Chiyoko Osaki married a man after a fortuneteller said he was a good match. The marriage soon fell apart.
She initially turned to her parents and friends for advice on building a solid future and career, but she soon found herself returning to the soothsayer.
She continued to seek sessions with the fortuneteller almost every night after midnight after she returned home from work to satisfy her addiction to soothsaying.
She is not alone.
Although counseling is available from both public and private organizations, many people in these unpredictable economic times are looking to divination for solutions to their problems, as well as specific advice for marriage, work and future plans.
As could be expected, the number of problems concerning fortunetelling has also risen.
The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan said it has received 1,801 complaints about fortunetelling services in fiscal 2011 up to March 2, more than double the 874 for all of fiscal 2001.
Women represented about 80 percent of those who filed grievances.
Most of them were in their 30s.
One common complaint concerned fees.
One woman said she paid 5,250 yen ($65) for a one-minute session, adding that it definitely wasn’t worth the money.
Another person complained that the fee jumped after the fortunetelling session lasted longer than had been explained in advance.
Many people become addicted to fortunetelling because they have been exposed to it through TV shows and magazines since they were very young, said Hiroshi Watanabe, a lawyer. He has handled cases involving fortunetelling and fraudulent sales of goods or services claimed to bring supernatural benefits to the purchaser.
“If you repeatedly return to fortunetelling, you should realize that you are ‘falling victim,’” he said. “You should be aware that there are many people out there who intend to exploit your weaknesses through fortunetelling.”
Osaki, a 38-year-old counselor practicing in Tokyo’s tony Akasaka district, said her dependence on fortunetelling began after she became unsure of her occupation as a freelance writer in 2003. She was not convinced it was what she really wanted to do.
After her divorce, her addiction to fortunetelling grew. She was charged more than 20,000 yen per session.
Calling the fortuneteller almost every night for two years left her with 3 million yen in debts.
Osaki realized she had a problem and decided to attend counseling courses from professionals in 2006 to kick her addiction.
Since 2008, she herself has been offering advice to people who are addicted to fortunetelling.
Divination, she recalled, eased her feelings of wariness about her uncertain future.
“A fortuneteller was like a wash bowl on which I poured the emotions I could not handle on my own,” Osaki said.
The most high-profile addiction to divination in recent months involved comedian Tomoko Nakajima. TV variety programs offered daily reports about Nakajima’s problems in paying her rent and described her as being brainwashed by a fortuneteller, who had holed up with her at her apartment.
Fortunetellers have long been working on the streets of Japan. But with the nation’s economy still sputtering along, the Internet has become inundated with sites providing fortunetelling services over the phone or through e-mail.
A male fortuneteller who runs about 20 websites offering such services via the phone said people have a tendency to believe in mysterious things.
“They are inclined to accept what a fortuneteller says as something that is not just an account of a person’s experiences, but a message from an unknown world,” the man said.
The man never reveals his real name, age or place of birth to maintain a certain mystique.
He charges 9,000 yen for a 30-minute session.
“I am able to continue giving encouragement to people because I am paid for it,” he said. “People with worries need somebody who will listen to them.”
But he acknowledges that customers who keep returning to him may have more serious issues to deal with.
“People who let the words of a fortuneteller influence their decisions may be suffering from mental problems,” he said. “Generally, people will eventually lose interest in divination because it will not work every time.”
Some fortunetellers say they have even begun to shun clients who appear addicted to the service.
One female fortuneteller who held sessions over the phone until last year recalled that some of her customers showed signs of serious problems.
Some of them would not hang up the phone until they received a satisfactory forecast. One individual called up right after a session was over to ask if the prediction had changed.
The woman said she is under the impression that many people want to resolve their problems with “magic.”
She now meets her clients in person and asks why they turned to fortunetelling.
She has uploaded a list of 40 signs to her website to help viewers determine if they have become addicted to soothsaying.
Some of the signs are: they believe everything in life is predetermined; they don't feel like taking action or make efforts themselves; they believe a fortuneteller who says something unfavorable is telling a lie to take pleasure in hurting them; and they want to hear clear-cut instructions of what to do.
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