The Tokyo sarin gas attacks

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Yesterday evening, as Japan trounced Oman in the 2014 qualifiers, Naoko Kikuchi was apprehended in Kanagawa-Ken.

Naoko was one of the last missing people connected to the 1995 sarin gas attacks carried out by the yoga based cult Aum Shinrikyo. She had been on the lamb for 17 years, the only person left unaccounted for is the get away driver Katsuya Takahashi. Naoko (although not there for the attacks) was wanted in connection with manufacturing the deadly gas and other crimes committed within the cult. When approached by the police she was asked if she was Naoko Kikuchi, to which she supposedly calmly replied “yes”.

Aum Shinrikyo was (is) a controversial cult. They believe in the healing powers of aesthetic yoga and were controlled by their egomaniacal leader Shoko Asahara. The cult was founded in a one room apartment in Shibuya in the mid 1980s and had became an official religious organization by 1989.

The group was accused of the usual cult things, holding disciples against their will, using LSD and other hallucinogenics during rituals and extorting money from their followers. The darker side included murder (a prominent anti-cult lawyer and his family were murdered in 1989), declaring war on the Japanese constitution and manufacturing nerve and sarin gas. In 1993 there was bizarre seismic activity around a huge farm they had purchased in rural Australia (the rumour is the group had tested nuclear weapons).

The 1995 attacks was not the first to come from the group. In 1994 eight people were killed and two hundred injured when sarin was released in Matsumoto city, Nagano-Ken. This attack was only linked to the group after the subway events.

On the morning of March 20th 1995 five high levels members boarded three different train lines heading to the area containing the Japanese government buildings. Each carried around 900ml of sarin liquid (a pinhead amount can kill an adult).

13 people were killed and thousands were injured in that was the worst attack on Tokyo since the second world war. The court cases that followed saw a total of 189 members indicted, thirteen were sentenced to death, five were sentenced to life in prison, eighty were given prison sentences of various lengths, eighty-seven received suspended sentences, two were fined, and one was found not guilty.

The sarin gas attacks were a huge blow to the Japanese which viewed their society as virtually crime free. It questioned the safety of their society. The backlash was explored in Murakami’s book Underground in which he interviewed survivors and members of the cult. Aum has since denounced their leader and changed its name to Aleph. Their image is still terrible in Japan and its followers find it very hard to find employment and housing.

The picture below is taken from this site, the commentary is in Japanese but the pictures speak for themselves.

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