Japan: Visitors to some shrines are targets of scammers

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Japan is considered a very safe country to travel to, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t places you need to be careful. Attractions popular with tourists are often targets of scammers. Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo’s Taito Ward is currently facing negative reviews.

Scammers target tourists

Recently, there have been more and more reports of fake monks approaching people and cheating them out of their money. As early as 2016, fake monks appeared at the shrine and specifically targeted tourists. They were identified as Chinese citizens in 2017 and arrested as fraudsters. Now that the number of visitors is increasing again, the fake monks have also returned to the site. They sell rosaries and amulets and claim to use the money they earn to repair the shrine.

Fake monks are rampant in temples in Japan

Monks sell amulets supposed to protect by magic, protect against spells

At first glance, fake monks look like real ones and wear typical clothing. They actively approach visitors and give them amulets. The tourists are happy with the gift until the monks insist that they pay for the amulet, asking for a price of 10,000 yen (around 63 euros). Many visitors are irritated, but think they are using the money to support the local sanctuary, which is why they do nothing. The shock is even greater when people realize that they have entrusted their money to fraudsters who have no connection with the sanctuary.

Shrine warns of false monks

According to local media, several fake monks roam the site. Women in blue robes were also found approaching visitors and also selling them amulets. The characters appear in Taito in civilian clothes and use the nearby public restroom to change. In the same way, they leave the place again in the evening. The false monks are believed to work in groups, with some approaching tourists and others acting as scouts and overseers.

Ueno Toshogu Shrine says it is aware of the problem, but it can be difficult to spot fake monks among tourists early on. Sanctuary employees now patrol the site and alert visitors, especially foreign tourists, of the danger. Similar scams have been reported in other places, so visitors should be careful that monks or employees never approach visitors at temples and shrines. Items offered should not be accepted. In most shrines and temples, original products are only sold in small adjoining shops.

A scam already known in the past is spreading again in Japan after the covid crisis. In front of shrines and temples like the Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo’s Taito district, many fraudsters disguised as monks sell souvenirs to tourists, such as rosaries, in order to use the money to finance necessary repairs at the sacred sites . The monks at the shrine emphasize that they will never approach visitors.

Catherine Mills Avatar