The 5 members then left their individual trains to meet with their accomplices and were driven off.
This act, by the Aum shinri kyo was,and to this date is still, the most serious terrorist attack in Japanese history. In a society that had been considered virtually crime free, this attack caused widespread fear and disruption on a scale that simply overwhelmed all concerned.
The perpetrators of this attack, were members of the Aum shinri kyo cult founded by Shoko Asahara. Its name translates into English as The Supreme Truth. This Japanese religious group was obsessed with the apocalypse, in fact, Asahara published a book in which he declared himself Christ , outlining a doomsday prophecy culminating in nuclear Armageddon
Haruki Murakami both shocked and fascinated by the media’s response to the attack, wrote the nonfiction account “Underground”.He says in the preface that his reasoning was that the Japanese media failed to cover their own publics perspective, choosing to concentrate on the Aum and demonizing all involved with the cult. Murakami wrote the book originally as a series of interviews with the victims of the attack, trying to find out what it felt like to be there at the time, what have they thought since and what answers ( if any) they have they arrived at. In allowing the individuals free reign to express themselves, with not more than a brief introduction/description from the author we get to hear the accounts from a cross reference of Japanese society and we come to some basic understanding of what it meant to be there.
But this being Murakami, he returned to the subject by interviewing the lesser cult members. In trying to gain perspective of the Aum we start to realise that there are striking similarities between the victims (everyday salary men) and the cultist. Both show an extreme and perverse stoicism, to carry on regardless of the harm to self, both show a blinkered herd instinct to follow their chosen path, whether this was their position at work or enlightenment.There were examples of victims, blinded, nauseous, unable to breathe crawling to their place of employment, or to maintain their planned routine. Aum followers, drugged, tortured (physically and mentally) by their fellow seekers, betrayed by their heirarchy, are still in the Aum.
This ties in with the subtitle of the book “The Tokyo gas attack and the Japanese psyche”, here Murakami reveals a people lonely and alienated, trapped in a society enthralled by industrialisation and modernity. A people lost from their traditions, spirituality and the family ties of its past. In writing this book he questions his culture? Did its total acceptance of narrow conformity lead to the Aum’s renunciation of society and its obsession with armegeddon, are the Aum a reaction to a culture so led by consumerism, that the individual is permanently buried under a perpetual mountain of product? Some of these questions are answered, but most lead to more questions that his society and; ours will need to find answers. For that reason this series of accounts acts as a moral compass, in a society in search of one.
This book gives an insight into a culture, that most of us will never penetrate. It allows a brief glimpse into a society that appears locked down to any outsider. I’m not that sure I understand all its nuances and; I may need to read it again, but that wouldn’t be a hardship, despite the seriousness of the subject matter it was a compelling book to read.
For fans of Haruki Murakami this is a good place for information