[From August Issue 2012]
The last Aum fugitive, TAKAHASHI Katsuya, was arrested on June 15. Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for numerous atrocities and is known overseas as a cult organization. Seventeen years ago they carried out the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in which 13 passengers died and more than 6,000 others were injured.
Aum preached the attainment of enlightenment through yoga, its founder ASAHARA Shoko (real name: MATSUMOTO Chizuo) took in young people who felt suffocated by society and cleverly brainwashed them into becoming his followers. Furthermore, in the guise of training, he created a hierarchy, in which followers had to obey the orders of their superiors without question.
Believers were not welcome in society and gradually they began their anti-social and anti-political activities. Asahara even incited murder, by using the term “phowa,” which means execution. They killed a lawyer – who was perceived as being hostile to their cause – and his family in a coldblooded act.
Furthermore, Aum manufactured sarin for the purposes of terrorism. The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway targeted the Kasumigaseki area, which houses Japan’s governmental departments. Afterwards, the chief of the National Police Agency, was shot. A series of criminal cases lead to the indictment of 189 Aum members, the death sentence for 13 executives and life imprisonment for five others. The majority of these had some form of higher education and had lived ordinary lives before entering Aum.
The media gave a lot of coverage to this, the worst crime in Japanese history, whenever a new development arose. After this crime, people have been extremely suspicious of new religious groups that are soliciting for large donations. However, the new religious organizations “Aleph” and “Hikari no Wa,” formed by former Aum followers, are still active.
Aum Criminal System can be Found Wherever you Look
This kind of abnormal criminal activity occurred before Aum. The Japanese Coalition Red Army, which advocated simultaneous world revolution, brutally killed 12 of their comrades in group lynchings. The coalition adhered to a hierarchical system with strict rules, and those violating the rules were executed.
These two cases share a common feature. Both these organizations had strict rules and those found to be in violation were strictly punished. Furthermore they were forced to watch each others’ movements and advised to inform on each other in secret. It is not easy to get out of such a group. Conversely, the system is set up so that the leader can exercise absolute power.
This system can be found not only in the yakuza (gangster) world, but also in military regimes and in some socialist nations. The Aum incident teaches us that we are constantly in danger of being brainwashed to become the puppet of an ambitious leader, or of being forced to live in a world without freedom.