On March 20, 1995, a nerve gas believed to be sarin was released in Tokyo. The gas was released in several commutertrains throughout the Tokyo metropolitan area, killing six and injuring twelve hundred others. This act, described by localauthorities as “a case of organized and indiscriminate murder” (Kristof, “Poison”), was but one item in a string of crimescommitted by the doomsday religious cult Aum Shinri Kyo (Aum Supreme Truth). At about 8:15 A.M. Tokyo time, packages left on several commuter trains throughout Tokyo released a deadly nerve gas.The subway stations initially cited to be affected were Tsukiji, Kasumigaseki, Kamiacho, Kokkai-gijidomae, Hibia,Hacchobori, Kodenmacho, Nakano-Sakaue, Akasakamitsuke, Ochanomizu, Hongo-Sanchome, Korakuen, Ningyocho, andMinami Asagaya stations. Kokkai-gijidomae is the station that serves the Japanese Parliament and there was a package lefton the stairs leading to the hotel next door to the Parliament building, but no one inside the hotel had been reported injured.More than eight hundred people were taken to more than eighty hospitals throughout Tokyo, and at least ten were reported tobe in critical condition. The Japanese Government mobilized a chemical warfare team numbering one hundred fortymembers, and the police rescue team wore chemical suits to investigate the incident (Kristof “Poison” A1). Apart from therescue teams, fire fighters, subway workers and even uninjured passengers helped carry the victims out of the subway onstretchers and makeshift slings (Watanabe C:13). The gas affected more than five thousand people and killed twelve (WitterE:1). According to one article, “It normally takes several weeks to completely recover from miosis, a contraction of thepupils that is characteristic of organic phosphorous compound gasses such as sarin” (Wantanabe C:13). Other effects of thegas sarin can last for life. On March 21, a team of police posted themselves in the subways partly to protect against further attacks and partly tointerview passengers concerning the previous day’s attack. Several commuters stated that they had seen men wearingsunglasses, which is unusual for a subway, and in some cases the men were wearing surgical masks as well. One manreportedly placed a plastic bag wrapped in newspaper on a subway car and a passenger kicked it onto the platform where itstarted emitting white fumes. Two people died at that station and the man leaving the package was later taken to the hospital(Witter E:8). In a similar incident, a man wearing sunglasses and a surgical mask placed a paper wrapped package by hisfeet, at which point he “fiddled around with his hands in the package before hurriedly leaving the car — without the package– at the next stop, Ebisu” (Kirstof, “Japanese” A1), that package also emitted deadly fumes. Several other men in sunglassesreportedly left newspaper wrapped packages on other cars that later emitted sarin fumes. Authorities failed to find anysuspects. Sarin was originally developed by German Nazis in the 1930’s, but is suspected of being first used by Iraq in 1988 insuppressing Kurdish rebels (Wantanabe C:13). In addition Japan used deadly gases in World War II against China, and
large stockpiles of it were left behind at the end of the war (Kristof, “Poison” A1). Although the chemicals to produce sarinare easy to come by, it would take a thorough understanding of chemistry to produce sarin. Professor Hiroshi Kato, achemistry professor at the Shinshu University, said that it would probably take an organic chemist with a graduate degree toproduce sarin (Pollack, A10). Sarin is a straw colored liquid that had no odor itself and the fumes are deadly to inhale.Symptoms from inhaling the fumes include, but are not limited to, pupils contracting to pinpoints, drooling, runny nose, tears,tightness in the chest, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, headache, and convulsions. (”Toxic”, C12). As little as .5milligrams is enough to kill (Kristof, “Poison” A1). Aum Shinri Kyo means “Aum Supreme Truth”. The group was founded by Shoko Asahara, a blind guru or prophet for thecult. This cult is a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism and seems to maintain the paranoid belief that the governments of bothJapan and The United States plot against them. This delusion is manifest in the videotaped statement that Asahara made tothe Japanese press on March 24 1995, claiming; “The sarin gas . . . who blew it in there? Without a doubt, it was the U.S.Military” (Reid, D1). Asahara preaches to his followers that everyday life simply accumulates bad karma and that a ‘poa’killing, which his followers commit with seeming regularity, is a way to relieve the victims of an inevitably bad karma.”Thus what we call cold blooded murder was regarded ‘”as a beautiful ‘poa’, and wise people would see that both the killerand the person killed would benefit’” (Mendoza). Aum Shinri Kyo was immediately suspected of the subway attack as they had been involved with Sarin gas before. On July2 1993, more than one hundred residents complained about noxious fumes rising from a building owned by Aum Shinrikyo.On June 27 1994, seven people died and forty-four others were hospitalized due to fumes rising from a pond next to adormitory in Matsumoto (Pollack A10). Many speculate that the Matsumoto incident was, in actuality, a test for thesubsequent subway gassing. On March 5 1995, nineteen people were hospitalized after inhaling fumes on a train onYokohama (”Toxic” C12). On the fifteenth of the same month, “three attache cases containing and unknown liquid arediscovered at a Tokyo subway station. They include small motorized fans, a vent and a battery. One gives off vapor” (C12).Even after the confession of Asahara later in 1995, most of the cult is free, so many Japanese citizens are afraid. After all,over five thousand people were just going to work on the morning of Monday, March 20 1995. These people neversuspected that they may be permanently affected by nerve gas before clocking in, much less brutally murdered before lunch.What Aum Shinrikyo did was more than attack the people on the subway. They shocked the world with mindless brutality.Considering domestic and international terrorism, it seems that the terrorists and religious cults aren’t really fighting forsome ideal or a piece of land. They just wish to kill. This idea is easily supported by the sarin gassing of the Tokyo subwayon March 20 1995 by Aum Supreme Truth. Some truth.