International Journal of Parapsychology © 2000 Parapsychology Foundation, Inc.
Volume 11, Number 2, 35-60 ISSN: 0553-206X, New York, NY, USA
Japanese Studies on Anomalous
Phenomena in the 1990s
Hideyuki Kokubo and Tosio Kasahara
National Institute of Radiological Sciences
& the Laboratory of Mind Studies
Throughout the 1990s, scientific studies dealing with anomalous
phenomena have been actively pursued in Japan following a nation-wide
rise in interest in supernatural phenomena and qigong. Television pro-
grams introduced claimed training methods for the development of psi
in the early 1990s. In 1991, another TV series dealt with near-death
experiences. Best-selling books about paranormal phenomena appar-
ently caused by Sathya Sai Baba appeared in 1993, and there was a gradual
change in social demands for alternative medical care. Orthodox scien-
tists, who were expanding their professional territories to include even
the parapsychological domain, promoted research activities. At the same
time, on the other hand, skeptical and cautious attitudes developed
nationally, possibly brought on by the unprecedented crimes of not a few
members of AUM Shinrikyo, a religious cult, and by fraudulent healers
Articles or chapters of books which depicted parapsychological
studies in Japan had already been published in English as well as in
Japanese. Among these were volumes by Otani (1960, 1967, 1973),
Shepard (1984), McClenon (1989), and Berger and Berger (1991). One
of us (Kokubo, 1998) recently published a paper on the history of
Japanese parapsychology from the mid-1940s on, including the academic
activities of research groups in the 1990s. The present paper deals more
extensively with Japanese studies either published in scientific journals
or presented at professional conferences in the 1990s. We believe that
Please address correspondence to Hideyuki Kokubo, Bio-Emission Laboratory,
Division of Radiation Research, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, 9-1, Ana-
gawa-4, Inage-ku, Chiba263-8555, Japan, or via email at email@example.com,or to Tosio
Kasahara, Laboratory of Mind Studies, 2-10-8-514 Nishi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku,
Tokyo 141-0031, Japan, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
parapsychology should be an interdisciplinary field, with research con-
ducted across many branches of science. Therefore, scientific studies on
anomalous phenomena by orthodox scientists are also reported here,
albeit few of these scientists would probably consider their own work to
Research Movements in the 1990s and Their Background
In the 1990s, scientists working in orthodox disciplines began to study
anomalous phenomena much more actively and positively than before,
including those phenomena ordinarily studied by parapsychologists,
which were long ignored by the mainstream. In recent religious and
anthropological studies, the role of the paranormal in shamanism,
Chinkon practices in Shintoism, and accounts of NDEs, have come to be
positively reconsidered. In social-psychological studies, so-called occult
movements have come to be regarded as less exceptional, and rather as
the inevitable outgrowth of the development of modern society. Quite a
few professionals in medicine, physics, engineering, and chemistry have
started to study anomalous effects of qigong. Several physicists, aiming at
a Tusconian approach to the problem of consciousness,1have attempted
to explain paranormal phenomena from the viewpoint of the physics of
Although the above studies do not always presuppose the existence
of psi, at least in part they seem to fulfill the following prediction made
by Dr. Ian Stevenson of the Division of Personality Studies at the
University of Virginia: “ … new investigators with the new ideas … will
come from among well-trained scientists of recognized disciplines …
[and their] curiosity will arouse their interest in the study of paranormal
phenomena” (Stevenson, 1988, p. 315). The general situation may imply
that contemporary academic communities have become more tolerant
than ever of such studies, and they do not suppress these researchers
solely on the grounds that they are working with those phenomena. This
tendency can also be seen in the establishment of some new laboratories
for psi research, and in the founding of several academic societies which
cover such anomalous phenomena as qigong and psi. In 1991, the Society
for Mind-Body Science and the ESPER Laboratory (closed in 1998)
were founded in Japan. In 1995, the International Society of Life
36 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
1. For more information on the Tuscon conferences on consciousness, see the
following url: http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu.
Information Science was established. Table 1 shows the characteristics
of the three academic societies which publish their own peer-reviewed
A new movement towards absorbing the study of anomalous phenom-
ena into established branches of science was also observed at the end of
1990s, in the favorable situation created by the rise of a national interest
in complementary, alternative, and traditional medicines, applied fields
which could contain psi as one of theirbasic research subjects along with
external-qi therapy and the mind-body problem. This movement has
mainly been stimulated and accelerated by information about a gradual
increase in the utilization of therapeutic touch (Krieger, 1979) in hospi-
tals in the USA, and by the promising evolution of the Office of
Alternative Medicine into the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health there. We
believe the movement in Japan towards an openness to research of some
paranormal phenomena in established disciplines of science will con-
tinue for the time being.
On the other hand, skeptics have also become more and more active,
and as a matter of course, the largest skeptical society in Japan. The
organization, the Japan Skeptics, is affiliated with the CSICOP (the
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranor-
mal), was established in 1991. Skeptics have been making efforts to
demonstrate through their publications and TV shows, possible means
of commiting fraud when producing “so-called paranormal phenom-
Among experimental studies on paranormal phenomena carried out
in the 1990s, the most prominent were those by qigong researchers who
had just arrived on the scene in Japan. In the usual method of qigong
training, a trainee tries to imagine the flow of qi (or ki) throughout his
or her body, and to control it. Imaged qi is called “internal qi”whenit
circulates in the body and it is called “external qi”(orwaiqi) when elicited
outside the body. Qigong research is divided into two different aspects:
an approach to health science involving mainly internal qi, and research
into anomalous effects caused chiefly by external qi. The former has been
accepted publicly more easily, so that many researchers have been
disposed to study qigong exclusively from this viewpoint. The latter,
focusing on anomalous effects including treatment by external qi and the
detection of anomalous signals with physical and/or chemical sensors,
can be considered to be in actuality psi or bio-PK research (Braud &
Schlitz, 1991; Solfvin, 1984). Qigong researchers have been making
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 37
Academic Societies Publishing Peer-Reviewed Journals
1968 Parapsychology About
1or2 Japanese or
Society of Life
Society of Life
38 vIJP, Volume 11, Number 2
efforts to study these phenomena by using various electronic instruments
to search for their principles and mechanisms; and such activities may
throw new light onto the understanding of psi in the future. The theory
of qi has not yet been established, although some theorists have specu-
lated that qi must be something substantial, or that qi must be a complex
phenomenon involving psychological factors.
Most qigong researchers in Japan are not well acquainted with para-
psychology, nor conversely, are most Japanese parapsychologists ac-
quainted with qigong research. After the introduction of qigong research
into Japan, it was misidentified with psi research for a time. This was
probably because anomalous effects due to external qi were subject to
exaggerated claims. Recently, such misidentification has been observed
less often; but still, some scientists do not discriminate qigong from psi
in their articles. In these cases, three possible factors may be involved, as
1. Definition of qigong masters. In order to gain public acceptance,
experimenters often purposefully designate psychics as qigong mas-
ters in their publications, and some psychics habitually call
themselves qigong masters.
2. Influence from Chinese thought towards somatic science. Chinese
somatic science assumes that qi has a basis in common with psi, and
that qigong and psi are essentially inseparable from each other
because both exist along the same spectrum of qi.
3. Extension of the territories of orthodox science. The frontiers of
orthodox science have been duly extended to includethese paranor-
Factors 2 and 3 are reminiscent of the current stance taken by some
parapsychologists who prefer the blanket term “anomalous phenomena,”
and who place psi somewhere along a spectrum that has “normal” at one
end and “paranormal” at the other. In other words, these scientists seem
to believe that working in a wider framework is more appropriate than
working restrictedly in the parapsychological domain. This attitude can
be properly illustrated by the introduction of the term “anomalous
somatic functions” which they prefer to the term psi.
Research in the 1990s
In this section, research conducted in the 1990s is described. We have
selected a number of distinctive studies which best illustrate the state of
the art of Japanese investigations into anomalous phenomena.
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 39
Onodera (1997), a psychologist at Tokai Women’s Junior College,
investigated in India the claimed phenomenon in which amrita2flowed
out of a pendant with a photograph of Sathya Sai Baba mounted in it
(Haraldsson, 1989, pp. 19-20), and purported predictions were made
through the so-called “leaves of Agastya.” No liquid effusion phenome-
non could be confirmed, although an examination of the pendant was
made with the naked eye. Unfortunately, Onodera could not examine it
more rigorously, because the pendant’s owner declined his request. A
chemical analysis of a sample of the amrita revealed that its chief
ingredient was sucrose. As to the “leaves predictions,” Onodera felt that
this was accomplished through a kind of fortune-telling which depended
on mental tricks.
Nagato Azuma, an ophthalmologist, investigated paranormal phe-
nomena from the standpoint of psi-in-process (Giesler, 1984) in the mid-
1980s. His investigations included the study of anomalous modes offolk
medicine and other paranormal phenomena observed in Brazil. His
findings were published in a book co-authored with anthropologist
Patrick Giesler (Azuma & Giesler, 1995). Their book is a systematic and
comprehensive contribution, which contains descriptions of: the cultural
and religious backgrounds of Brazilian folk medicine; the developmental
processes of healers; investigations into case studies of individuals whose
ailments were treated by psychic healing; cases of claimed memories of
previous lives; theoretical considerations of healing mechanisms; and
even a comparison of Brazilian healing practices so-called psychic heal-
ing observed in the Philippines (Azuma & Stevenson, 1987).
Among other studies are a series of investigations by one of us
(Kokubo 1995a, 1995b) into recurrent spontaneous anomalous lights
(RSALs). Anomalous lights have been frequently witnessed and photo-
graphed in the Yakumo-cho area, Hokkaido. Research revealed, how-
ever, that the great majority of these lights could be explained away as
misperceptions of, or misidentifications with, artificial lights or mirages
(Kokubo, 1995a). In the second investigation, in which all the witnesses
were members of a particular family, several attempts were made to
capture the RSALs on video and still film with a little success (Kokubo,
40 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
2. Amrita is a sweet mucus that some believe appears by paranormal means.
Historical, Philosophical, Religious,
and Social Psychological Studies
Shimidzu (1996, 1997), a scientific writer, who surveyed the history
of traditional Japanese palm therapies, including laying-on-of-hands,
found that the techniques of Reijutsu had spread overseas. Reijutsu is a
kind of modern folk religion which became tremendously popular in
Japan in the first half of this century. According to Shimidzu (1996),
external qi therapy in modern China has only a relatively short history,
and the techniques practiced in Taireidou, a sect of Reijutsu which was
popular in Japan in the Taishô era (1912-1926), may have influencedthe
formation of techniques for external qi therapy. One of the reasons to
believe this is that Morihira Tanaka, an advocate and a practitioner of
Taireidou, visited Mongolia in 1911 and both demonstrated and taught
the Reijutsu techniques there (Imura, 1984).
A professor of philosophy at Kyoto University (Becker, 1992b) has
also studied religious or faith healing in general, including the laying-
on-of-hands. Becker examined various reported studies over a fifty-year
period in which three different types of healing techniques were used:
(1) Laying-on-of-hands; (2) Charismatic or shamanistic healing without
touch; and (3) Situations in which the patient was absent or unaware of
the healing activity. He concluded that any study of religious healing
needed a comprehensive point of view which would include material
environments, mental situations, and the belief systems of those in-
Questionnaire surveys of mysterious experiences have been carried
out in Japan by Becker (1990, 1991), Hagio (1990), and Kohri (1994).
Kohri (1994), a psychiatrist, conducted a questionnaire survey from May
to July in 1991 among medical workers in which the respondents were
asked to report anomalous incidents that occurred in their hospitals. The
survey items were adapted from a questionnaire developed by James
McClenon, then a sociologist at Elizabeth City State University. Kohri
obtained 5,183 responses from medical workers in 197 hospitals. The
analysis of the data revealed among other things that ESP-like experi-
ences had little correlation with the age of the experiencing person, and
that psychiatrists reported visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations less
frequently than other types of respondents. The questionnaire contained
only one item concerning NDEs, an experience with which 32% of the
sample to have come into contact.
Some authors have grappled with the survival problem in general,
including the specific phenomena of NDEs and reincarnation. Books
have been published from the point of view of religion (Becker, 1992a),
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 41
transpersonal psychology (Nakamura, 1997), and philosophy (Watan-
abe, 1996). Since the end of the 1970s, Kasahara has published several
of his own books and anthologies. He has also translated works on
parapsychology in general, including books on reincarnation by Satwant
Pasricha and Ian Stevenson.
Since the 1980s, it has been noted that the younger generation of
workers tend to be interested in the supernatural and the occult more
often than workers of the older generation. Many social-psychological
studies have been conducted. These efforts have included the develop-
ment of the Paranormal Folklore Knowledge Scale (Imaizumi, 1997),
research into how spontaneous and precognitive folklore are interpreted
and understood (Imaizumi, 1998), and surveys of attitudes toward the
acceptability of paranormal experiences (Imaizumi, 1995; Nakamura,
1995), to name a few. Researchers who work in orthodox branches of
science have also investigated these topics, although the majority of these
studies have been conducted from a stance either neutral or skeptical to
the paranormal (Nakajima, Sato, & Watanabe, 1992; Kikuchi,
Taniguchi, & Miyamoto, 1995; Kikuchi, & Kinoshita, 1997). These
social-psychological studies of the 1990s have assumed that the contem-
porary occult boom is an inevitable outgrowth of the establishment of
modern society. Ichiyanagi (1994) of Nagoya Keizai University, who
studied the history of the relationship between spiritual movements and
the modernization of society from the beginning of the Meiji era, pointed
out that the more science has prided itself on its superiority and denied
the paranormal, the more people have become interested in the paranor-
mal. Watanabe, a psychologist at Toho University, and Nakamura, a
social psychologist at Ehime University, co-authored a book on this
subject (Watanabe & Nakamura, 1998). In it,they offered empirical data
as well as an historical analysis. They consider the occult to be the shadow
of rationalism/scientism, and have dared to construct a new world view
in which they claimed that both narrow-minded scientism and occult
beliefs might concurrently be overcome.
Kasahara (1983, 1993), a psychotherapist at the Laboratory of Mind
Studies, has explored the elusiveness problem of psi mainly through the
practice of his original system of psychotherapy with psychosomatic,
neurotic, and psychotic patients, in which he assumed that the great
majority of psychogenic symptoms might be caused by PK, not by stress,
serving to discourage patients’ conscious happiness when they were
unconsciously happy (Kasahara, 1997). He hypothesized that the elu-
siveness of psi was inevitably caused by a denial of one’s own abilities
42 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
including psi, a denial which derived from an inherent and persistent,
but unknown, mental disposition in humans, in general, to deny happi-
ness (Kasahara, 1995).
Following Beloff (1964, p. 236) and Stevenson (1997, vol. 1, pp.
33-175), Kasahara (1995, pp. 111-52) also believed that in orthodox
branches of science a number of disguised forms of phenomena existed
which could be treated as paranormal (for example, anomalous phenom-
ena observed in hypnosis, abreaction, and in placebo effects). He is
planning to compile, from this viewpoint, a series of anthologies com-
posed chiefly of already-published articles in major English language
psychology and medical journals. The first volume, dealing with psycho-
physiological differences between alter personalities of patients with
multiple personality disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder: Psychophysi-
ological Studies, was published in Japanese in the summer of 1999.
Theoretical models were also tested, including a consideration of
“average mutual information received by all-or-none model” (Kokubo,
1990), a connectionist model of ESP (Hirafuji, 1990), and a discussion
of precognitive phenomena by quantum effects (Hirafuji, 1992). Obser-
vational theories have often been taken up as a subject of symposia held
during the annual conventions of the Japanese Society for Parapsychol-
ogy (JSPP), including discussions which centered on possible mecha-
nisms and verifications of them.
Among experiments conducted in Japan in the 1990s which are also
known abroad are those by the ESPER Laboratory of Sony Corporation,
which was directed by Sako (1997). This laboratory, now closed, con-
ducted a number of parapsychological studies, including a series of
experiments in the “eyeless perception” of colors (Sako & Ono, 1996,
1997; Sako & Sakakibara, 1997), and in clairvoyance (Sako & Homma,
The ESPER staff collaborated with producers of a TV program in
presenting possible methods of training for children to induce their
clairvoyant abilities. These methods, modeled after Chinese techniques,
employed Kanji (Chinese characters), symbols, and simple figures as
targets. They claimed that these abilities had been induced relatively
easily. As a result, a star subject was successfully discovered, who was later
tested by Sako and Homma (1996) under apparently strict conditions,
during which her clairvoyant ability was apparently confirmed. They also
reported astonishing results with a Chinese star subject, whose abilities
had been developed through psi-conducive training in China, in an
experiment using as targets a hundred Chinese characters randomly
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 43
selected and printed on pieces of paper which were rolled up individually
and enclosed in a ping-pong ball (Sako & Homma, 1996). Machi (1996)
of Tokyo Denki University measured and found changes in EEG,
electrodermal activity (EDA), heart rate, and respiration during clair-
voyant trials with another subject, a younger sister of the Chinese star
subject who had also developed her abilities through a similar training
regime in China.
Experiments on clairvoyance using Chinese characters as the target
have seldom been conducted in Japan after their introduction to this field
by Tomokichi Fukurai. After Rhine’s paradigm was introduced to Japan
in the first half of the 1950s, experiments were done exclusively with this
paradigm. However, the remarkable results obtained recently in Japan
and China suggest that Chinese characters are more appropriate as
targets for training psi than forced-choice studies including ESP cards,
if such training is, in fact,truly effective. The reason may be that because
there is such a large number of Chinese characters, a few thousand of
which are daily read and written by Chinese and Japanese, the chance
hit rate is extremely low. Thus, trainees can obtain feedback much more
accurately and appropriately. In light of the importance of the bandwidth
of the target pool (Targ, 1994), and of the response time in experiments
with Chinese characters (a few to about 20 minutes), it seems that
experiments with Chinese characters fall properly somewhere between
forced-choice methods and such free-response methods as Ganzfeld or
ESP experiments with unselected subjects have also been published,
some of which have obtained a significant result. Among these are
experiements with “paired quadruplet associates” (Hagio, 1997, 1998),
Ganzfeld (Hirata, Ito, Kokubo, et al., 1995), remote clairvoyance with
network communication (Kokubo, 1995) and with EEG and auditory
evoked potential (AEP) measurements (Hirasawa, Yamamoto, Kawano
et al., 1995; Hirasawa & Yamamoto, 1996). Hirasawa and Yamamoto
(1996) at the Bio-Emission Laboratory of the National Institute of
Radiological Sciences, measured the AEP of a subject using auditory
targets under similar conditions to those of an experiment conducted by
Warren, McDonough, and Don (1992) who used visual targets. Results
included the finding of a difference in P2 peak latency between target
and non-target tones.
Effects on Human Targets at a Distance
The so-called toh-ate of traditional Japanese martial arts is claimed to
be an applied skill of qi (or ki). In a demonstration of toh-ate, a master of
martial arts would often be observed knocking down target persons or
44 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
small animals without physical contact, possibly by qi. Yamamoto, Hi-
rasawa, Kawano et al. (1996b) conducted an experiment with a pair of
Japanese masters of toh-ate under a double-blind condition by isolating
them in different rooms of the first and fourth floors of a building, the
distance between the rooms being about 11 m. The sender was asked to
try to influence the receiver, once at random in an 80-second trial, during
which movements of both participants were simultaneously video-re-
corded. In 16 of 49 trials, a coincidence in the time of their movements
was observed, a result which was statistically significant (p< 0.01). A
similar result had been obtained in a previous experiment carried out
under similar conditions (Yamamoto, Hirasawa, Kawano et al., 1996a).
These observations have precedent in experiments conducted elsewhere
(Eisenbud, 1982, pp. 142-69; Vasiliev, 1963).
AEP was measured during a preliminary remote-viewing experiment
by Kokubo, Hirata, Hirasawa et al. (1997), in which 62 volunteer college
students who wereattending a lecture on parapsychology participated as
viewers with three target persons. Each viewer was handed a randomly-
selected sealed envelope; each envelope contained a picture of one of the
three target persons and viewers were asked to guess who it was. At the
same time, EEG and AEP from one of the three target persons was
measured. Target persons were in an electromagnetically-shielded room
which was at a great distance away from the viewers, about 260 km away.
According to the authors’ report, a difference was found in the auditory
middle latency responses during the experimental period.
Effects on Human Targets in Proximity
In her EEG experiment with a qigong master and unselected partici-
pants acting as the receivers, Kawano (1998), of the Nippon Medical
School, found that a difference in the phase between occipital (O1) and
frontal (Fp1) regions of the qigong master during a qigong-sending (22.5
ms) became appreciably smaller than it was during a resting state (40.4
ms). These effects were also observed in the EEG of the receivers whom
the master was trying to influence under a double-blind condition.
Kawano noticed that betawave topographies between the master and the
participants synchronized during the sending periods. Sheattributedthis
apparent synchronization to a possible information transfer from the
master to the participants.
Kuramoto, Uchida, and Tsuda (1997), of the Life Science Institute,
MOA Health Science Foundation, measured electrodermal activity
(EDA) from two groups of participants. The first group were treated by
palm healing without physical contact, and the second group was left
untreated. The measurement was done by the square wave voltage pulse
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 45
method (3V, 256 microseconds) under two conditions, “suggestion
given,” and “suggestions not given.” A difference in the EDA indicator
pertaining to peripheral blood flow was found between the two groups.
Machi (1993) used thermal imaging to measure a change in body
surface temperature during qigongtrials in which the qigong master placed
his hand above the back of an unselected participant (receiver), but
without physical contact. The distance between the master and receiver
was several dozen centimeters, but they were not isolated from each
other. The surface temperature of the master’s hands began to rise as
soon as he began to try to emit qi outwardly. The same phenomenon was
observed in the receiver as well after about a 120-second delay.
Machi (1992) analyzed the radiation spectrum of far-red (2.5-40
micro m) light emitted from the palmsof the master during a qigong trial,
and found no specific peak in this range of the wave length. He speculated
that for the receiver a physiological mechanism might be influenced by
a complex signal composed of infrared and sonic waves from the master,
because the far-red signal was at about 1 Hz and the frequency of the
micro-vibration (sonic waves) of the master’s palm surfaces was also about
1 Hz. He supposed that this modulation of 1 Hz was ascribable to the
respiration of the master.
Bio-photons are a phenomenon claimed to be detectable from cells
as an extremely-faint light emission. They are generally assumed among
researchers to have an origin in oxygen radicals generated by chemical
reactions in the cells. Usa and Inaba (1995), of the Biophotonics Infor-
mation Laboratories, conducted an experiment on qigong as part of their
bio-photon research. They attached photomultipliers on the forehead
and a finger of a receiver, and asked a qigong master to try to influence
him from behind. As a result, the bio-photon phenomenon remarkably
increased in his finger and decreased in his forehead during these trials.
However, they recognized the possibility that these changes might have
been caused by psychological variables because the receiver was able to
obtain clues to the master’s activities during the trials.
Shibata and Furiya (1993), of Tokyo Women’s Medical College,
analyzed venous blood samples of a qigong master, and of a receiver
collected before, during and after qigong trials. A screen was placed
between the two who were 1 to 1.5 m away from each other. Tape-re-
corded instructions were played through headphones to the master and
receiver, and the trials were conducted double-blind. No remarkable
change was found in the receiver’s blood samples, although leukocytes
from the qigong master’s blood sometimes increased remarkably in
Higuchi, Kotani, Higuchi, et al. (1999), of the Tokyo Institute of
Technology, analyzed cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenalin, beta-endor-
46 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
phin, and dopamine from the venous blood of three highly-skilled qigong
masters and four of their patients. Blood samples were collected both
before and after external qi trials. The index value of the masters and
their patients, taken before and after the trials, changed, and the type of
change differed among the qigong masters. These results could not be
obtained exclusively by external qi, the authors thought, because patients
were aware of the proceedings of the experiment. Higuchi, Kotani,
Higuchi et al. (1999), however, assumed that external qi should have
influenced the human endocrine systems because they already had
succeeded in obtaining a similar result in another study in which treat-
ment by external qi had suppressed the proliferation of cancerous tissues
(Sarcoma 180) implanted into the inguinal region of mice (Higuchi, Uh,
Cho et al., 1998).3
Anomalous Effects on Lower Animals and Cells
Takeshige (1993), and Takeshige and Aoki (1994), of Showa Univer-
sity School of Medicine, using lower order animals as subjects, examined
the possibility that EEG readings could be changed by an increase in
serotonin levels as a result of external qi directed towards the pineal gland.
They used a micro-electrode to measure electrical pulses from the cells
in the pineal gland of a rat under urethane anesthesia.These pulses were
used as indices of the activities of the pineal gland. Some interesting
results were obtained: (a) The cells of the pineal gland, which react to
geomagnetism, showed a decrease in the number of pulses observed
when the body of the rat was turned around, and the number of pulses
similarly decreased when a medal, which a qigong master claimed to have
“charged” by external qi, wasput above the head of the rat. (b) When the
medal was held above a rabbit, or a static magnetic field (150 Gauss) was
administered to a rabbit from above, EEG readings in the 3.5-6 Hz range
showed either an increment or no variance, while those at other frequen-
cies were suppressed. After a pinealectomy of the rabbit, such changes
in the EEG were not observed. (c) When a 5-8 mg/kg dose of 5-HTP, a
precursor of serotonin, was injected into the rabbit, EEG changes were
observed which were similar to those obtained when external qi was
given. (d) EEG readings in all frequency bands were suppressed when
methysergide (3-6 mg/kg), a serotonin antagonistic, was administered to
the rabbit. When the medal or the 5-8 mg/kg of 5-HTP were given
under the same conditions, an increase of in EEG readings in the 3.5-6
Hz range was observed again. These observations are reminiscent of the
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 47
3. The inguinal region in mice and humans can be understood to be either the groin
area, or the lowest lateral regions of the abdomen.
“linger effects” reported by some researchers, including Wells and
Watkins (1975). Takeshige and Aoki (1994) concluded that qi might
hamper N-acetyltransferase, increase the secretion of serotonin from the
pineal body, and accordingly, the EEG reading might be changed
because the serotonin receptor is not antagonistic to methysergide.
Yamauchi, Saitou, Yamamoto et al. (1996), of the National Institute
of Radiological Sciences, conducted two exploratory, but more or less
controlled experiments, using cultured human cells to identify target
systems that might be appropriate for detecting putative effects of palm
healing with no physical contact. They asked several healers to try to
treat, without contact, two groups of HeLa cells (cultured cancer cells)
at their logarithmically proliferating period: one group had been given
an aminoglycoside antibiotic (G 418) as a lethal compound; and the other
had been exposed to X-ray radiation (5 Gy or 10 Gy) as ionizing
radiation.4Quantitative analyses revealed no difference between the
experimental and the control groups under the G 418 condition, but
there was a slightly higher rate of colony formation in the experimental
group than in the control under the 10 Gy X-ray radiation condition.
The researchers concluded that cultured cells artificially injured by X-ray
irradiation would be more appropriate target systems for detecting the
quantitative effects of palm healing than those systems continuously
affected by a lethal drug.
Yamamoto, Seto, Nakazato et al. (1996), of Showa University School
of Medicine, asked a qigong master to use external qi to treat peripheral
blood in test tubes collected from healthy volunteers. Once treated, the
researchers measured the activities of the human natural killer(NK) cells
in the blood sample by detecting the isotope 51 Cr released from target
cells K-562 which had been injured by the NK cells. The cystotoxic
activity of treated NK cells in the experimental samples was found to be
113.8% while that of the control samples was 100%.
Kataoka, Sugiyama, and Matsumoto (1997a), of the System Division
of Hamamatsu Photonics, investigated the possible mechanism of exter-
nal qi effects by examing human neutrophils, a kind of leukocyte, taken
out of peripheral blood collected from healthy volunteers. They pre-
pared phosphate-buffered saline (PBS; pH 7.4) samples in sealed con-
tainers and divided them into two groups: the experimental group was
treated by external qi administered from the outside of the containers
without physical contact (Qi-PBS), and the control group was left
untreated (N-PBS). It is known that neutrophils produceoxygen radicals
in the course of phagocytosis (the destruction of particulate matter), or
while chemically stimulated. Quantification of oxygen radicals in the
48 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
4. One “Gy” is equal to 100 rads which is a unit of measurement o radiation.
samples was done by using the process of chemiluminescence by which
method the researchers were able to examine the functions and condi-
tions of the neutrophils. The results indicated that Qi-PBS seemed to
open the calcium ion channels of the neutrophils, allowing extracellular
calcium ions to flow into the cells, and that this activated migration and
phagocytization of the neutrophils.
Kataoka, Sugiyama, and Matsumoto (1997b) also conducted an ex-
periment with established human leukemia-T cells (MOLT-4) as the
targets. Effector cells, that is, lymphocytes containing NK cells from
normal peripheral blood, were treated classified N-PBS (the control
conidtion, without the application of external qi) or Qi-PBS (the experi-
mental condition, with application of external qi). Both N-PBS and
Qi-PBS were mix-cultured with fluorescent-dyed target cells. The cysto-
toxic activity of the effectors was measured by the volume of broken
fluorescent cells leaked out of the target cells. Measured activity of the
experimental cells (when using Qi-PBS) was about 1.5 times greater than
that of the control cells (when using N-PBS).
Both of these studies (1997a, 1997b) suggested that peripheral blood
samples (PBS), if treated, behaved as if the immediate effects of anoma-
lous qi effects somehow lingered. It is interesting to note that these results
were essentially similar to those reported more than twenty years ago by
Grad (1976), although it is unlikely that Kataoka, Sugiyama, and Mat-
sumoto were aware of this earlier study.
The studies cited above seem to indicate that external qi (or bio-PK)
has two possible effects: one which influences the brain or the central
nervous system, thus indirectly causing various physiological responses
to occur; and the other which changes the functioning of target systems
(in these cases, cellular activities) directly.
Chemical and Physical Effects
In Japan, laboratory experiments on metal-bending and thoughtogra-
phy were actively carried out from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.
Several scientists, including the physicist Tsutomu Miyauchi, the metal-
lurgist Shigemi Sasaki, and Tosio Kasahara, conducted experiments with
a famous PK subject, Masuaki Kiyota (Kasahara, Kohri, Ro et al., 1981;
Miyauchi, Tsunoda & Kiyota, 1977; Sasaki, Koyama, Ochi et al., 1984).
In the 1990s, however, metal-bending and thoughtography were no
longer considered to be a subject of serious investigation, probably due
to social changes as well as to a decline in the activity of the group led by
Sasaki, which had been the most prolific.
Among experiments applying an RNG (random number generator)
are those by Watanuki, Yoshida, Sannomiya et al. (1993) of the Japan
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 49
Psychic Science Association, and by Watanuki and Otani (1995). The
former report a significant difference obtained in experiments with an
RNG which used the output from a Geiger-Müler tube as the trigger.
In this study, the researchers compared results obtained in the normal
mind-body state of participants with those obtained during autogenic
training, concentration, or during a drowsy state (Watanuki, Yoshida,
Sannomiya et al., 1993). Thereafter, they conducted a confirmatory
experiment using frontal EEG readings (10 Hz) and EMG readings
(detected by a low pass filter set at 2.5 Hz) as indicators of the mind-body
state of the participants during autogenic training in which these indi-
cators were fed back to them immediately by a buzzer sound or a
fragment of music (Watanuki & Otani, 1995). The RNG output accu-
mulated in experiments over a period of about six months did not show
any significant bias in the normal state of the subjects. During the
autogenic training, however, the accumulated RNG output reached a CR
of 2.44 during the first half of the experiment, but gradually descended
to a CR of 0.64 in the second half.
Exploratory experiments to detect psi or qi using a photomultiplier,
or by water were also carried out. Two physicians from Showa University
School of Medicine tried to detect the operation of psi through changes
in the dark current from a photomultiplier (Seto & Hisamitsu, 1993).
Sasaki and his colleagues from the University of Electro-Communica-
tions made attempts to detect psi through changes in the electrical
conductivity of water (Sasaki, Sako, & Kobayashi, 1993; Sasaki, Liu, Liu
et al., 1996). In their struggle to invent an apparatus to generate artificial
qi, engineers at Chubu University conducted a series of pilot experi-
ments to detect changes of the half-width in nuclear magnetic resonance
(NMR) spectra of solutions treated by the apparatus (Adachi, Aoki,
Yoshifuku et al., 1998a, 1998b, 1999), the results of which are still under
According to Chinese reports made since the 1980s, anomalous
magnetic fields, far larger than the usual bio-magnetic fields generated
by nerve currents, have often been detected from qigong masters and from
psychics as well. The measurement of anomalous bio-magnetic fields has
been attempted by a few groups of scientists in Japan as well. Kokubo,
Yamamoto, Hirasawa et al. (1999) reviewed Japanese and Chinese studies
published from 1988 to 1998, and noted three points. They were as
follows: (1) Anomalous bio-magnetic fields more than 100 nT were
reported in experiments with a few particular subjects much more often
than others. (2) Results obtained in these studies might reflect differences
of the sensor in sensitivity to factors other than magnetic fields. (3)
Reported positions from which anomalous magnetic fields are claimed
to have been generated could not be authenticated, because many of the
50 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
previous researchers had failed to employ local magnetic shielding. In
Japan, few attempts have been made so far to detect such phenomena;
therefore, further investigations is needed.
Fukuroda (1995) of the Fujitsu Laboratory measured ozone concen-
trations in the air near the body surface of participants during a qigong
trial. He hypothesized that ozone or oxygen radicals might cause unusual
phenomena to occur, including the proliferation or extinction of coli-
bacillus, and the observation of anomalous electromagnetic waves
around participants during a qigong session. Ozone concentrations at the
center of participants’ palms were measured by ultraviolet absorption.
Surface potential was also measured in their palms. The maximum
detected ozone concentration was 25 ppb, found for three out of ten
participants. No change was observed in the potential corresponding to
electrical discharge, but a change was seen in the potential which
corresponded to hand movements. Further measurements with the same
participants failed to replicate the original results. Fukuroda concluded
that the generation of ozone by external qi emissions was a rare phe-
nomenon, although it might also be presumed that the ozone had been
generated by psi, or that the measuring apparatus had been capriciously
influenced by psi.
In summarizing research into the paranormal conducted in Japan in
the 1990s, a few general characteristics can be noted. (1) Qigong re-
searchers who have recently begun to study those phenomena are more
likely to be active researchers than Japanese parapsychologists in general
are. (2) Some experiments have been carried out with living systems. (3)
Among the most interesting studies are those using measuring appara-
tuses, however, the majority of these, unfortunately, cannot be replicated.
Japanese studies of anomalous phenomena are in an active state at
present. However, parapsychology is an interdisciplinary field consisting
of various branches of science including cognitive sciences, medicine,
physics, chemistry, engineering, sociology, religious study, folklore, and
anthropology, and the establishment of those fundamentals essential for
productive research is very much needed. We suggest that scientists
working with these phenomena are unlikely to benefit from trends in
scientific research in the 21st century, if the basic fundamentals of
research are not established.
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Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 51
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Parapsychology is an interdisciplinary field of science, cutting across
many branches of science, and establishment of its research fundamentals
is urgently necessary. However, in Japan its establishment is far behind
other branches of science, although Japanese parapsychology has a
history of more than 110 years, including the work of such eminent
pioneers as the philosopher Enryo Inoue (1858-1919) who first dealt
with anomalous phenomena from a critical point of view, and the
psychologist Tomokichi Fukurai (1869-1952) of the former Imperial
University of Tokyo. Among Japanese journals specializing in parapsy-
chology, only the abstracts of the Journal of International Society of Life
Information Science appear in general databases.
There is no institute in Japan where scientists are able to study
paranormal phenomena exclusively. In general, researchers at several
institutions or universities are permitted to study anomalous phenomena
as a part of their ordinary research program, for example, qigong research
may be pursued as a part of health science. The International Society of
Life Information Science (ISLIS) is planning to establish a new institute
for the study of human potential in general, an initiative which will
include psi research. The Japanese Association for Alternative, Comple-
mentary, and Traditional Medicine (JACT) is also planning to found a
new college specializing in complementary, alternative, and traditional
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 57
There is at present no accessible library in Japan with a sizable
collection of books or journals on parapsychology, although the Labo-
ratory of Mind Studies and the Japan Psychic Science Association (JPSA)
have an abundance of materials on parapsychology. Neither a library nor
a database specializing in this field exists in Japan. The Fukurai Institute
of Psychology in Sendai has a collection of materials on Fukurai himself
and on his works.
Several academic journals have been published by societies, but no
articles have as yet been uploaded to general databases such as JICST
(Japan Information Center for Science and Technology) or UnCover,
except for articles printed in the Journal of International Society of Life
Information Science. Few documents can be accessed by MEDLINE. As
for the Internet, the JSPP and ISLIS offer English abstracts of articles
printed in their journals and the Laboratory of Mind Studies provides
informative materials in Japanese on their respective homepages.
There is no graduate school in Japan as yet at which students can
obtain a doctorate in parapsychology. Masahiko Nakamura lectured on
parapsychology from the viewpoint of transpersonal psychology at
Ehime University in the mid-1990s. One of us (HK) has lectured at Tokai
Women’s Junior College. At present, however, the International Univer-
sity of Kagoshima is the only institution which offers a regular course in
parapsychology. Professor Shigeki Hagio teaches this course.
No governmental agencies or university councils have been given a
budget for parapsychological pursuits with a single exception. Soji Otani,
a professor of psychology at the National Defense Academy, was granted
a budget of about three million yen, so that he could establish an
electromagnetically-shielded room for EEG measurements. Generally,
research activities are supported by private funds or under budgets which
are granted for non-parapsychological studies. The Japan Skeptics has
been offering a scholarship of several hundred thousand yen per study,
and in 1995, the Science and Technology Agency (STA) granted a budget
for a five-year project.
In Japan, scientific studies dealing with anomalous phenomena are being
actively pursued following a rise, nation-wide, in interest in supernatural
phenomena including qigong, the phenomena attributable to the Indian
swami Sathya Sai Baba, and near-death experiences. Research into these
58 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
topics has been done primarily by orthodox scientists who were expanding
their professional territories to include even the parapsychological domain.
Research bearing on parapsychology conducted in the 1990s is summarized
under the headings of case studies,cognitive, social-scientific, and theoretical
research, experiments with human, subhuman and cellular targets, and
physical/chemical studies. Remarkable contributions have been made by
qigong researchers who have only been working in this area for a decade.
Especially interesting results have been obtained in experiments on external
qi, or what we might call bio-PK. However, the fundamentals necessary for
a productive research program are still not sufficiently established in Japan,
and unless shortcomings are addressed, future research developmentswill be
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 59
60 IJP, Volume 11, Number 2
Japanese Studies on Anomalous Phenomena 61