On March 20, 1995, members of Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo ("supreme truth") unleashed sarin gas on Tokyo's metro commuters, killing 13 people and injuring as many as 6,000 more. Overnight, the international media took up the lurid story of Japan's death cult. Yet the group, a mixture of outcasts, weirdos, sad sacks, and self-professed messiahs, had been causing problems in Japan for almost a decade by the time they carried out the Tokyo attack. Read on for scary, bizarre, insane information about Aum Shinrikyo.
Founder Shoko Asahara Declared Himself Christ
It's hard to say whether Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, who was born Chizuo Matsumoto, was completely insane or just really good at manipulating people. He claimed to be a Christ figure, the first enlightened one since the historical Buddha. By his own estimation, Asahara could save members of his cult from the impending apocalypse by radiating his own supreme powers into his followers. His extremely confused belief system incorporates elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and yoga.
Aum Shinrikyo is a Doomsday Cult
Aum Shinrikyo, now called Aleph, was founded on a doomsday doctrine—according to founder Shoko Asahara, the world would end either in 1996 or between 1999 and 2003. The apocalypse would be initiated by the US starting World War Three with Japan. Despite this relatively unspecific time prediction and a complete lack of hostility between the US and Japan, thousands—as many as 40,000, according to some estimates—joined the group, seeking a more meaningful existence.
Asahara Kept Female Followers' Pubic Hair in Jars
Reports of Shoko Asahara's bizarre sexual practices exist in Japanese throughout the internet and printed media, but prove hard to track down in verifiable form in English. According to these reports, Asahara had sex with various female members of the cult, sometimes as part of their initiation ritual. He would then take a single public hair from each woman and place it in a jar, on which he would write the woman's holy name, as given by the cult. When Asahara was arrested following the Tokyo attacks, he was sitting in a small room surrounded by these jars.
The Disappearance of Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his Family
Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a young, high-profile lawyer, decided to organize action against Aum Shinrikyo in the late 80s, believing them to be socially dangerous. In 1989, he gave an interview with Tokyo Broadcasting System. The television station then broke source confidentiality protocol by showing the interview to Aum before it was broadcast. On November 3 of that year, cult members broke into Sakamoto's home, murdered him, his wife, and his 14-month-old son, and took the bodies. Police declared the family missing but didn't resolve the case until after the Tokyo attacks, when a cult member admitted to the crime.
Source: New York Times