OSAKA (TR) – Osaka Prefectural Police have arrested a male priest at a shrine in Osaka City who is suspected of sexually abusing nearly one dozen female worshippers, reports Fuji News Network (Feb. 22).
In the latest allegations, Takakazu Kawabata, a senior priest at Samuhara Shrine, allegedly molested a woman who had visited the shrine for prayer in January.
According to police, Kawabata carried out such acts as pressing Shinto bells and other spiritual objects against her buttocks and touching her breasts with his hands.
On social media, Samuhara Shrine, located in Nishi Ward, has garnered a following for its supposed spiritual energy. Interest has been so great that obtaining amulets, said to ward off trouble, from the shrine is difficult.
Driving away bad luck
On January 25, police first arrested Kawabata over two separate incidents involving two other women, both in their 30s.
Kawabata initially said, “At first, we were praying normally. But as we continued and the mood became elevated I might have touched [them in some way].” He then denied having criminal intent.
However, he was quoted earlier this week as saying: “From the end of last year to January this year, I carried out similarly obscene acts on a total of about 10 women.”
The first two incidents, one of which also took place in January and the other in December, happened during private sessions with Kawabata that were for the purpose of driving away bad luck.
During the proceedings, Kawabata pressed a wand and the bells up against the hips and breasts of the women. The suspect also had them pose with their backs to him so that he could fondle their buttocks.
Both women later lodged complaints with police.
“We are confirming what happened, but if these claims are true, they are terrible acts,” a shrine representative was quoted by the Mainichi Shimbun in January.