Aum Shinrikyo

Edited articles on Aum Shinrikyo



Shoko Asahara

Stories: 2003






AUM uses sultry Net sirens to lure male members Death demanded for Aum "doctor" Cultists compensated
Surveillance of Aum to continue on grounds it still poses threat to public Chino Shoho's quirks pose no threat: cultist Death row cult member marries, police suspicious
Wandering cult wrapped in white befuddles Japan Court upholds death for Japan subway terrorist Cult admits it may have mixed up its Armageddon dates
Japanese Police Raid Doomsday Cult Premises AUM senior member apologizes at conclusion of trial Protesters call for Aum members' eviction
Prosecutors call for ex-AUM senior member Tsuchiya to hang Japan Court to Rule on Doomsday Cult Guru in Feb Takayama city ordered to compensate Aum members
Chino Shoho's quirks pose no threat: cultist Aum members held over swindle  


Protesters call for Aum members' eviction
by Eric Johnston ("The Japan Times," July 15, 2003)
Some 400 people took part in a protest rally Monday to have Aum Shinrikyo followers evicted from the cult's headquarters in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.

Participants included municipal and prefectural assembly members who are calling for Aum, which now calls itself Aleph, to vacate two stories of a five-story building near JR Shin-imamiya Station that it took over June 1.

Aum's Osaka operations had previously been split between offices in the city of Suita and Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka. These premises were vacated after local citizens complained about the cult's presence.

"It is important to guard the rights of all people," said Osaka Municipal Assembly member Michihiro Kobayashi, who represents Nishinari. "However, in spite of the fact that members of Aum Shinrikyo have been arrested, the group has not disbanded. For the safety of Nishinari, we must oppose Aum's entry into the ward."

Nearly 60,000 signatures protesting the cult's presence in Nishinari have been gathered since mid-June, according to almost a dozen citizens' groups attending the protest. The groups said they will continue gathering signatures until they present the petition to Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura sometime next month.

Since moving into Nishinari, Aum has faced increasing pressure to leave. About 20 people are believed to be living in the building, but Aum members refused to provide exact figures or comment on the day's demonstration.

Several participants said they were especially worried that the group might try to recruit new members.

"I'm for freedom of religion, but this group is a cult," said Sumiko Morii, a 53-year-old resident who took part in the protest. "We are very worried about our children being approached by members of Aleph and being tricked into joining."


Prosecutors call for ex-AUM senior member Tsuchiya to hang
("Mainichi," July 14, 2003)

Former senior AUM Shinrikyo cult member Masami Tsuchiya, who played a vital role in the cult's production of lethal gases, should be hanged for his involvement in seven crimes including mass murder, prosecutors demanded Monday.

During a hearing held at the Tokyo District Court, a prosecutor pointed out that cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, masterminded the seven cases in which Tsuchiya was accused of involvement.

"In order to satisfy Matsumoto's desires, Tsuchiya conspired with other senior cult members to move forward with the cult's policy of justifying murders," a prosecutor said in a closing argument.

"He not only established a method of mass-producing sarin gas but also developed chemical weapons, including poison-gas weapons, while knowing that they would be used for murder," the prosecutor said.

Tsuchiya, 38, has admitted to his role in the cult's production of sarin and VX, another lethal nerve gas, but denied he conspired with Asahara and other cult members.

At the same time, he clarified his loyalty to Asahara and argued that he does not think AUM carried out one of the seven cases -- a deadly sarin attack in the Nagano Prefecture city of Matsumoto in 1994 that killed seven local residents.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has charged Tsuchiya with murder, attempted murder and harboring a criminal in the seven cases. They include the sarin attack in Matsumoto and a similar attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 that left 12 people dead and thousands of others ill.

Tsuchiya headed the cult's so-called "chemical team" that produced sarin and VX gas as well as other chemical weapons.

His trial has dragged on for much longer than that of other senior AUM members involved in the cult's terrorist activities because he twice dismissed his defense teams since the court procedure opened in November 1995. Tsuchiya also refused to enter a plea on all seven charges filed against him.


Japan Court to Rule on Doomsday Cult Guru in Feb
(Reuters, July 4, 2003)

A Japanese court plans to hand down a verdict in the trial of the doomsday cult guru accused of masterminding a deadly gas attack on Tokyo subways next February -- nearly nine years after the event shocked the nation.
Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for Aum Shinri Kyo leader Shoko Asahara over the sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 people and harmed more than 5,000 in 1995. The attack shattered the image of Japan as a crime-free society.
"We've told both sides that if the trial proceeds as scheduled, the ruling would be delivered on February 27," an official at the Tokyo District Court said on Friday. Asahara, 48, faces 12 other charges, including the masterminding of a nerve gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and hurt 144.
Prosecutors and Asahara's lawyers have said they would accept the date, which will be officially set after the final defense plea in court on October 30 and 31, he said.
Prosecutors demanded in April that Asahara be sentenced to death, saying: "It was indiscriminate terrorism and it is the most atrocious and nasty offence in the history of crimes."
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has pleaded not guilty.
In a rare move to speed up Japan's oft-criticized snail-paced court proceedings, prosecutors had dropped four counts against Asahara. The doomsday cult case has run for more than seven years already -- not unusual for high-profile trials in Japan.
Nine cult members have already been sentenced to death and have all launched appeals, which Asahara would also be entitled to.
The doomsday cult, which Asahara set up in 1987, at one point attracted a 15,000-member following in Japan. In the past, it preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for calamities.
According to the Public Security Investigation Agency, there were still 1,650 Aum followers in Japan and some 300 believers in Russia as of last December.
The cult has changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- and insists it is now a benign religious group.
Earlier this year, the public security agency secured a three-year extension to keep up strict surveillance of the cult, as it was still deemed to pose a threat to the public.




 Takayama city ordered to compensate Aum members
("Japan Today," July 2, 2003)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that the city of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture pay 200,000 yen in compensation to four Aum Shinrikyo members for illegally rejecting their residency registration applications in February last year.
The top court concluded last week that municipalities are required to accept such applications, saying a resident registry forms the basis of administrative procedures, such as the electoral roll, by maintaining accurate records of residents' data.


Cult wins residency battle
("Mainichi," June 26, 2003)
Japan's top court on Thursday disqualified local governments from refusing AUM Shinrikyo members' residency in their areas in a landmark ruling on the issue.

The Supreme Court's decision will force many local governments across Japan to review their stance in dealing with the controversial cult since they can no longer reject residency applications from AUM members.

Residential locations of AUM members has been an ongoing social issue, with the group asking courts to revoke local governments' decisions not to accept their residency applications in 16 areas throughout the country.

The top court specifically ordered Tokyo's Suginami-ku and Naka-ku, Nagoya, to accept applications from AUM members. "If (AUM members) move into the areas, the local governments concerned cannot refuse their residency notification," a judge presiding over the two cases said.

Officials in both Suginami-ku and Naka-ku had insisted that local governments were authorized to receive or reject residency applications because they have a duty to protect the health and safety of the local residents.

Hiroshi Yamada, ward chief of Suginami, was furious about the top court's decision.

"The court doesn't understand local residents' anxiety (about AUM members' moving in)," Yamada said. "I want the national government to think about fundamental measures to help solve the issue."

Hiroshi Araki, a top spokesman for the cult, kept a low profile.

"The residency problem is related to a series of past crimes (committed by AUM members), for which I now make an apology," said Araki. "We have sent letters to local governments where our members have filed lawsuits over their residency, asking them to reach an out-of-court settlement."

Several local governments such as Tokyo's Setagaya-ku and Adachi-ku have allowed AUM members to move in after courts ordered them to do so.

But Setagaya officials now subsidize local residents who keep an eye on AUM members' activities in their ward.

The issue is complicated because AUM members tabled their residency applications in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, even though they don't actually live there.

The Yashio Municipal Government previously decided to allow cult members to move in and to pay compensation for initially rejecting their applications. But now the city insists that it doesn't have to pay damages in a lawsuit it filed because some AUM members who had their applications rejected actually reside in other prefectures.



Aum members held over swindle
("The Japan Times," June 24, 2003)

Three members of Aum Shinrikyo were arrested Monday on suspicion of swindling goods worth 500,000 yen from a mentally ill man.

Police also searched several locations, including an Aum facility in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.

Those arrested were identified as Akira Hori, 43, head of Aum's Osaka branch; Nobuyuki Handa, 38; and Eiichiro Motomura, 38.

They are suspected of swindling about 400 books on medicine and religion and about 10 computer software applications from the 31-year-old man on Oct. 14.

They allegedly told the man the items should be discarded because they were possessed by the devil. Police say the three took the books and software to a used book seller and sold them for cash the same day.

The man was first approached by Aum members in September 2000 while he was browsing through the religion section of a bookstore in Osaka's Umeda district, according to police. At their invitation, he began to frequent Aum facilities, including a yoga class.

He was quoted as telling police he does not consider himself a follower, and that he began to sense something was wrong with him mentally as he went to Aum-related sites. Aum, whose members were convicted of committing several heinous crimes in the early and mid-1990s, renamed itself Aleph in 2001.


Chino Shoho's quirks pose no threat: cultist
by Hiroshi Matsubara ("The Japan Times," June 7, 2003)

On a quiet hill dotted with summer cottages in the village of Oizumi, Yamanashi Prefecture, with Mount Fuji soaring above the southern Alps, a pair of geodesic domes are going up.

In late April, the weekly newsmagazine Shukan Bunshun began a series of articles calling the cottages "satyams," a term the infamous Aum Shinrikyo coined for its residences. But these articles were about the cult Chino Shoho.

The articles appeared just as a mysterious group of people clad all in white began to attract nationwide media attention by wandering about central Japan in a caravan of white-painted vehicles, occasionally occupying mountain roads. The group called itself Pana Wave Laboratory and claimed to be Chino Shoho's "scientific arm."

Shukan Bunshun also speculated that the group was attempting to capture the popular stray seal Tama-chan from a river in Yokohama and bury it in their cottage compound in Oizumi.

The complex then came under constant monitoring by dozens of reporters seeking to uncover the connection between the landowner and Pana Wave -- and what they had to do with the seal, which in March evaded capture by a U.S.-based animal protection group that had received financial support from the landowner, Chino Shoho member Eitaro Moriya.

The owner of a clothing retail chain of 12 stores in Niigata Prefecture, the 66-year-old Moriya began building the cottages last October. He said they were intended as a place where he and his wife and sons could spend their summers.

He said he wanted the villas to serve as quiet second homes, but the media frenzy and local residents' fears over his connection with the group have stymied that plan.

As a senior follower of Chino Shoho, Moriya served as president of L.R. Publications in Tokyo, which has published books and magazines on messages by the cult's founder, Yuko Chino, 69.

"We can no longer go out to restaurants in this village, as people look at us as if we are potential criminals," Moriya said in an interview with The Japan Times. "What we believe and do may appear strange to the public, but why is it that a group that has not committed any crimes be subject to so much bashing?"

The roughly 40 members in the Pana Wave Laboratory caravan explained they were protecting Chino from electromagnetic waves and were moving from place to place to avoid them.

Moriya said the members dress in white from head to toe and drive white vehicles because this protects Chino from "persistent attacks by an unidentified enemy" armed with the "Scalar Wave," which they also call "extended electromagnetic waves."

Although Chino Shoho had no known connection with criminal activity, the cultists' radical attire and Chino's past doomsday messages meant it would not be long before the media associated it with Aum, whose members committed several heinous crimes, including the deadly 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system and a 1994 nerve gas attack.


'Aum in its early days'

At the beginning of May, Hidehiko Sato, chief of the National Police Agency, said Pana Wave's clothing and activities seem "fanatic" and resemble "Aum Shinrikyo in its early days."

The intense media coverage that dogged the group's every meandering move subsided once the Pana Wave caravan resettled at its headquarters in the city of Fukui in mid-May.

But Moriya said his business in Niigata suffered greatly after the local media featured photos and video footage of his shops there in their coverage of the cult.

"It has been more than a decade since our leader, Chino, began her exile, but (the caravan) previously had no trouble with the public or the media," Moriya said. "I came to realize it is the essence of the media business to raise public hysteria."

Moriya filed a suit against Shukan Bunshun late last month, demanding 10 million yen in damages.

To win local residents' approval to stay in Oizumi, Moriya had to sign a written oath with the village office last month, promising he will never invite the all-white caravan and will allow villagers to look in on the cottages and use them for meetings and small events if they so wish.

The caravan also signed a similar oath with a residents' group in Fukui, pledging not to host a large gathering at their headquarters and vowing to downsize the number of people living at the site from the current 50.

According to Moriya, Chino Shoho developed a distinctive identity under Yuko Chino, whom the cult regards as the "last messiah to succeed Buddha, Moses and Jesus."

Though it is not registered as a publicly authorized religious organization, the sect has been around in one form or another since 1977, when Chino published her first book of messages.

Chino's mother was a member of God Light Association, an occult group that expanded rapidly in the 1970s. After the group's founder died in 1976, some of its members gathered under Chino to form a new cult.

Its publications say Chino is able to communicate with good spirits in celestial spheres. Her messages are distributed to members in the form of essays, articles and poems through the monthly magazine L.R.

Members of the group do not consider Chino Shoho a religion, arguing that it lacks collective discipline, never asks its members for donations and never encourages them to propagate their beliefs to outsiders.

The group currently has about 1,000 members who pay a 6,000 yen yearly subscription fee for the monthly magazine. About 200 of them, who have time or money, volunteer to carry out what Chino Shoho considers good deeds, such as joining the Pana Wave caravan, Moriya said.

Others lead regular lives and just read Chino's message in the monthly magazine, he said.


UFOs, Satan, occult

In its publications, the group tries to explain scientifically Chino's spiritual teachings. These sometimes include science fiction touches, such as references to UFOs, mentions of Atlantis, the occult tastes, as seen in comments on Satan and doomsday, and references to the Bible.

After Chino reportedly fell ill in the early 1990s, the group established Pana Wave Laboratory in Fukui in 1994 to conduct "scientific research on the Scalar Wave." They believe electromagnetic waves are a key future energy source to replace fossil fuels and can be used as a weapon of mass-destruction, which, they claim, the United States and Russia have secretly developed as national projects.

Chino Shoho is also keen on conspiracy theories, claiming it has been attacked by communist agents and forces out to control the Scalar Wave.

It also runs an ultraconservative political organization and a mail-order firm for its members.

The strange combination of spiritualism, science fiction and political conservatism somehow coexist in the minds of the cultists, making it difficult for outsiders to share their views. The members said although their notions may appear strange, they are only exercising their freedom of thought and pose no threat to society.


Look out, Tama-chan

Their sphere of interest also includes the wayward seal.

"I guess we underestimated the popularity of Tama-chan," said Moriya, who admitted he provided financial support for the failed operation to capture the seal in March.

Moriya said the operation was launched by a former member of Chino Shoho who "took very seriously (Yuko Chino's) sympathy for the seal, which was living in polluted rivers."

It was also based on advice from foreign environmentalists, he said, claiming the group had planned to take the seal to an aquarium in northern Japan with which it had been in contact.

Chino Shoho, Pana Wave and Aum Shinrikyo all embrace apocalyptic theories. Chino has often warned in her writings that doomsday is approaching, though the message sounds much less consistent and specific than the preachings of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, who is now on trial for mass murder.

The essence is that doomsday began in the 1970s and since then, every individual has been requested to follow their conscience before it is too late, according to Moriya's 33-year-old son, also a Chino Shoho adherent.

Some members of the caravan also mentioned doomsday, reflecting their fear that the Scalar Wave, in the form of industrial pollutants, has been undermining the "Earth's core," the son said.

"Aum talked of doomsday to trigger public fears and boast its relevance, but have we ever attempted to appeal to the public for these purposes?" he asked.


Was police probe overkill?

On May 14, police launched a massive raid on Chino Shoho's 12 facilities across the country, mobilizing about 250 investigators ostensibly to probe allegations that three Pana Wave vehicles had been falsely registered.

The suspected offense, widely seen as an excuse for police to gather information on the group, is that the cult had one of its former member register the vehicles under his name although they were to be used by the group.

Moriya said he and other key members of Chino Shoho have since been repeatedly questioned by police.

"After Aum, it seems both the government and public feel they can do anything they want to anyone they perceive as strange," Moriya said. "But being unusual doesn't necessarily mean being wrong, and I always believe what Chino says is right."

The members claim Chino has long suffered from cancer as a result of constant electromagnetic wave attacks, and many of them believe she doesn't have long to live.

"If our leader Chino passes away, we no longer need to wear white clothes, or to go on a journey of exile in the caravan," Moriya's son said.


Death row cult member marries, police suspicious
("Mainichi Daily," June 7, 2003)
A former AUM Shinrikyo cult senior member Tomomitsu Niimi, who is appealing a death sentence he has been handed for his roles in mass murder cases committed by the cult, has registered his marriage to a cult follower, Tokyo police said.

Investigators suspect Niimi, 39, married the woman in a bid to use her as a messenger between him and the cult, noting that only relatives can visit the defendant once he is put in prison.

Since he is appealing the ruling to a high court, Niimi is still in a detention center.

The cult denied his marriage was aimed at securing communication channels with cult leaders. "The sect can't make a decision on such a personal matter. The woman is not an active member of the cult," Hiroshi Araki, public relations manager of the cult, said.

The defense lawyer for Niimi declined to comment on the revelations. In December last year, Niimi registered his marriage to a follower who was developing computer software at a cult-affiliated company, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Public Security Division.

During a raid on a cult facility in spring last year, the division confiscated documents showing that Niimi frequently communicated with the cult's headquarters over how to run the organization.

One of the documents clearly demonstrated that Niimi was asking cult leaders to introduce to him a woman he could marry.

Defense lawyers can legally meet their clients at detention centers. Under the Prison Law, however, only relatives can meet those who have been placed in prisons after the Supreme Court dismisses their appeals or they give up appealing the sentences on them.

In 2000, AUM Shinrikyo declared that it would break off relations with cult followers who failed to express their regret over involvement in crimes masterminded by cult founder Shoko Asahara.

However, Niimi declared throughout his trial that he still follows Asahara, 48, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. The MPD Public Security Division believes that the cult's declaration is just a lie aimed at making itself look clean of criminal activities.

Niimi has been slapped with a death sentence for his involvement in a series of crimes committed by the cult, including a 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains that left 12 people dead and sickened thousands of others.


Wandering cult wrapped in white befuddles Japan
by Gary Schaefer (AP, May 26, 2003)
 For years, they have traveled the back roads of Japan in an all-white caravan, swathing their camps in white fabric. They say they are protecting a sick prophet from an invisible enemy and the world from Armageddon.

Most Japanese had never heard of the Pana Wave Laboratory cult until it rolled into this rural community in western Japan recently, transforming a secluded mountain road into a clinical white cocoon.

But as a police standoff began and pictures of the strange camp began dominating the television news, something seemed eerily familiar to many Japanese.

"The first thing I thought was, it's another Aum Shinrikyo," farmer Kanichi Sakai, standing at a police barricade near the group's camp. "It was so unreal I had to come see for myself."

A riveting event

The weeklong standoff was resolved with little more than a show of force and the issuing of parking tickets. But it riveted Japan and served as a reminder that cults such as Aum, which set up strongholds in the countryside and carried out a deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways in 1995, continue to thrive.

The timing of the standoff was almost as spooky as the white-draped landscapes.

Just days before, prosecutors closed their case against Aum's guru, Shoko Asahara, who reportedly ordered the subway gassing to provoke an apocalypse he predicted only his followers would survive. He faces the death penalty for the attack, which killed 12 and left thousands sick.

No link between Aum and Pana Wave is suspected, and the standoff was non-violent.

The caravan, believed to carry the group's ailing guru, has moved around western Japan since 1994. Before arriving here, about 160 miles west of Tokyo, it spent almost eight months on a desolate stretch of road in a neighboring state.

Seeking refuge

The cult says it seeks refuge from deadly electromagnetic waves generated by power lines and controlled by "left-wing elements." It believes white fabric helps neutralize the waves.

According to cult watchers and media reports quoting police sources, Pana Wave was founded under a different name around 1977 by Yuko Chino, a self-proclaimed prophet who preaches a blend of Christianity, Buddhism and New Age doctrines.

The group reportedly owns property in several rural areas and once claimed several thousand members. Estimates of its membership range from several hundred to 1,200.

Pana Wave says attacks by electromagnetic waves have left Chino, who is believed to be in the most heavily guarded van in the caravan, with terminal cancer.

Her death, according to cult literature, would deprive humanity of its only hope for salvation.

Chino has prophesied that a 10th planet approaching Earth will bring massive earthquakes, giant tidal waves and other cataclysmic changes as early as this summer.

"This is a cult in its terminal phase," said Taro Takimoto, an attorney who is part of a national network advising cult victims.

"Its delusions are getting deeper, and it appears less concerned about run-ins with the outside world."


Court upholds death for Japan subway terrorist
("Mainichi," May 19, 2003)
A top AUM Shinrikyo member who played a leading role in the cult's 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people had his appeal against the death sentence rejected Monday.

"It was an inhumane crime of an unprecedented scale ... the defendant must bear a grave responsibility." Presiding Judge Kunio Harada said at the Tokyo High Court that upheld the death penalty handed to Masato Yokoyama.

Yokoyama's lawyers argued that capital punishment was too heavy by pointing to the fact that no one died in the carriage where he sprayed the deadly sarin gas. The defense team also claimed that 48-year-old Yokoyama was under the mind control of AUM guru Shoko Asahara.

However, Harada rejected these arguments. "Although it turned out that no one died as a result of the defendant's actions, the death sentence is unavoidable," the judge said. "We cannot conclude that the defendant is not showing remorse, but the level of his apparent remorse shown is not enough to downgrade his punishment."

Yokoyama has remained silent in the dock since the middle of his trial at the Tokyo District Court. He did not utter a word during Monday's proceeding.

Court documents showed that Yokoyama was one of the AUM members who released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000 people.

He was also found guilty of illegally manufacturing automatic rifles from 1994 to 1995.



Cult admits it may have mixed up its Armageddon dates
by Shane Green ("The Sydney Morning Herald," May 17, 2003)

The world did not end this week - a relief for most of us. But for Pana Wave, the strange and possibly dangerous white-clad Japanese cult that made the prediction, things could not have been worse.

It was all meant to be over on Thursday, when the unknown 10th planet approached the Earth, causing the globe to tip and triggering a massive earthquake.

But as the clock ticked over into Thursday in Japan, the only things that had approached were drenching spring rains and the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, in town for North Korean talks. Pana Wave had mentioned neither in its Armageddon predictions.

To be sure, at the start of the week, there had been an earthquake that shook awake Tokyoites, who are waiting for the next Big One - the devastating earthquake expected one day in the capital.

For Pana Wave devotees, there may have been a fleeting "we told you so" moment, albeit a few days ahead of schedule. But the only casualty was a boy who suffered a broken arm when he fell out of bed.