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Aum's reincarnation still recruiting new adherents

32 Comments

One day a reporter received a telephone call from a former university classmate. "I'm worried about my girlfriend," he said. "She's been acting strangely."

At first the reporter thought it was nothing more than a lover's quarrel. But then the friend blurted out, "She's joined Aleph."

The girlfriend, a Ms Yuuki (a pseudonym), had been persuaded by a co-worker to join a yoga class.

"From not long after that, I had the feeling she was hiding something from me," the boyfriend relates. "Finally when I forced the issue she told me, 'I've joined Aleph.'"

After the 1995 arrests of Aum Shinrikyo's guru and other high-ranking members on suspicion of mass murder and other charges, Aum's buildings and other properties were confiscated and eventually sold off to compensate victims of its atrocities. Rather than breaking up, however, the cult renamed itself Aleph.

While it has publicly denounced Aum's crimes and is no longer seen as a threat to public safety, Spa! (Dec 13) reports that Aleph still employs recruitment tactics similar to its predecessor, seeking to attract gullible youth through "benkyo-kai" (study sessions) and yoga classes.

The cult currently operates centers in 10 cities and boasts membership of about 1,000. Another group called Hikari no Wa, headed by former Aum priest Fumihiro Joyu, broke off from Aleph in 2007. It is estimated to have 200 members.

After being expelled from a building in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, Aleph relocated to a four-story ferroconcrete building in Adachi Ward, where at least 50 members are said to be living. Nearby residents are campaigning to expel them.

The cult's most effective weapon for attracting new members appears to be collective amnesia of Aum's wrongdoings, compounded by simple ignorance. When Spa's reporter asked a sophomore at a university in Kansai, where surreptitious recruitment on campus has been ongoing, if he knew of Aleph, the youth replied, "Nope, never heard of them. Sounds like the name of some foreigner."

"Is Shoko Asahara the name of some historical figure?" a freshmen at the same institution responded when asked about Aum.

A person who joined Aleph recently told the reporter, "The study session was fascinating. Thinking that it would be all right if I only took part in the yoga classes, I paid the 15,000 yen signup fee, and became a member."

The yoga sessions were held in a place eerily familiar to those who remember Aum --- described as "resembling a training camp for ninja," with believers going about "clad in white pajama-like outfits."

"I had the feeling it was not an ordinary yoga school," the new acolyte said. "There was also a portrait of (Aum guru) Shoko Asahara on the wall in the conference room."

Several police raids of cult facilities this autumn failed to find incriminating evidence. But it's evident that Aleph is inclined to utilize misinformation about its former incarnation when it suits its purposes. In September, emails allegedly sent to subscribers who register at its social site invoked classic Aum dogma, warning adherents that "the world was being controlled by a Jewish-Freemason conspiracy, and since Japan's public security officials and mass media are under the control of Jewish capital, they are not to be trusted."

"I've been approached numerous times by troubled young people who were proselytized by Aleph, or who want to leave it," says Naruhito Noda, a former Aum member and leader of Aleph, who's now involved in social issues such as poverty. "While it's hearsay, I've been told by young people that when Aleph members attempt to recruit new adherents, they will deny the group was ever involved in the subway attacks. Fortunately most of these youth are skeptical and some come to me for advice."

While Aleph in its current form appears benign, Noda is convinced that once religious fanaticism takes root in a group, anything can happen.

"The fact is, once you enter a cult, it becomes almost impossible to leave. Japan is now in its second consecutive decade of economic stagnation and the dreams of its young people, both socially and economically, have been dashed. Aleph's ability to recruit believers under such conditions makes it a threat," he asserts.

The article ends on a worrisome note: monitoring of former Aum cultists by the Public Security Agency is slated to be phased out from next month.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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The subway attack was an inside job.

There's no way they could have gathered, manufactured and stores Sarin Gas without the security services knowing.

-22 ( +1 / -23 )

Young people today have no idea how Aum terrorized the country and while it is relatively recent (ongoing) history, it must be taught in classes that this group has no place in society today.

Many Japanese are very gullible and naive. It's too easy for this group to attract new followers.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

monitoring of former Aum cultists by the Public Security Agency is slated to be phased out from next month.

Oh-oh (0_0)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Please refrain from making inflammatory statements like this unless you can back it up with evidence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The monitoring of former Aum cultists by the Public Security Agency is slated to be phased out from next month.

When will the convicted and condemned "cultists" be "phased out?"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

scary stuff. Hope some people keep a close eye on these twits, dont want history to repeat itself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

These people are still walking around after attacking folks?? No way they should have been taken care of Waco Siege style, you gotta pull out the roots so it don't grow again.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Interesting article.

Public Security Agency is slated to be phased out from next month.

What's most interesting to me is this Public Security Agency. Sounds like Big Brother. Anyone who defends Aleph here must be a foreign member of the cult. They'll definitely be hunted down.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Also, what ever happened to those guys that wore all white and taped CD's all over thier vehicles?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/PSIA/psia02.html

I found this but I think it's a bit old.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

After the subway gassings the media portrayed Aum's rank-and-file members as "victims" who had burnt their bridges behind them and had nowhere else to go, have given all their property and money to the cult when they joined. I suppose 15 years on, those members are now in positions of leadership, and while not as loony as Asahara, they realize that religion is a license to make money, certainly an easier way to support themselves than trying to explain in a job interview that there's nothing on their resume because they belonged to a cult. There seems to be a direct correlation between a religion's ability to bring in money and how aggressively it coerces its believers to proselytize and recruit new members. Aum was just the most extreme example.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting article. Thanks JT. Is it just a matter of public funding that will cause the monitoring of this terrorist group to stop? Scary stuff indeed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whenever society is unstable, financial disarray and growing discontent these idiots will attract the gullible, the disenfranchised but more to the point; they attract those that neither think nor read. And that's why they can grow ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I read on newspapers about the Tokyo subway attacks when I was younger, but I can hardly remember. And it wasn't until I found a book called 'Underground' by Haruki Murakami that I became aware of the Aum Shinrikyo's existence and background. It's a interesting book with interviews made by Murakami to some of the victims and also members of the cult. The idea of this cult still around under another name - but same modus operandi -is worrying but I think some people recruited have nothing to do with it (with whatever the cult's ultimate objectives are), but being deceived believing that they will be able to find their spiritual answers/meaning of life, so the Security Agency should be careful not to make of this a 'witch hunting'. But don't let history repeats itself, like another poster said.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

These new religions are all creepy. Meet someone, especially a foreigner, who has anything to so wif em and you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Underground" by Haruki Murakami should be required reading in school.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The cults most effective weapon for attracting new members appears to be collective amnesia of Aums wrongdoing

WTF! "collective amnesia"? i feel like i'm reading something out of 1984 or some other dystopian future story. or maybe it's just that in japan it's all fairy tales.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It seems easy to go along and check it out, and maybe pay some money, but they won't let you go.

Gradually they will tighten the noose on you, suck up all your resources, alienate all your friends and family, uproot you from your background, and make it impossible for you ever to even think of leaving or having any independent thoughts.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These new religions are all creepy. Meet someone, especially a foreigner, who has anything to so wif em and you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

I'm more worried about the Japanese ones here, actually - they've been known to resort to terrorist actions on numerous occasions - and I would not put more terrorism out of the question for this Aleph mob. Just hope there are spooks closely following every individual member.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Collective amnesia is an ongoing problem in Japan. Its evil twin is pure ignorance. You would be surprised how many japanese do not know their own history or their own cultural icons. So it is with recent history concerning AUM, Shoko Asahara the Tokyo subway attack and assorted cult murders. Don't trust anyone under 30 if you want to know about AUM and its current revival.

What people, especially young people who were too young to remember AUM, need is education. Not just in recent history but also how to identify a cult and get out of one. Religious cults are dangerous things as they have a strong tendency to turn violent sooner or later.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Collective amnesia isn't a "Japan only" issue since most of the religious people in the world have forgiven or are simply ignoring the wrongdoings of their own religion. The ones who are not victim of this amnesia are atheists. Actually, the ones who make a clear separation between religions and sects are also victims of amnesia since every religion started as a sect : one person implanting beliefs in others' minds.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And the band played on...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Recently my Japanese friend's daughter went "underground" ... to where nobody knows. She vanished ... then phoned the family from a police station telling them to let her alone. She said she is okay. And she said she was cutting her ties to her family. Her new family? Nobody knows for sure. But ... some kind of a religious cult is expected to be involved. She is in her late 30s or early 40s.

Yes ... as mentioned in opinions above ... once you join a cult is is almost impossible to leave. And AUM, Adelph and bigger, more famous sects are just as difficult to break away from. Once in, you're supposed to be in for life ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is now in its second consecutive decade of economic stagnation

Don't you mean third?

The subway attack was an inside job.

Ugh, I guess you're the kind of conspiracy theorist who thinks the same about 9/11? What purpose was there for the sarin attack if it was done to prove a point? The subway attacks were just media fodder for a couple of months, the incident barely ever gets talked about today, and it didn't bring about any sweeping legislative or social changes. Like the article mentions, many young Japanese aren't even aware of Aum nowadays.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Does anyone Know healing circle my wife tried to get me to Join before we divorced they do mhand power massage and explode breath on my daughter and my wife paid 50,000 for 4 litres purified healing water.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here`s a link of books about AUM. I read, and highly recommend, The Cult at the End of the World, the third one: http://www.factnet.org/cults/aum_shin_rikyo/Recommended_Books_on_Aum_Shinrikyo.htm

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Could this be put into the total Japanese cultural and historic perspective in relation to what is happening throughout the world?

Why is it that the Japanese people are like perpetual college students in constant search of idealism, romanticism and fantasy? Is it the same with the rest of the world? Is it what we call a dream or hope or wishful thinking?

Where does a cult and their idealism fit into the Japanese minds and hearts? What is the difference between a cult and religion that seem to have the same kind of influence over people?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why is it that the Japanese people are like perpetual college students in constant search of idealism, romanticism and fantasy?

Perhaps people who lack a strong grounding in personal beliefs (not necessarily of the religious variety) are highly vulnerable to aggressive salesmanship. The cults understand this psychology and train their members on methods to pick away at the target's weaknesses In the end they give in because they don't have enough backbone to say no. I've seen it happen lots of times, not only in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru:

" Young people today have no idea how Aum terrorized the country and while it is relatively recent (ongoing) history, it must be taught in classes that this group has no place in society today. "

But on the other hand, the Aum defenders would say that Aum is a cult of peace that was only hijacked by a tiny minority of violent extremists. Can you argue with them?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is in my humble opinion that this cult be banned. Protecting religious expression is less important than the safety of the Japanese people. You join Aleph, you go to jail.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"The nighttime is the right time"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Aum?? Hijos de puta!! They are EVIL brainwashed terrorists!! I survived this sarin gas attack!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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