This is the fifth installment of a series on Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]
[Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10]
[Part 11] [Part 12]
Aum Supreme Truth cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto, 48, left his hometown in Kumamoto Prefecture for Tokyo to pursue his goal of studying at Tokyo University.
In May 1977, he started attending the major preparatory school Yoyogi Seminar.
At the beginning of his course, he would sit in the front row and earnestly listen to lectures. But he did not achieve good grades in his studies and stopped attending classes within a few months.
“I couldn’t read what was written on the blackboard anymore,” he later told his lawyers and investigators. “I realized that my eyesight wouldn’t get any better.”
While commuting to school on the Yamanote Line, he met an 18-year-old girl who also was studying at Yoyogi Seminar and had graduated recently from high school in Chiba Prefecture.
Matsumoto married her in January the following year and his first daughter was born six months later, which provided another reason for him to stop pursuing his studies.
Before getting married, Matsumoto opened an acupuncture surgery, which also offered moxibustion treatments, in a building near Funabashi City Hall in Chiba Prefecture.
“I’ll do something big in the future,” Matsumoto said at the time, according to an owner of a sushi restaurant that was next to the building. The owner, 62, remembered Matsumoto as a young man who sat at the end of the counter almost every day for three hours, buying only a 600 yen sushi dish and a bottle of beer.
Although Matsumoto’s business did not seem to attract many patients, at nighttime a handful of young people were seen to enter the premises, which also was where Matsumoto lived.
“I meet my friends from school and we discuss how to make this world a better place,” he told the sushi shop owner.
He invited his neighbor to join the group, saying: “You can make money without serving sushi. You can change your life.”
But the man did not take the invitation seriously and “thought the kid was just bluffing.”
Matsumoto always talked about money, he said.
After getting married, Matsumoto began advertising his acupuncture treatments in a local paper. The advertisements stated that Matsumoto’s surgery was “a comprehensive medical institution that offers rare treatments, combining modern and Chinese medicines. The institution also features a treatment from China in which acupuncture is done on ears.”
The advertisements also included comments from his patients, an advertising technique that was rare at the time. Many acupuncturists did not welcome Mastumoto’s ostentatious advertisements, which said his treatment helped people to lose weight.
However, the treatment of stimulating meridiens in ears through acupuncture was part of a popular diet scheme at the time, and Matsumoto apparently made a lot of money.
Then in his 20s, he came back to the sushi restaurant in a luxury car with a chauffeur and ordered sushi worth 6,000 yen. He also built a two-story house in Funabashi.
First arrest after medicine fraud
In the spring of 1982, the Metropolitan Police Department was informed of “a fellow selling strange medicine in Keio Plaza Hotel,” an MPD official said.
According to information obtained by the MPD, the man was selling strange liquid in small bottles, advertising the substance as “the medicine that cures any sickness,” without a license.
Matsumoto then owned a natural food store near the Takanekido Station of the Shin-Keisei Line.
A man, 62, who ran a bicycle parts shop next to his store saw Matsumoto in a black suit one day, even though he usually wore the white clothes of a doctor.
“I have an exhibition of Chinese medicine today at Keio Plaza Hotel,” the neighbor said Matsumoto told him proudly.
Police officers armed with a search warrant raided Matsumoto’s new residence in June of that year.
Matsumoto told police: “I’m doing good things in my own way. It’s not like I’m selling poison.”
But he was arrested a week later on charges of violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.
It was discovered that he had made more than 10 million yen by selling the bogus medicine. An investigator, 71, said he remembered asking Matsumoto if he tried to swindle money out of old people, but Matsumoto insisted he was helping people.
Investigators also spoke to him about his hometown in Kumamoto Prefecture, but he said he no longer had anything to do with that place.
“I’m becoming one of those bad men,” Matsumoto said and looked down, according to the investigator.
Matsumoto paid 200,000 yen in fines after a summary indictment. He quietly nodded when his lawyer said to him not to do “something so stupid in the future.” He closed his food store.
Another investigator who inspected Matsumoto’s house said he remembered that Matsumoto had a Buddhist altar in the living room and a picture of a mandala on the wall.