Aum spinoffs still out there, and as devious as ever


Shouts of jubilation emanated from police stations in Tokyo, along with exchanges of high fives on June 15, as Tatsuya Takahashi (age 54), the last wanted fugitive member of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult was apprehended. Two weeks earlier, a female cult member also wanted by police on various charges, Naoko Kikuchi, 40, was turned in by an informer who had noted her resemblance to the 17-year-old photographs on police wanted posters.

"At the time Takahashi was apprehended, he was found to have in his possession photos of guru Shoko Asahara, more than 10 books published by the cult and voice tapes containing sermons," says a news reporter assigned to cover the Tokyo police. "Moreover, in his cell, he assumes the lotus position and chants mantras. During interrogation, he referred to Asahara as 'sonshi' (the holy master) and has stated 'I still believe, even now.'"

For six years from 1989, the cult had engaged in a number of vicious crimes, beginning in 1989 with the murder of human rights attorney Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife and infant son, who were abducted from their Yokohama apartment by senior cult members and buried in a remote mountain area. In June 1994, the cult -- aiming to postpone an unfavorable court ruling in a real estate dispute -- released the toxic nerve gas sarin in a residential neighborhood in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, killing eight people and injuring some 660. Then 10 months later on March 20, 1995, the cult's coordinated nerve gas attacks on five Tokyo subway lines killed 13 and injured some 6,300.

Despite these and other horrific criminal acts, reports Shukan Taishu (July 9), some believers have not only remained loyal to Asahara, but also still adhere to his precepts.

"After the Tokyo subway incident, Aum changed its name and split into two groups, Aleph and Hikari no Wa," says a reporter for a national newspaper who covers public security news. "According to the public security police, in 2007, 54 members joined the two groups. Last year, membership jumped by 213 new members. As a result, Aleph currently boasts 1,300 members and Hikari no Wa has about 200."

"Following the Great East Japan Earthquake last year, leaders of the cult had warned believers that unless they reverted to the doctrine of guru Shoko Asahara, death would be imminent," the reporter points out.

Makoto Hirata, another Aum fugitive who turned himself into police on the last day of 2011, is currently incarcerated at the same Kosuge detention facility as his guru, Asahara. Hirata is said to chant prayers while facing in the direction of Asahara's cell on death row.

One Aleph commune occupies a 4-story building in Iriya, Adachi Ward.

"Looking beyond the window curtains, we can see the walls festooned with Asahara's photos," says a local resident. "It doesn't look like the cult has really changed, and that's disturbing."

"Aleph has produced a manual on use of SNSs for protelyziation," says attorney Masanori Kito, author of the recently published book titled "Mind Control." "Their recruitment efforts focus on pliable young people ranging from late teens through their early 20s."

According to a former member of the cult, recruitment techniques include setting up "study groups" on college campuses. Cultists also organize yoga classes, social events serving meals of curry and mixed couples parties.

But how is it that the demented cult, whose murderous leader and a dozen of his minions await execution on death row, is still able to attract new adherents? In 1995, political journalist Shojiro Watanabe had urged that Aum be disbanded under the subversive activities law.

"People born in 1995 are in high school now," Watanabe explains. "Those who were under age 10 when the cult commited its crimes are in their 20s. They have no memories of what happened. The problems that confront these young people today are just as bad if not worse than what we had to deal with at that time, so their attraction to the world of spiritualism is understandable."

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How odd that campus authorities (for example) haven't kept an eye on, and tried to curtail these recruitment techniques, and/or kept every year of new students informed about who these social groups and events are connected to. if teens now aren't aware of the cult, isn't it up to those who do know, to tell them?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Lost people are looking for answers to their fears. The weak are looking for someone to protect them and give them hope. While others turn to belief systems looking for a myriad of other things. What nearly all belief systems have in common is that they provide people with purpose, meaning, identity and psychological comfort. Throughout history people have been willing to take on acts of profound violence and cruelty to remain true to these belief systems. Often dehumanizing anyone who does not agree with their belief system.

Whether it is Aum, Al Qaida, fascism or any of a million other belief systems, the real problem here is that there are always people out there who are so desperate for meaning in life that they will believe, follow and do anything to achieve it.

There is no definitive prevention for this problem. The only thing we can do is take precautions against the ideologies that threaten us as they do so. Aum and its spin offs should be watched but left alone. At lease they are observable today. If you ban them, they go underground, radicalize and you cannot monitor them effectively. As the old saying goes, “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan's big religions wield enough power to keep laws at bay, particularly regarding taxes, even when their activities, such as publishing companies and love hotels (to name two examples) have no connection at all with religion. Passing a sensible statue designed to keep the crazies at bay will also risk stepping on the toes of these big boys, so they fight tooth and nail against any proposed legislation that might threaten their cozy, tax-free status. Aum's Asahara was once convicted of fraud and punished, but once he became incorporated as a religion the law apparently couldn't touch him until he crossed the line and gassed the Marunouchi and Hibiya lines. And it also says something about the laxness of Japan's authorities that they would exercise so little diligence before allowing a "religion" headed by a convicted criminal to incorporate in the first place. The responsibility for the deaths of all those unfortunate people ultimately rests with the lazy, indifferent government officials who issued Asahara his license to murder.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


Ahem, I I could name quiet few religion from across the world.

Many have no origin myth/explanation for the Universe or the earth, nor to they worship a god(maybe some spirits), there is no god nor anyone performing miracles.

Agreed to a certain agree to brain-washing but that also don't happen with politics, etc, etc in families.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

With so many thousands of crazed nutjobs still out there - and dangerous as ever, make no mistake - no wonder the National government is almost certainly never going to execute that filthy terrorist, Asahara. God knows the terror that would be unleashed by these mad people if he was...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Sounds like some of the buddhist groups I know.

Don't mean others don't follow and advance this principles.

Just do your own research, a lot out there.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This to me is harder to stand than anything else.

"Shouts of jubilation emanated from police stations in Tokyo, along with exchanges of high fives"

For all the traffic blitzes they did at safe stretches of road, and for all the bike checks they did in those 17 years, maybe they could have been doing high fives a lot sooner.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Following the Great East Japan Earthquake last year, leaders of the cult had warned believers that unless they reverted to the doctrine of guru Shoko Asahara, death would be imminent"

By cult do they mean Aleph, Hikari no Wa, or both.

"Those who were under age 10 when the cult commited its crimes are in their 20s. They have no memories of what happened."

Isn't it possible for there to be at least ONE class in all the years of schooling on stuff like that.

We often hear that German students don't know about Hitler, japanese don't know about WW2 or aumu shinrikyou, but they seem to learn about millions of other things.

Surely, just one 30 minute lesson a year about Mind Control or not getting fooled with examples from history is possible.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Religious sects in Japan are not only targeting the young people, but older people, too. And they are quite successful at bringing in new members.

As was pointed out in the past, one way to spot a sect is to see who its leader meets. Usually, it was said, they like to have their pictures taken with the head of a country, then use these photos for propaganda purposes in showing how popular and powerful they are.

The pyramid religious sects can be scary. They recruit new members, then these members must recruit a certain number until they have enough for their own cell, then the cells expand. These groups keep growing and growing in number. With such large numbers, they can form political parties and put their people in elections. Shoko Asahara tried to enter politics, but fortunately the voters nixed his intentions of taking over Japan legally.

Hope the executions begin soon. Gotta get rid of those Aum nuts ...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

frankly i dont see the problem ion the belief. ist the extra stuffs like murder and sarin attacks is what bothers me.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The cops doing high 5s in paragraph one took me be surprise. I rarely see jpns engaging in the high 5 custom, hard to imagine cops doing it.

Cults, yeah, nothing new on Earth. Thery've been around since forever and will be.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Aum Shinrikyo is kind of like a virus, like malaria, TB etc..they change, they adadpt, they can come back disguised as nice guys, but deep, deep down inside they are very, very DANGEROUS. Will Asahara hang any time soon?? I doubt it, since he is their kind of god on earth guru, so they need to keep him around to flush out more true believers, right??? But from the point of view of KARMA, Asahara has some really nasty karma awaiting him, if not in this life time, in the next life time, etc..IMHO.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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