Hiroko Yamasaki (former Olympian) joined and left

Hiroko Yamasaki (former Olympic athlete in rhythmic gymnastics) joined and left the FFWPU (was Unification Church)

Her book is titled, When love turns out to be not true

After school Hiroko Yamasaki went to the Tokyo Women’s College of Physical Education and came to be referred to as the “queen of rhythmic gymnastics”. She was the individual overall winner of the All-Japan Championships for five consecutive years, from 1979 to 1983. Until now this record has not been broken.

This feat stirred up a boom in rhythmic gymnastics and it became a hot topic as a new sporting event.

Ms Yamasaki took 20th place in the individual competition at the World Championships at the 1979 London Games. She said it no longer felt like a “marginal” sport.

Rhythmic gymnastics first appeared as an Olympic sport at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Yamasaki participated representing Japan; she finished eighth overall in the individual field, making a brilliant comeback. Her repeated success continued to boost rhythmic gymnastics as a popular sport.

However, she retired that year and opened a rhythmic gymnastics school; she was also active in talent quiz programs.

She joined the Unification Church (also known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification) in January 1989. Many were very surprised by her attendance at the 1992 mass wedding. Atsuko Tokuda, a Japanese world-class badminton player, and the singer Junko Sakurada, a “talento” also attended. The Japanese media took great interest.

The Australian:
February 1999: “TWO young women – one an Olympic rhythmic gymnast, the other a famous singer-actress – found God and salvation in a church that promised to find each of them a dream man. In a blaze of glory nearly seven years ago, their arranged marriages assured the future of the Unification Church – the Moonies – in Japan.

Now the experience of one of them, 1984 Los Angeles Olympian Hiroko Yamasaki, is an example for the 4,000 Japanese Moonies married yesterday at a mass wedding in Seoul.

After the Reverend Sun Myung Moon founded the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954, the church was set up in Tokyo in 1959 and was registered 1969. But it really took off in Japan after Ms Yamasaki, then 32, and “talento” entertainer Junko Sakurada joined 20,000 others from 131 countries in the church’s mass arranged wedding in South Korea in August 1992.

Ms Sakurada disappeared from public life soon after the ceremony. She is happily married with three children and wants to stay out of the limelight, a church spokesman says.

Within seven months of the wedding Ms Yamasaki, too, had disappeared – but without telling her new husband Hideyuki Teshigawara, then 28. He filed a missing person’s notice on March 10, 1993. Police began a 46-day search amid rumours Ms Yamasaki had been kidnapped or run away from the church. [In response to the efforts of her family and a pastor, she decided to reconsider and she left.]

Then on April 21, 1993 she appeared at a dramatic nationally televised news conference, saying “Everything was a mistake”. She announced her decision to leave her marriage and the Unification Church.

“I was placed in a world of delusion where people’s minds were being controlled,” she said later. “So I still cannot figure out to what extent the affection I felt towards Teshigawara was real.”

She has had support. “Only people who have been deeply involved in the activities of the organisation can understand how serious the problem is,” a person who knows Ms Yamasaki told The Australian at the weekend. “Outside people will not understand. To persuade the people to get out is extremely difficult. It may take a whole life.”

About 40,000 couples from across the world were due to be married in the Seoul ceremony yesterday, but most were already wed and simply reaffirming their vows. The church spokesman said this mass wedding would not be as important for Japan, “without any talento.” Yet 12,000 Japanese Moonies paid their airfares and accommodation on top of a 1.4 million yen ($19,178) donation to the church to participate in a four-day festival that culminated in the ceremony.

The Moonies suffered from Ms Yamasaki’s disappearance and a backlash against cult religions following the 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo by the Aum Supreme Truth sect. They have been ordered to pay damages to women who were coerced by Moonies into giving donations. Yet the Unification Church still has many members in Japan.

In 2014 Ms Yamasaki was the national coach of the Japanese women’s rhythmic gymnastics team.

▲ Hiroko Yamasaki’s book, ‘When love turns out to be not true’ (1994) is well written.

Translated from the Japanese:

The faith people have to guide their lives

Caught in the Unification Church, and how I escaped from there ― An honest testimony of love and conflict, written from the heart by one woman who tried to live up to her ideals!

I set foot in the religion in January 1989. On that day I had in my hand an expensive seal. A set of three cost me 1.2 million yen. I thought that was a very high price. However, I considered doing this would improve my fortune – which I had been told was going downhill. If the path I was going on continued, I felt the rhythmic gymnastics school I had begun would end up in disaster. (It’s fine if I end up being deceived.)

In exchange for the enormous sum of 1.2 million yen, I was made to bear an incredibly heavy destiny.
(extract from the book)

愛が偽りに終わるとき 山崎 浩子 (著) 262 pages


私がその宗教に足を踏み入れたのは一九八九年の一月のことだった。その日、私は高価な印鑑を手にしていた。三本セット、百二十万円。 高い買い物だと思った。しかし、これで私の下降気味だという運勢を上昇させることができるという。 もしこのまま落ちていくとするならぱ、 やっとの想いで始めた新体操スクールは、きっとダメになるのだ。(だまされてもいいや) 私は百二十万円の大金と引き換えに、とてつもなく思い運命を手にすることになった。

published March 1, 1994 by 文藝春秋      ISBN: 978-4163489001

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