Day of Judgment: Humble beginnings shed light on Aum cult leader

This is the fourth 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]

Chizuo Matsumoto, 48, spent the first few years of his life in Yatsushiro, a city 40 kilometers south of Kumamoto, where the Kumagawa river streams out of the mountains into the Yatsushiro Sea.

Matsumoto was born in the Takauehonmachi district of the city, formerly named Kongomura, an area known for its many igusa reed fields.

A housemaker in the neighborhood said Matsumoto’s father, a tatami craftsman, had stayed in the area even after Matsumoto’s arrest, but left several years ago saying he could no longer live there.

Matsumoto was born in March 1955 as the fourth son among seven siblings. In the spring of 1961, his parents sent him to a prefectural government boarding school for the blind in Kumamoto instead of a local primary school.

The students at the school were given scholarships from the central government to pay for school supplies, meals and transportation costs to return home.

His mother went to the school holding Matsumoto’s hand and asked for permission to enroll him, telling school officials, “We don’t have very much money. I beg you to allow my son to enroll.”

At the time, Matsumoto could barely see out of his left eye due to congenital glaucoma, but his right eye was given a grade of about 1.0, which is quite normal on the Japanese scale as a grade of 1.5 is equivalent to 20-20 vision.

To enroll at the school, children usually had to have a grade under 0.3 for both eyes, but Matsumoto was allowed to enroll because his eyesight could have worsened at a later time, especially as one of his elder brothers had become completely blind.

A woman, 92, who was the school’s principal at the time of Matsumoto’s enrollment, said she still remembers him after 40 years because she had been more concerned about him than the other 80 primary school students.

After school, Matsumoto often stood silently near the door of the principal’s room.

Whenever she asked him what had happened, Matsumoto would tightly grab the cloth around her waist while looking down and follow her along the corridor, stomping loudly on the wooden floor.

The other students were collected by their parents at the end of the school term to return home, but nobody came for Matsumoto.

He asked her once, “Why can’t I go to the same school as the other children (in his home town) even though I can see?”

The former principal said, “In his mind, he seemed to believe he had been abandoned by his parents.”

According to former teachers and schoolmates, Matsumoto gradually made submissive junior students who were totally blind or weak his proteges.

He was a good student and ran in a student council election for president when he was in primary school.

But he lost the election, and teachers speculated that it was because he was unpopular.

In the second semester of his second year of high school, Matsumoto revealed to his homeroom teacher after class that he wished to enter the faculty of medicine at Kumamoto University.

He said he wanted to help people with diseases and eyesight problems, but his own handicap would make it difficult for him to qualify for the entrance exam.

The teacher told Matsumoto that he had not studied one of the subjects he needed to take the entrance exam. Matsumoto became despondent and said, “Oh, is that so?”

However, the light in his room at the boarding house was often seen on after teachers asked for lights-out. Matsumoto continued studying using radio courses and kept insisting to the teacher that he wanted to go to university.

After entering the school’s vocational course to become an acupuncturist, Matsumoto decided he wanted to become a politician rather than a doctor.

When he returned home, he used to read books about Mao Zedong and Buddhism until late at night.

At that time, his eyesight fell to about 0.1.

Since middle school, Matsumoto had exhibited an increasing desire to lead others.

But one of Matsumoto’s former teachers said, “He never opposed senior students, which I think shows in the way he only gathered younger people to the Aum Supreme Truth cult.”

After Matsumoto graduated from a two-year vocational course and started working as an acupuncturist, he visited the school’s teachers’ office unexpectedly.

He told the teachers he came to pick up documents necessary to take the entrance exam for Tokyo University’s law faculty, but the teachers jokingly said “Isn’t it just a dream?”

Matsumoto then went to Tokyo to enter a preparatory school.

Matsumoto, who was 22 at the time, told an old friend whom he happened to meet in JR Kumamoto Station on the way to Tokyo, “A man should not stay in the countryside. We must be more ambitious.”

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Yomiuri Shimbun, USA
Feb. 13, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 12, 2004.
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