Japanese poster campaign warns tourists about ‘Chinese monks’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 10:43pm

Posters have appeared in locations in central Tokyo calling on foreign tourists not to give donations to people dressed as monks because they are imposters.

The handmade fliers include a drawing of a man in the dark robes of a priest and a number of warnings, including “He is a cheat”, “He always swindles,” “Warning” and “A Chinese”.

The warnings are being posted despite the arrest earlier this month of a Chinese national on charges of violating the terms of his tourist visa, heightening concerns that the arrest was not a one-off and that an organised crime group is targeting overseas visitors in Japan.

Chen Xianlou was detained wearing monk’s robes and after being seen selling Buddhist charms to foreigners in Ueno Park and the Akihabara district between mid-February and early March, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.

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Chen, who is identified as being a 54-year-old farmer presently of no fixed address, allegedly approached foreign tourists with a sign in English that read “Please help build Buddha’s temple.”

Chen has reportedly told police that he sold Buddhist charms and bracelets, earning around Y20,000 (HK$1,427) a day. Around 10 tourists fell for the scam each day.

“To earn money and buy food, I sold charms and other items by pretending to be a Japanese-style monk,” police quoted Chan as saying. Japanese police have called on the public to be aware of the problem, although the fake monks appear to be targeting foreigners, in part because they are less comprehending of traditional customs in Japan.

They also believe that an organised group is carrying out the scam, a belief borne out by the new posters and the experiences of a number of foreigners.

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“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],” wrote a poster on the popular Japan Today website.

Another contributor reported seeing a monk “walking up to every non-Asian person” and claiming to be collecting donations for a temple that has been destroyed in a fire.

A British poster on the RocketNews24 site said she was “targeted” in Akihabara: “I just tried to get rid of him with coins, but when I opened my purse he made a grab for the notes. Luckily I was quicker than he was.”