Asian Ethnology Podcast

Aum Shinrikyō Executions in Japan: Interviews with Ian Reader and Erica Baffelli

Interviewer: Ben Dorman, co-editor Asian Ethnology

Recorded 6 July 2018, Nagoya, Japan (guests in UK).

This episode's guests are Ian Reader, professor emeritus of The University of Manchester, and Erica Baffelli, senior lecturer in Japanese Studies who is also at The University of Manchester. Ian Reader's work on Aum Shinrikyō is widely known in Japan and overseas. Erica Baffelli is also well-known for her work on media and post-Aum religions (Aleph and Hikari no Wa) as well as work with former Aum members. The interviews were conducted on 6 July, 2018, the day the Japanese government released news of the executions of the leader of Aum Shinrikyō, Asahara Shōkō, and 6 other major figures in the organization.

Episode Summary

Intro .12

Interview with Ian Reader

    Initial reaction to news of executions 1.37
    None of those executed released sarin gas 2.08
    Authorities aimed at wider organizational structure of Aum 3:19
    The End of Heisei Era? Complete executions before abdication, before Tokyo Olympics 4:15
    Reactions of victims and families (Takahashi Shizue) and others (Takimoto Tarō, Shimazono Susumu, Egawa Shōkō) 4:44
    Media reports and views of Aum as "terror group mascarading as a religion" as opposed to the religious reasons for committing crimes 6:29
    Asahara's mental state and reasons for not giving him psychological assessment 7:38
    Anti-death penalty debates 8:17
    The image of religion in Japan after executions; no new religious movements developing in Japan 8:50
    Authorities aiming for the "bad guys" 9:58

Interview with Erica Baffelli

    Initial reactions; rumours of when executions might occur 10:38
    Execution timing "a political move by government" 11:24
    Reactions from victims and ex-members of Aum (Hikari no Wa) 11:52
    Personal conversations with, and blog posts by, ex-members - mainly "shock" 12:40
    Those executed were "the most visible" representatives, not necessarily those who carried out the sarin gas attack 14:16
    EU Commission's and Amnesty International anti-death penalty statements; debates about abolition coming from non-Japanese media? 15:39
    Public statements and blogs from post-Aum Hikari no Wa; news of members connected with Aleph 17:00
    Private histories of ex-Aum members; those who believe they "could have been"among those on death row 17:53
    Narrative of "possible reaction by members" of Aleph; executing Asahara not the best way to dismantle Aleph 18:47
    Aleph members' views of Asahara 19:27
    Response by victims; "mixed reactions" as reported in the press 20:30
    Violent SNS attacks directed at Asahara's daughter 22:44
    Concluding the "big issues" of the Heisei Era 24:20
Outro 24:58

Music used with kind permission of the performer, shamisen master Koji Yamaguchi.

Copyright 2018 by Asian Ethnology Podcast