Tokyo marked the 15th anniversary Saturday of the sarin nerve gas attack on its subway system by Aum Shinrikyo cult members that left 13 dead and sickened some 6,300.
Some 20 station workers held a moment of silence at Kasumigaseki Station in central Tokyo at 8 a.m., roughly the hour when the cult members planted and ruptured plastic bags containing sarin on rush-hour trains on March 20, 1995.
Numerous government officials, including Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, victims and bereaved families visited the flower stands set up at five stations along the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Chiyoda lines, which were targeted in the attack. It is believed the attack was aimed at disrupting planned police raids on the group's headquarters at the time.
''It's been many years,'' said Shizue Takahashi, whose husband Kazumasa, 50, was killed after removing a bag of sarin as a senior official at the station.
Takahashi, 63, said she feels that her efforts to get support for the victims over the years have finally paid off. A landmark law was enacted in 2008, providing financial support of up to 30 million yen to each Aum victim and bereaved families who were left without benefits for 13 years.
But she noted that while they have state benefits now, ''it does not mean (the cult's) responsibility to compensate is gone,'' urging the cult to take responsibility.
Wataru Kitamura, chairman of an information security consultant firm in Tokyo, was among the victims who offered flowers at one of the stands.
Kitamura, 75, was exposed to sarin after connecting from the Chiyoda line to the Hibiya line on his way to work, and stayed in the attacked train for about 40 minutes without realizing what had happened.
He said he suffered various physical ailments, including weight loss and headaches. ''I know I cannot recover physically, but I try to stay firm mentally.''
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara spoke to reporters after offering flowers at the Kasumigaseki station located at the heart of the government district. ''As the person in charge of the ministry, I promised (the victims) to do my best to ensure transportation security, including taking antiterror measures,'' Maehara said.
Aum Shinrikyo was involved in a series of crimes, including the attack on the Tokyo subway system, and another sarin release in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994, for which death sentences have been finalized for its founder Shoko Asahara, 55, and nine other cult members.
Meanwhile, three other members -- Katsuya Takahashi, 51, Naoko Kikuchi, 38, and Makoto Hirata, 44 -- still remain at large, prompting the police to post cash rewards totaling 6 million yen for information that would lead to their arrests.
The group, which had over 10,000 members at its height, has renamed itself Aleph and has some 1,300 members today, while the Circle of Rainbow Light, a breakaway faction founded in 2007, has about 200 members, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency.
Although the size of the groups have not changed much over the last decade, police continue to monitor their moves as they are now actively recruiting younger generations who may not know about or remember the Aum crimes.
Aleph, which reportedly still follows the teachings of Asahara, gained 100 new members last year, according to the agency.
Over the years, the climate surrounding the victims has changed as well, with the enactment of the benefits law, which also led to detailed work to track down victims, giving a clearer picture of the extent of the damage.
The injured came to some 6,300, instead of the previously estimated figure of over 5,000. Another victim who died in an accident several days after being exposed to sarin was newly recognized as being killed by the subway attack under the law, in addition to the 12 already counted as murder victims in Aum lawsuits.© News reports