tourists and not the shrine directly.

Great attitude - but they are happy to take money from the foreign tourists, and in this case, are missing out on the 'donation'.

One recent news reporter witnessed a tourist being scammed out of their money at the shrine

The all-knowing reporter did not think to help the tourist?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I remember the book scam in London, my friend was caught out, I seethed.

She, the cats mother, best friend, kind hearted, wouldn't say boo to a goose. was well and truly swindled.

I jumped on my bike, Oxford street, spotted the scammers, pulled up, put my best nice-but-dim face on asked for all the book for friends, purse in hand, then just cycling off books in basket pronto, fast/slow enough for them to chase after.

Stopping and starting until reaching the Tottenham court road tube station where i flagged down a police car.

What goes round comes around,

From the short time I have spent in the financial sector I can spot a scam from the milky way.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

wallaceToday  07:34 am JST

Aren't all monks fakes?

Especially in Japan. All their activities are solely for making money for themselves. Drive around in luxury cars, eat at expensive restaurants yet provide zero support to people and the community. Ever seen a soup kitchen, charity drive, volunteer activity by these fakes. Nope. There's no difference.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The all-knowing reporter did not think to help the tourist?

How did the police bust the fake monk? With the help of the Japanese reporter??? Moreover, by running a story about fake monks, the reporter is helping other potential victims.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So if you or anyone you know is travelling to Japan, be sure to let them know about the scam so they don’t fall victim to it. Monks or other staff at temples and shrines in Japan will never approach visitors to sell products, so if you are approached by someone it’s important to refuse the item first to avoid being in a situation where you feel obliged to pay for it. And it’s not just at Ueno Toshogu Shrine that you have to be careful — there have been reports of fake monks at tourists sites in Kyoto and other areas around Tokyo.

You can simply say 'Thanks but no thanks'. This sounds like a rip-off right from the start, and it's sad that there are shysters who do these things in the name of any and all religions. Thanks for the warnings, JT.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The fake monks are believed to work in groups, with some acting as executioners who approach the tourists and others acting as lookouts. Ueno Toshogu Shrine says it is aware of the problem but it is difficult to file a damage report as they are targeting foreign tourists and not the shrine directly. However, staff members are patrolling the grounds and asking people to be careful.

This raises the question of why the police aren't taking care of it as this is obviously criminal behavior being brazenly carried out literally in broad daylight.

Scammers dressed up in monk cosplay wandering around a known location should be relatively easy to catch I would think.....

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Warning signs need to be erected outside of the temples and shrines.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

wallaceToday  11:08 am JST

Warning signs need to be erected outside of the temples and shrines.

I've seen warning signs about that at the Seattle and Chicago airports, esp. about those Hare Krishnas. But the signs don't just refer to them.

And these shrines and temples are meant to be tourist attractions and houses of prayer. Jesus Christ referred to this practice as turning them into dens of thieves. And stealing is not what any religion worth its salt is all about.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

a Chinese national posing as a fake monk was arrested in relation to the scam.

Sounds about right.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Because it damages the reputation of the country and it makes it harder for legitimate charities to raise money.

Didn't our mummies tell us not to give our money away to strangers?

Perhaps those tourists never listened eh?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

So, judging by this article, all the fake monks scamming people are foreigners? They used one incidence of it in 2017 and now we are to believe only gaijin do it.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Seen this scam in many Asian countries for many years.

I almost got scammed for my first time and realized that quickly that it was a scam.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Elvis...

That's got to have a back story worth sharing.

No back story, but the scammers are only scamming for a few hours. The "real priests" make it their whole life.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Thinking it to be a gift, the tourist thanked the monk, who then insisted they needed to pay for it, with the price being 10,000 yen.

If you actually fall for this, you deserve to be scammed. A little common sense goes a long way.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I've seen them around Harajuku, and recently, I've seen then same in Seoul with the exact same tactics. I take their token and when they ask for money, I toss it in the ground.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I live near Ueno and previously interveind tell people these people are fake, this was a problem before covid and at that time signs warning tourists were in place.

Those signs have disappeared during COVID, time to bring them back.

As for why the police don't do something or are unable, it is in the article.

The fake monks are believed to work in groups, with some acting as executioners who approach the tourists and others acting as lookouts.

Unless the police are in plainclothes these lookouts will warn the fake monks.

They even have escape routes.

I have seen this in action.

My wife and I have also been threatened by these accomplices after we intervened warning tourists.

And yes they are foreigners, sorry to burst the bubble of some here but in every case they were not Japanese and despite the women in the article claiming to be Thai everyone I have confronted was Chinese.

The orange robes should be the biggest giveaway.

As in the photo, it is very rare Japanese monks looking for donations wear orange they wear black, they do not sell anything, they stand near perfectly still with a bowl in one hand and either a bell or staff with a bell and people give small change.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Aren't all monks fakes?

Only if you are an Ikeda cultist follower.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Some people who cover Japanese news in English come up on my Twitter. This week, a couple of them have been talking about a tourist from NYC saying that eating lunch in Tokyo for 1500 to 2000 yen is like eating "for free". Another described how some guy from Australia ordered five lunches because they wanted to try them all.

If 1500 to 2000 yen is "free" to tourists, I can't say I'm that bothered if other people calling themselves monks get that or a bit more money out of them. It's only "free" money, right?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Funny part is if you offer to give tours to people you can be charged for not having a license, but I guarantee police aren’t going after these monks.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

So cosplay is illegal?

Also, I've seen places that give stuff but then insist on a donation. We should crack down on that business model altogether.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One of them tried that with me outside Tokyo Station, several years ago, but a passing young lady took that amulet out of my hand and gave it back to him, then took my by the arm and in perfect English told me what he was doing. I took his photo and he hurried off.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Anyone who gives money to any religion/cult is daft. Where do you think the money’s going? To the starving in Africa?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Scamming Monks? Don't Let Them Make a Monkey out of You !

Monkey Them Into Prison!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@Wandora I WANDA where that came from. People are starving in everywhere, poverty is not just in AFRICA go figure!!!

Anyone who gives money to any religion/cult is daft. Where do you think the money’s going? To the starving in Africa?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What if they just identify as a 'real monk'?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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