Gifu -- Some 40 members of a bizarre cult have taken over a 200-meter stretch of road in Gifu Prefecture, covering up crash barriers and roadside trees with huge white cloths, it was learned Tuesday.
Officials of Hachiman and Yamato, the two central Japan towns that manage the Omami road, have urged members of the Fukui-based cult, the "Panawave Laboratory," to move out but they have refused to comply.
"One of us fell ill while we were heading to Yamanashi Prefecture (so we can't move)," one of the cultists, who are dressed in all white and wear surgical masks, said as their reason for occupying the road since last Friday.
A fleet of 13 white vehicles is parked alongside the Omami road as of Saturday afternoon. Since then, motorists who want to drive along the occupied 200-meter stretch are being stopped by Panawave members before they are allowed to go through.
Hundreds of newsmen have gathered at the scene but the cultists, who claim to be studying environmental damage triggered by electromagnetic waves, would not let them through. Occasionally some television news crewmembers were violently pushed away by cult members who argue that their TV cameras were emitting microwaves.
Local residents are understandably concerned.
"You don't normally see many cars on this road. This lot is freaky. I want them to get out of here," a local farmer said. Some residents have put up signs that read, "Get out now!"
Cultist held a news conference Saturday after police calmed down both parties. "A senior member suffers from terminal cancer after she came under a microwave attack from communist guerrillas," a cult spokesman said. They added that they are wandering around Japan in search of a place without electric pylons, which emit electromagnetic waves and badly affect the woman's health.
Panawave was reportedly formed in the late 1970s and has an official membership of around 3,000, although the real number is believed to be considerably lower.
The group claims that electromagnetic waves are causing catastrophic environmental destruction, including a rise in temperature. The damages caused by the waves will ultimately result in the end of the earth, according to the cult.
They also allege that scalar wave attacks are being carried out by communist terrorists who have dispersed around the world following the break up of the Soviet Union.
Panawave members always wear white garments saying that they protect them from the ill-effects of electromagnetic waves. They have previously been in trouble with authorities for blocking traffic and covering road signs, signals and trees with white cloths.
The cult is also believed to be sponsoring a group that tried to net Tama-chan the bearded seal who lived in a Yokohama river in March.