Japan’s doomsday cult’s child victims suffer trauma

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 20, 2023

By Union of Catholic News reporter

About 50 percent of children raised by the infamous Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo faced mental trauma and nutrition that took a long time to overcome, says a report.

The trauma of the children raised in facilities of Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult was mentioned in a diary written by a victim, the Mainichi newspaper reported on March 16.

The paper reproduced the findings of a 1995 child consultation report two days ahead of the 28th anniversary of the deadly sarin nerve gas attack by cult members on Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki subway station that left 14 dead and about 6,000 injured.

Following the attack, the authorities launched a crackdown on the cult and raided various facilities run by the cult. A total of 110 children were rescued and put in various childcare facilities, media reports say.

Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, founded the cult in 1987. He presented himself as a self-styled godman and Japan’s only fully enlightened master.

The cult split into two in 2000 and is believed to be largely defunct today. Various countries including the US labeled the cult as a terrorist organization. Japan categorized it as a “dangerous religion.”

Matsumoto and 12 other cult members were sentenced to death for the gas attack. They were executed in 2018 after exhausting all their appeals, media reports say.

The 1995 child consultation report said 25 children were “anemic” or “malnourished” and 47 were below the average height for their age group, the Mainichi reported.

Despite the trauma, some children reportedly wanted to return to the cult and wrote in their diaries: “Return me to AUM Shinrikyo!”

The report stated that “mind control has made it difficult for them to adapt to society. The parts of it that they aren’t even aware of themselves are a problem that needs addressing going forward.”

Less than 10 percent of the children were able to draw a picture of their entire family, and none of the adolescents drew a family member, it added.

Reportedly the children were kept separate from their parents. Such children had forgotten the faces of their parents, and some were even reluctant to meet them.

On March 20, Japan marked 28 years anniversary of the deadly attack with a memorial event at the capital’s Kasumigaseki Station, Kyodo News reported.

Tetsuo Saito, minister of land, infrastructure, transport, and tourism attended the service and reiterated the government’s stand against terrorism and anti-social activities.

“The government will strengthen efforts to fight terrorism and to create an environment in which train passengers can feel safe,” Saito said in a statement, Kyodo News reported.

Aleph and its offshoot Hikarinowa, or the Circle of Rainbow Light are under surveillance from Japanese authorities with restrictions slapped on them to contain any potential terrorist activities.

Ahead of the anniversary of the nerve gas attacks, the Justice Ministry had slapped Aleph with a six-month ban on the use of 13 of its approximately 20 facilities nationwide and on receiving donations for failing to fully report its activities as legally required.

Shizue Takahashi, 76, the widow of a deputy stationmaster at Kasumigaseki Station who died during the incident shared her fear that the incident may be forgotten.

“As the number of people who do not know about the incident increases, I am afraid it will be forgotten,” Takahashi told Kyodo News.

Takahashi currently leads a group of victims in a campaign to set up a facility to keep and disclose records of the attack.

According to Japan’s Public Safety Intelligence Agency, the cult had around 1,280 members as of the end of January 2023.