Last week we visited Jonestown. This week I’m taking to you Japan with me. There was an organization (read cult) founded in 1984 by Shoko Asahara. As with Jonestown, let’s start with the organization’s founder.
Born in 1955 as Chizuo Matsumoto, he had infantile glaucoma from birth, and he was blind in one eye, and partially blind in the other eye. He was known to be a bully in school, taking advantage other students by beating them and extorting money from them.
He married and had the first of 12 children in 1978. In 1981, Chizuo was arrested for practicing pharmacy without a license. His interest in religion reportedly started at this time.
In 1984, he formed the Aum Shinrikyo. He also legally changed his name to Shoko Asahara. In 1989, his organization was recognized as a religious corporation. After this many followers joined. He gained credibility by appearing on TV, he gradually attained a following of believers and wrote several religious books.
In 1992, Shoki declared himself Christ, Japan’s only fully enlightened master, and identified with the Lamb of God. His mission was to take the sins of other’s onto himself.
As with most cult organizations, the love of religion is slowly replaced with the fear of conspiracy. Shoko saw dark conspiracies everywhere, specifically by the Jews, Freemasons, the Dutch, the British Royal Family, and rival religions.
Shoko began preaching about Armageddon for human relief. He led a series of terrorist attacks using a secret organization hidden from ordinary believers.
In the late 1980’s, accusations of deception, being held against their will, and murder were all thrown at the group and it’s members, but mostly its’ leader. The group secretly began manufacturing the nerve agent Sarin and later VX gas. The products were tested on sheep in Australia where 29 sheep died. They decided to then use these chemicals against civilians.
June 27, 1994, The cult released the Sarin in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano. With the help of a refrigerator truck, members released a cloud of sarin gas near the homes of judges who were overseeing a lawsuit, that was predicted to go against the cult. This incident harmed over 500 people, killing 8.
The VX gas was used to attack three people between December of 1994 and January 1995. Two were injured and 1 was killed. The victim who died was suspected of being a spy.
Their next attack the cult would orchestrate was an attack on the Tokyo Subway system. This would be their largest and most infamous act of terrorism.
The morning of March 20, 1995, cult members released a binary chemical weapon, similar to Sarin, in a coordinated attack on five trains in the Tokyo subway. This attacked killed 13 commuters, injuring 54, and affecting more than 980 others. Some estimates claim over 6,000 were injured. It’s difficult to determine as victims didn’t come forward.
Within the next week of this attack, the cult’s activities were revealed fully. Shoko faced 27 counts of murder in 13 separate indictments. The trial took more than 7 years to conclude. He was found guilty on 13 of the 17 charges, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
In June 2012, six other cult members were arrested and convicted. July 6, 2018, all six cult members along with Shoko Asahara, were executed by hanging. Relatives of the victims approved this execution. As of March 2020, his ashes are still with the Tokyo Detention Center, as his fourth daughter who was supposed to have received the remains wanted to dispose of them at sea, meanwhile Shoko’s wife, third daughter and other family members wanted to enshrine them where believers can honor them.
What do you think of this cult? I don’t really understand why the cult attacked innocent civilians. Regardless of who was the target, innocent people died. I hope that the victim’s families find peace and that those who were responsible have faced their punishments.
Be safe, make good choices, take care of yourself