lifestyle

Fake monks targeting foreign visitors to Japan?

22 Comments
By Richard Simmonds, RocketNews24

Buddhist priests and monks are a common sight in Japan, whether they be meditating, conducting religious ceremonies or looking wonderfully comical riding bicycles.

But recently posters have been popping up around Harajuku station in Tokyo warning tourists not to give money to a scam-artist masquerading as a monk, a man who ‘allwas swindles [sic]’ . While the non-native English may give us a chuckle, somebody out there has taken the time to warn visitors of the non-‘temples man’ swindling passers-by.

More provocative is the statement that the rapscallion is Chinese. While this might be like tabloid newspapers in the UK branding every homeless person in London as members of Eastern European criminal gangs, with the arrest of a 54-year-old Chinese man for impersonating a monk and soliciting donations from foreigners in Ueno Park and Akihabara, it may have been referring to an actual individual.

The arrested man had been able to make around 20,000 yen by selling prayer beads or thank you notes, supposedly to fund temple maintenance. The thank you notes, written in English, apparently cost the fake clergyman about one yen each to buy in China. Given that the 20,000 yen was allegedly made from just ten foreigners, that’s quite the mark-up.

Unfortunately, with the number of foreign visitors to Japan set to increase as the 2020 Olympics approach, scams like this may also increase. Anyone wanting to contribute to the upkeep of the many beautiful temples and shrines around Japan should do so at the collection boxes on site, or by buying one of the numerous  omamori (good luck talismans) with the added bonus of possible good luck!

Reference: NHK News Web

Read more stories from RocketNews24.

-- Words of wisdom and humor from 12 Buddhist temples (and… Cameron Diaz!?)

-- Keep your smartphone safe in a pouch styled after Japanese Shinto/Buddhist protection amulets

-- Women who attract chikan, and women who don’t”: The illustrated guide that’s provoking debate

© RocketNews24

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
Login to comment

This is real, I had a monk approach me and a friend in Ueno this past March. He came up asking us to sign his book praying for peace around the world. After which he handed us beads and paper coins, then proceeded to ask for a donation. The donation amounts were "ONLY" in 1,000 Yen intervals. I gave him 1,000, he then demanded that I give him 2,000 Yen, I forced my beads back to him and tried to retrieve my money, to which he refused to give it back. I ended up walking away, and my friend threw away the beads. So beware they are still out there, they will approach you asking if you wish to sign a book praying for world peace.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I was approached in Shibuya by this rogue monk conman too, or one similar. Showed me a shiny gold card of a Buddah and said i was very lucky. Then pulled out his book asking for a donation. Yeah, real lucky. Any so called holy man asking for money should always be told where to go in no uncertain terms.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yup! Had the exact same situation as Ricky above. Monk handed me a gold coin with Buddha on it, then proceeded to ask for money. When I refused to, he got mad and took the golden coin away. Thinking in hindsight I should have just thrown the coin away the moment I refused to give him any money.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Should give him some monopoly money. Just tell him it's from your country.

Fake money for the fake priest.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What surprises me more. The fact that this is only just now being covered by tabloids. Or the fact that its taken the police this long to arrest the 'monk'. This guy has been doing this for years! The first time I saw him was March 2015. Back then though he was trying to swindle you out of 10,000yen for his 'lucky beads' and good luck charm.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I always ask them for money. I tell them I'm down on my luck, and can't even afford to pay rent or feed my family.

So far none of them have ever given me a single yen.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I notice the homeless in Japan needs the money more then monks. If you feel like helping some one out, who is down on their luck, try slipping them a few dollars or a meal. When I am in the Cities all over the world I buy two meals when I am hungry and afterward find a homeless person and give it them the other meal.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Why would you give a monk money anyway, regardless of his bona fides?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There's often a guy in Ueno park doing this. Not sure why people give him money...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've seen these guys in Akihabara and Harajuku. In AKihabara usually in the back streets. Not sure if this was the same guy, but could have been the one arrested.

First they are dressed in fake orange monk covers. Real Japanese monks tend to wear brown/darker colors.

I saw this guy essentially walking up to every non-asian person showing each person some sort of piece of paper (from my understanding usually tells some fake story about a burnt down temple) and asks for donations. The vast majority of poeple I observed just ignored the guy and hey just kept asking.

A few years ago NHK did a report and followed one of these guys to some Chinese guesthouse near Ueno.

REAL Japanese monks will never walk up to you and ask you for money. They usually just stand near the station and if you donate freely they ring a bell, but they will never go up to you and ask for money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I learned traveling around the World that any person that randomly approaches me is not looking for free conversation. South Asia is a hotbed for this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've experienced this as well, at Ueno Park this year, and previously twice in Harajuku (by different people - so this isn't one isolated person's idea). The man said "peace" and handed some plastic/gold Buddhist trinket to me, then showed me his book of donations and expected some money. In Ueno this year, he was clearly bouncing from foreigner to foreigner during cherry blossom season.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Near Ueno park there were often people collecting money for "victims of the Kobe earthquake", even more than 10 years after the event. I always thought they were crooks. The place seems to attract them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So a Chinese person cannot be a monk in Japan? Why not? Anyway, as far as the Japanese, anyone who is married is NOT a monk so perhaps we should call them all frauds. It's pretty laughable that anyone in this country should ask for money for temple-maintenance being that temples are a scam (owned by rich Japanese people).

Buddhist priests and monks are a common sight in Japan, whether they be meditating, conducting religious ceremonies or looking wonderfully comical riding bicycles. These are often paid actors. I had a friend that did it. They are paid hourly to deal with funerals. Oy Veh on the always cutesy writing from rocket "news."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Real" Japanese monks are kind of like conmen too, but in a more sophisticated way.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I was approached by one of these monks in Asakusa. He gave me a "present", a flat oval shaped piece of metal stamped with an image of Buddha, and then asked for a donation. I asked him why donations were required for presents and gave it back to him. He got slightly hostile and shouted abuse at me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In NYC too. Same same.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This actually happened to me in Chicago. Sounds like a trend among street criminals. :|

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hoods on!!! (masks off)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Occasionally, there's a real monk in front of Hachioji Station "asking" for donations. But he will stand motionless in one spot, and ring a bell once in a while. He will never approach you. That's how the real ones do it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In NY it is the crazy HariKrishna people.

In Machida there is a monk there all the time but he just stands there. Does not pester anyone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A Hare Krishna tried a similar take 19yrs ago in Kichijoji.

Mitaka Station has one of the silent monks standing there, local buddhist temple said they don't ask for alms. He further said most of them are fakes and non-japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites