Myth Of The 20th Century – Episode 46: Underground – The Tokyo Gas Attack and Japanese Psyche

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Adam Smith, Hank Oslo, Nick Mason, and Hans Lander


Crime is a complex subject in Japan. Known today for its relatively safe streets, wealthy citizens, and polite society – the reputation is something the Japanese like to promote – even in some cases going so far as to ignore reports of crime so as not to inflate the government statistics. When people started disappearing in the 1980s, rumors that they were associated with the Aum Shinrikyo movement were easy to dismiss. After a Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 led to 13 people dying and thousands injured in Japan’s worst post-war terrorist attack quickly pointed to the group, however, the government could no longer ignore the problem and initiated a massive raid on all known Aum compounds throughout the country. And while many members were sentenced to death, in a country that boasts a 99% conviction rate that includes near universal confessions, most of the Aum members on death row showed an unwillingness to express remorse for their actions. For such a highly socialized country, where the proverb ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’ rules, how a group, that to this day boasts a membership in the thousands, can remain as resolutely committed to going against the grain raises more questions about Japan’s culture than there seems to be clear answers.


1984 -Yoga center established in Shibuya by Asahara
1986 – Ashara’s group named Aum Shinsen no Kai (The Aum Group of MountainWizards)
1987 – Asahara meets with Dalai Lama
1987 – Name changed to Aum Shinrikyo
1989 – Aum Shinrikyo sect ecognized as an official religion
1989 – Murder of Sakamoto family
1990 – Asahara’s failed campaign for the Diet
1991 – First links to Russia established
1993 – Chemical plant, Satyam number 7, established at Kamikuishiki compound
1994 – Aum begins using LSD in initiation rituals
1994 – Matsumoto Gas Attack
1995 – Tokyo Underground Gas Attack


– Holy Terror – Armageddon in Tokyo, Brackett (1996)
– Undergound, Murakami (1997)
– Cult attraction: Aum Shinrikyo’s power of persuasion, Ito (2015) –
– Why did Aum Shinrikyo attack Tokyo subways?, Quora (2015) –
– The Myth of Japan’s Bored Police, Fahey (2017) –

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  1. Does socialmatter know this is an explicitly atheist podcast? What exactly is the point of this being here rather than on say TRS with the other members of the skinhead 4chan mystery religion? You can be religious, that’s fine, but don’t actually practice it and if you have a problem with my blasphemy then my permission is retroactively void and you’re now just another uneducated rube.

    1. What?

    2. I didn’t like that either. Perhaps some planning and agenda would keep this show out of the weeds?

    3. You have heard incorrectly the statements made in the podcast. Perhaps we want to hear AHN&H speak more about religion? I request that our benefactors do an episode on Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Southern Baptist Convention.

    4. Each of our opinions are our own. We are not explicitly atheist – we have more than one co-host who are church goers. We still manage to get along and welcome you to make a specific argument if you have one. We also all have hair on our heads last I checked.

    5. None of us are atheists. Literally none of us.

    6. We are not an “atheist” podcast but we are also not here to tell you what is true in regards to spiritual matters. In the comments you are referring to Adam was making a case for religious tolerance. Perhaps you don’t believe there should be tolerance for religious differences. I can respect that fanaticism but if that’s the case your problem isn’t just with atheists but with any one who doesn’t share your specific denomination.

      1. I would make a joke here but I fear everything I can come up with would be blasphemous/vain.

    7. Don’t leave comments that aren’t flattering to us, Simon. Only comment to tell us how much you love the show.

      1. Chiraqi Insurgent December 4, 2017 at 10:44 pm

        Wrong, Alex. You forgot to say “Simon says”. LOL

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