Underground – The Tokyo Gas Attack and Japanese Psyche

Crime is a complex subject in Japan. Known today for its relatively safe streets, wealthy citizens, and polite society – the reputation is something the Japanese like to promote – even in some cases going so far as to ignore reports of crime so as not to inflate the government statistics. When people started disappearing in the 1980s, rumors that they were associated with the Aum Shinrikyo movement were easy to dismiss. After a Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 led to 13 people dying and thousands injured in Japan’s worst post-war terrorist attack quickly pointed to the group, however, the government could no longer ignore the problem and initiated a massive raid on all known Aum compounds throughout the country. And while many members were sentenced to death, in a country that boasts a 99% conviction rate that includes near universal confessions, most of the Aum members on death row showed an unwillingness to express remorse for their actions. For such a highly socialized country, where the proverb ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’ rules, how a group, that to this day boasts a membership in the thousands, can remain as resolutely committed to going against the grain raises more questions about Japan’s culture than there seems to be clear answers.

The Myth of the 20th Century – Ep46 – Underground – The Tokyo Gas Attack and Japanese Psyche

— References —

– Holy Terror – Armageddon in Tokyo, Brackett (1996)
– Undergound, Murakami (1997)
– Cult attraction: Aum Shinrikyo’s power of persuasion, Ito (2015) – https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/14/national/history/cult-attraction-aum-shinrikyos-power-persuasion/#.Wh0k97jLfvI
– Why did Aum Shinrikyo attack Tokyo subways?, Quora (2015) – https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Aum-Shinrikyo-attack-Tokyo-subways
– The Myth of Japan’s Bored Police, Fahey (2017) – http://www.tokyoreview.net/2017/08/myth-japans-bored-police/

— Timeline —

1984 -Yoga center established in Shibuya by Asahara
1986 – Ashara’s group named Aum Shinsen no Kai (The Aum Group of MountainWizards)
1987 – Asahara meets with Dalai Lama
1987 – Name changed to Aum Shinrikyo
1989 – Aum Shinrikyo sect ecognized as an official religion
1989 – Murder of Sakamoto family
1990 – Asahara’s failed campaign for the Diet
1991 – First links to Russia established
1993 – Chemical plant, Satyam number 7, established at Kamikuishiki compound
1994 – Aum begins using LSD in initiation rituals
1994 – Matsumoto Gas Attack
1995 – Tokyo Underground Gas Attack


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