In 1995, a religious group called Aum Shinrikyo devised a plot to kill commuters on the Tokyo subway system. The group was led by Shoko Asahara, who founded this religious faction and referred to himself as the “Sacred Emperor of Japan.”
The plan was simple. Five devout members of Aum Shinrikyo boarded commuter trains within the Tokyo underground transportation system during rush hour when the subway was packed with people. All five conspirators exited their trains at the Kasumigaseki station, one of the busiest hubs along the subway system. Each of them carried plastic bags full of a deadly nerve gas called Sarin, which is so powerful the United Nations has declared it to be a “weapon of mass destruction.” An adult can be killed with just a tiny drop of this hazardous substance.
In total, the group carried eleven bags full of liquid Sarin. They supplied themselves with an antidote for the toxic chemical and released it into the atmosphere. As the gas spread through the air, chaos ensued and thousands of commuters fled towards the exits. Many people were temporarily blinded by the gas, and over 5,000 people sought medical attention following the terrorist attack.
Twelve people were killed by the gas, but experts have suggested that if the five men had better understood how to distribute Sarin properly, thousands could have died. Police officials quickly set up a raid on the primary headquarters for the Aum Shinrikyo group and arrested several hundred of their members. All but twenty of them have since been released, and the people who were found guilty of constructing the plot were tried for their crime. Several of them, including Shoko Asahara, were given the death penalty, but to date, that judgement has not yet been carried out.
The followers of Aum Shinrikyo changed their name to Aleph and still practice their religious beliefs today. They are no longer associated with the terrorist regime that carried out the incident, which is considered to be the largest attack in Japan since World War II.