This is the seventh installment of a series on Chizuo Matsumoto, 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]
The sound of heavy machinery was constant during the construction of Aum Supreme Truth’s facilities in Naminoson, Kumamoto Prefecture, where young people wearing dirty T-shirts patrolled the wasteland that was hidden behind blue sheets. The small village has a population of about 2,000, and is situated at the foot of Mt. Aso.
In May 1990, the cult bought a 15-hectare block of land in Naminoson to build its “utopia.”
Harushige Iwase, 82, who was the deputy village chief at the time, said: “We couldn’t understand why they wanted to build here. The villagers were suspicious of the group’s motives and wondered if it would take over the village.”
Whenever residents asked the cult for an explanation, they were turned away. In response, the village’s government refused to accept the group’s notification of residency.
At the time, Satians (the cult’s religious facilities) were built in Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture. The villagers were worried about the liquid waste and foul-smelling smoke emitted from the buildings. When Toshihiro Yamaguchi, 48, a dairy farmer near the facilities, lodged a complaint, the cult told him, “If you have a grievance, blame the wind.”
The Aum Supreme Truth cult started to withdraw from society, becoming more secretive.
“(You’re) going to hell, (you’re) going to hell…” The ominous voices of Aum members repeated the phrase to villagers during a skirmish on a forest road in Naminoson at midnight on Aug. 12, 1990. About 500 Aum members and villagers fought when villagers attempted to stop the cult’s bus from entering an area that was closed to traffic.
Takashige Nasuno, 56, one of the villagers on the road that night, said he could not forget it. “It was in absolute darkness. I was totally paralyzed with fear,” he said.
At night three days later, Chizuo Matsumoto, 48, wearing religious attire and guarded by his followers, went to see village government officials who were patrolling the forest road.
Matsumoto told them, “Why does the village government refuse to accept our residency registration? If you accept it, you will be repenting the sins you committed in past lives.”
Kunioki Iwase, 61, one of the government officials, responded, “Are you threatening us?”
“I’m not threatening you. We remain consistent in our commitment to nonviolence,” Matsumoto answered in a polite but imperious tone.
“Looking back now, how dare Matsumoto refer to nonviolence?” Iwase said.
A resident was questioned by Kumamoto prefectural police concerning the sale of the land in Naminoson to the cult. Matsumoto lectured the man, telling him, “Even if you are questioned by police, you shouldn’t worry. If you ignore the police three times, the police will give up.”
Matsumoto, mentioning his arrest for violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, advised him to deny the allegation: “It was wrong of you to confess. It’s not good for you to tell the truth.”
After listening to Matsumoto, the man became suspicious of him and decided that he could no longer believe in the group.
In Kamikuishikimura, Matsumoto criticized residents for spitting on his Mercedes Benz during a meeting with the village chief in January 1992. But he praised the village chief as an “understanding person,” who was “respectable and kind.”
Seiichi Takeuchi, 75, who had been a member of the anti-Aum movement in the village at the time and also had sat with the village chief when he met with Matsumoto, said: “I felt Matsumoto was trying to divide the village government and the residents. He was good at controlling other people’s minds. I think he used mind control on the younger members.”
The cult repeatedly brought criminal charges against residents. The number of civil and criminal actions totaled 20.
The cult pretended to abide by the law, but its members committed vicious crimes, including killing some of its own members and the murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family.
In October 1990, Kumamoto prefectural police searched the cult’s general headquarters in Shizuoka Prefecture on suspicion that the group had violated the National Land Use Planning Law.
When the police searched the headquarters, Matsumoto asked a police officer who showed him a search warrant, “What on earth are you thinking, coming all the way from Kumamoto over such a tiny incident?”