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In a secular age, an authentic miracle must purport to be a hoax, in order to gain credit in the world.
October 6, 2007 5:59 AM   Subscribe

The Mahikari Hoax The Harvard Asia Quarterly tells the story of Fujimura Shinichi, a once-renowned amateur Japanese archaeologist nicknamed 'God's Hands' (神の手) for his seemingly preternatural talent for finding artifacts, who was caught planting planting stone tools, some of which he had fabricated himself, others he had taken from other sites, at an archaeological dig in Miyagi, northern Japan.

More at Wikipedia.

Fujimura, a former employee at an electronics factory in Miyagi Prefecture, confirmed that his forgery had begun as early as 1980 and involved 42 sites. It is possible that over 180 sites were affected by his forgery.

After being caught on film planting stone tools on camera in 2000, the 50-year-old Fujimura took asylum in a mental hospital. His communication with the outside world is mediated by his doctor and lawyer - even the Japanese Archaeological Association has been prevented from speaking with him. As a result, his motivation and the extent of his deceit are still unclear.

More at Japanese Wikipedia.
posted by KokuRyu (25 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Mahikari cult is fucked up. Great post KokuRyu, I've never heard of this before and it's deadly interesting.
posted by tellurian at 6:30 AM on October 6, 2007


Thanks, but it's *Makihari* (a place in Japan) rather than *Mahikari* (a cult).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:31 AM on October 6, 2007


The politics of paleo- and more recent archaeology are really interesting in the context of modern Asian nationalisms. There was much similar bullshit in China and various finds remain quite controversial. Fascinating post, KokuRyu.
posted by Abiezer at 6:38 AM on October 6, 2007


?? Thanks, but it's *Makihari* (a place in Japan) rather than *Mahikari* (a cult).
I'm confused. What's your first link to then, isn't it about this?
posted by tellurian at 6:54 AM on October 6, 2007


?? Thanks, but it's *Makihari* (a place in Japan) rather than *Mahikari* (a cult).
I'm confused. What's your first link to then, isn't it about this?


d'oh! Tellurian - you're so right. I hadn't even noticed that. I'm wrong wrong wrong...wrong.

Never heard of the Mahikari cult before, so I automatically read the English at the top of the page at the link as "Makihari", since it sounds more like Japanese, and Mahikari does not.

Anyway, interesting angle. Thanks for catching it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:08 AM on October 6, 2007


No worries KokuRyu, this is fascinating stuff. The guy was a master con man, he sucked in so many experts, some of them working alongside him when he made his discoveries. I wonder what his 'special device' for planting stone tools looks like "No traces of sediment disturbance were observed, and the artifacts were often found deep in the sections."
posted by tellurian at 7:17 AM on October 6, 2007


"Mahikari is the Japanese word for True Light. This expression, containing the characters for ‘true’ (ma, 真) and ‘light’ (hikari, 光 ), was introduced to the world by Mr. Kotama Okada, who founded the Mahikari organization in 1959."

What's bothering me is what the devil Mahikari has to do with the hoax. I realize they claim the Japanese are the oldest people and thus were happy with the fake discoveries, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be any connection; the first link seems to imply there is. (Also, if anyone is confused, like I was, by the varying references to "Mr." and "Ms." Okada: "After fifteen years of regular communications from God and dedicated service to society, Mr. Okada received his last revelation on 13 June 1974 at 2am. [24] This revelation detailed the urgency of completing the World Shrine to the Creator God (considered the Noah’s Ark of this age) and entrusted the leadership of the Mahikari Organisation to his foremost disciple, his adopted daughter, Ms. Keiju Okada.")

Maybe an admin could fix the misspelling "Makihari" in the post to aid future searches?
posted by languagehat at 7:29 AM on October 6, 2007


What's bothering me is what the devil Mahikari has to do with the hoax. I realize they claim the Japanese are the oldest people and thus were happy with the fake discoveries, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be any connection; the first link seems to imply there is.

From the Harvard Asia Quarterly article:

Since Japan does in fact have a vocal right-wing minority known for its claims of Japanese racial supremacy, as well as a history of right-wing involvement, some foreign observers of the Fujimura case immediately drew such a connection. Yet despite the appeal of this logic to those looking for an easy interpretation, it ignores many aspects of the case described in this article, including the trust and affection commanded by Fujimura, the importance of amateurs in Japanese archaeology, the lack of a precedent for such large-scale forgery (although two other isolated cases of artifacts planted in excavations had come to light in Japan in recent years, these incidents did not trigger alarm for those who dug with Fujimura), the constraints of salvage archaeology, and even the characteristics of Japanese archaeological sites.

Criticism that Japanese archaeology was merely a tool for national self-glorification therefore struck most Japanese archaeologists as unfair.

posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 AM on October 6, 2007


Like I said, I didn't really catch the "Ma-Hikari" connection when I posted the first link - scanning it, I thought it provided more of a precise summary of the actual hoax, and I misread the romaji (!) as Makihari. However, I had never heard of the Ma-Hikari cult before, and I personally doubt there is little if any connection between the cult and this archaeological hoax.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 AM on October 6, 2007


Oooh, archaeological fraud, Japanese cult of superior origins with pseudo-psychic cultie nutcase intrigue.

Adding to the bizarro factor, Earwax map charts history of Japan.
posted by nickyskye at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2007


Earwax consistency (wet vs. dry) is a common dinner table discussion topic with relatives. Mine is wet (or 'red'). My wife's is dry. My son has dry ear wax. My wife's sister has, inexplicably, 'wet' earwax.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 AM on October 6, 2007


Maybe an admin could fix the misspelling "Makihari" in the post to aid future searches?
I think that would be more confusing. A link spelt 'mahikari' leading to a page about 'makihari'? If KokuRyu stuck both words in the tags everything would be fine. As for the connection between the two, KokuRyu said it, it's an interesting angle.
On preview: Earwax consistency (wet vs. dry) is a common dinner table discussion topic with relatives
No way!
posted by tellurian at 8:20 AM on October 6, 2007


Is Mr. Miyagi involved in this somehow? Wax on, wax off?

"Shortly afterwards, the 50-year-old Fujimura took asylum in a mental hospital, where he remains today. His diagnosis has not been made public, and his communication with the outside world is mediated by his doctor and lawyer. Even the Japanese Archaeological Association’s official investigation committee has been prevented from speaking with him except in the presence of the doctor and lawyer. As a result, his motivation and the extent of his deceit are still unclear. Nor have any charges have been filed against him, since very little that transpired constitutes a crime according to Japanese law. He did not destroy archaeological sites, but rather created them, and in many cases he was not paid for his work."

Fujimura said "I was tempted by the devil. I don't know how I can apologize for what I did."

Do they believe in "the devil" in Japan?

"If Ms Okada has the all-seeing God-given powers that she claims, why didn't she know that the Kamitakamori finds were a hoax? Surely if she had genuine divine powers, she would have denounced these findings as flawed when they actually occurred, in 1994, and not used them as evidence in her teachings on the history Japan. Maybe she only has the powers of a normal human, after all."

Only human! the horror!

So that makes the Chinese an older race than the Japanese. Oh dear.

Sad really, in a comic way.

And yeah, the Japanese ear wax ritual is called Mimikaki (just to add to the Mahikari, Makihari, Mimikaki confusion).
posted by nickyskye at 8:34 AM on October 6, 2007


"...Centuries and centuries of idealism have not failed to influence reality. In the most ancient regions of Tlön, the duplication of lost objects is not infrequent. Two persons look for a pencil; the first finds it and says nothing; the second finds a second pencil, no less real, but closer to his expectations. These secondary objects are called hronir and are, though awkward in form, somewhat longer.

Until recently, the Hronir were the accidental products of distraction and forgetfulness. It seems unbelievable that their methodical production dates back scarcely a hundred years, but this is what the Eleventh Volume tells us.

The first efforts were unsuccessful. However, the modus operandi merits description. The director of one of the state prisons told his inmates that there were certain tombs in an ancient river bed and promised freedom to whoever might make an important discovery. During the months preceding the excavation the inmates were shown photographs of what they were to find. This first effort proved that expectation and anxiety can be inhibitory; a week's work with pick and shovel did not mange to unearth anything in the way of a hron except a rusty wheel of a period posterior to the experiment. But this was kept in secret and the process was repeated later in four schools. In three of them failure was almost complete; in a fourth (whose director died accidentally during the first excavations) the students unearthed - or produced - a gold mask, an archaic sword, two or three clay urns and the moldy and mutilated torso of a king whose chest bore an inscription which it has not yet been possible to decipher.

Thus was discovered the unreliability of witnesses who knew of the experimental nature of the search... Mass investigations produce contradictory objects; now individual and almost improvised jobs are preferred. The methodical fabrication of hronir (says the Eleventh Volume) has performed prodigious services for archaeologists. It has made possible the interrogation and even the modification of the past, which is now no less plastic and docile than the future.

Curiously, the hronir of second and third degree - the hronir derived from another hron, those derived from the hron of a hron - exaggerate the aberrations of the initial one; those of fifth degree are almost uniform; those of ninth degree become confused with those of the second; in those of the eleventh there is a purity of line not found in the original. The process is cyclical: the hron of the twelfth degree begins to fall off in quality. Stranger and more pure than any hron is, at times, the ur: the object produced through suggestion, educed by hope. The great golden mask I have mentioned is an illustrious example..."

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, Jorge Luis Borges
posted by nylon at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2007


Is Mr. Miyagi involved in this somehow? Wax on, wax off?

Since we're talking about ears, I would prefer if Mimi Miyagi were somehow involved...
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 AM on October 6, 2007


Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. Heavens to Murgatroyd. What's going on? I love it.
posted by tellurian at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2007


Hang on. How did we get to "Donations over $25 you will receive a free autographed 8x10"
posted by tellurian at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2007


So many passages in this piece relate to the post that I don't know what you're referring to nylon, but thanks for pointing to it.
"because the hypothesis of a lone inventor - an infinite Leibniz laboring away darkly and modestly - has been unanimously discounted". Wonderful.
posted by tellurian at 10:10 AM on October 6, 2007


nickyskye writes "Fujimura said 'I was tempted by the devil. I don't know how I can apologize for what I did.'

"Do they believe in 'the devil' in Japan?"


Yes. Or, rather, devils. Super-literally translated, probably "I was tempted by a devil". But it's just a figure of speech (魔が差した ma ga sashita) that was translated too literally. Think less "Satan commanded me to do this thing!" and more "the devil made me do it".
posted by Bugbread at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2007


Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, fascinating addition, nylon, to a wonderfully labyrinthine post/thread.

Archaeology frauds at the Museum of Hoaxes, Hoaxipedia.
posted by nickyskye at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2007


Thanks for the understanding bugbread. :) Am so impressed you speak fluent Japanese. Just looked at your really interesting and fun blog and there it says, plain as day "So, here I am, permanent resident of Japan, living here for 11 years, doing professional translation work". Way cool!
posted by nickyskye at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2007


How come, once he'd been caught, Mr Makihari didn't commit Makihari to save himself from a life of shame and dishonour?

Is Mr. Miyagi involved in this somehow? Wax on, wax off?

Daniel-san wasn't the only teenage boy making regular visits to *that* dojo. He always had a thing for tough kids, so after he got bored with Fonzie and his leather drag, he was always about the Kung Fu kids. A few years later, he started getting into the skinheads.

Everything I needed to know about being a hustler though, I learned from Mr. Miyagi. We still called him Arnold back in the day though.

I remember those lessons like it were yesterday...

- Paint that fence.
- Wank on, wank off, wank on, wank off.
- Breathe through nose, suck through mouth.
- Get down on all fours and sand that deck. Forget about the hand movements kid, it's all in the hip action...

Of course, they had to modify some of his teachings slightly for the big screen, but that's Hollywood for you, isn't it? The thing with the flies, though? He'd bet you ten bucks to a blow job that he could get your flies down and your junk out before you could get your hand over it to stop him. Well, a lot of kids tried, and a lot of kids failed. He'd always pay up after the blow job though. He was a stand-up guy like that.

Happy Days...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:57 AM on October 6, 2007


No traces of sediment disturbance were observed, and the artifacts were often found deep in the sections.
So, it would have to be like a syringe. One that doesn't disturb the surface, or after injection, rearranges the surface material to look like it hadn't been disturbed. Yet, large enough (in its delivery tube) to deliver a Paleolithic tool at some depth.
posted by tellurian at 11:02 AM on October 6, 2007


huh, PeterMc, sounds like you got your knickers in a twist.
posted by nickyskye at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2007


"Holy" and "science" used together should've set off some red flags.
posted by DaShiv at 1:00 PM on October 6, 2007


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