A leader of a Japanese QAnon group that believes COVID-19 was made up has been arrested for allegedly trespassing into a clinic offering vaccinations for children in Tokyo.
Hiroyuki Kuraoka, a 43-year-old anti-vax activist and former actor, was detained on Wednesday after he entered the facility earlier this month and protested the COVID-19 vaccinations it provided. Kuraoka leads YamatoQ, which describes itself as a Japanese version of the pro-Trump conspiratorial movement QAnon and claims to want to restore the “health and safety of young children.”
Kuraoka and 11 other members of his group came to the clinic on April 7 and demanded to speak to the clinic’s director. They reportedly shouted “inoculating children with COVID-19 vaccines is a crime” and “save kids” in an hourlong stunt. Police apprehended four members who were standing in the clinic’s waiting room, in what YamatoQ decried as “a clear suppression of citizens’ activities.” The others, including Kuraoka, were allowed to leave.
Anti-vaccination sentiments and activism have persisted in parts of Japan despite a relatively high vaccination rate of 80 percent nationwide, with groups like YamatoQ regularly demonstrating against inoculation and even questioning the very existence of the virus that has killed more than 6 million people worldwide.
Following Kuraoka’s arrest, his father Jiro Okazaki, an actor known for playing “tough guy” roles, apologised for his son’s actions.
“I hope that he will be punished severely by the law to atone for his crime, that he will make amends to everyone who was inconvenienced by this incident, and that he will be rehabilitated and become a person who can be of service to society as soon as possible,” he wrote in an online letter.
YamatoQ is one of several Japanese versions of QAnon, a term describing a bunch of conspiracy theories promoting a false reality that the world is run by Satan-worshipping child sex traffickers in government, the media, and powerful businesses. Some disciples of the theory believe former President Trump was waging a global war against those supposedly evil forces.
YamatoQ postulates similar claims that Trump “saved many children” from Satanists. It also falsely suggests that “COVID-19 does not exist” and that the vaccine contains a harmful pathogen. Some of the group’s videos have been taken down by YouTube for violating community guidelines.
The group is also heading a village revitalization project, in which they hope that YamatoQ members can live and work while growing vegetables and other foods free of pesticides.