Fake monks targeting foreign visitors to Japan?
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 (US$185) 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.
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