Terrorism in Japan - The Sarin gas attack in Tokyo

The last thing on your mind when thinking about Japan, are terrorist attacks by some fanatics.

However, not even a safe country like Japan is safe from terrorist attacks.

The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated on March 20, 1995, in Tokyo, Japan, by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

In five coordinated attacks, the perpetrators released sarin gas on three lines of the current Tokyo Metro during rush hour, killing 12 people, seriously injuring 50 and causing temporary vision problems for some 5,000 others.


The attack was directed at trains passing through Kasumigaseki and Nagatachō, seat of the Japanese government.

Those responsible for the attack

Aum Shinrikyo (オウム真理教) is a Japanese cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. Aum Shinrikyo, who split into Aleph and Hikari no Wa in 2007, was classified as a terrorist organization by several countries, including Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and the United States.

Terrorism in japan - the sarin gas attack in tokyo


In 1992, Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum Shinrikyo, published a book in which he declared himself “Christ”, Japan's only enlightened teacher, and identified as “Lamb of God”.

He outlined a doomsday prophecy, which included a Third World War, and described a final conflict that would culminate in nuclear Armageddon.

The attack on the Tokyo Metro

On Monday, March 20, 1995, five members of Aum Shinrikyo launched a chemical attack on the Tokyo subway, one of the busiest passenger transport systems in the world, in the morning rush hour.


The chemical agent used, sarin liquid, was contained in plastic bags that each wrapped in newspaper.

A single drop of sarin the size of a pinhead can kill an adult. Taking their packages of sarin and umbrellas with sharp tips, the perpetrators boarded their designated trains.

At different seasons, the packages of sarins were discarded and punctured several times with the sharp edge of the umbrella.

Terrorism in japan - the sarin gas attack in tokyo


Each perpetrator then got off the train and left the station to find his accomplice with a car. Leaving the punched packages on the floor allowed the sarin to escape to the train and stations.

Sarin gas affected passengers, subway workers and those who came into contact with them.

Sarin is the most volatile of the nervous agents. This means that it can evaporate quickly and easily from a liquid to a vapor and spread to the environment.

People may be exposed to steam, even if they do not come in contact with the liquid form of sarin.

Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin poses an immediate, but short-lived threat.

On the day of the attack, ambulances transported 688 patients and nearly 5,000 people arrived at hospitals by other means.

17 were considered to be critical, 37 were severe and 984 were moderately ill with vision problems.

Terrorism in japan - the sarin gas attack in tokyo


After the Sarin gas attack

By mid-afternoon, the slightly affected victims recovered from vision problems and were released from the hospital.

Most of the remaining patients were well enough to go home the next day, and within a week, only a few critical patients remained in the hospital. The death toll on the day of the attack was eight.

The sarin attack was the most serious attack on Japan. Considered the worst since the bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

This caused great disturbances and widespread fear in a society that had previously been perceived as practically free from crime.


A while after the attack, Aum it lost its status as a religious organization, and many were apprehended.

The Japanese parliament rejected a request to ban the group. However, Public Security received funding to monitor the group and reduce the activities of those involved.

Terrorism in japan - the sarin gas attack in tokyo

Subsequently, 189 members were charged, 5 were sentenced to life imprisonment, 13 were sentenced to death, 80 were sentenced to varying sentences, 87 were suspended, 2 were fined and one was found not guilty.


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