Daughter of Japan's doomsday cult leader speaks out in memoir

Rika Matsumoto said she is not convinced that her father, Japanese doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara, was directly behind the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway.

By Elizabeth Shim
Daughter of Japan's doomsday cult leader speaks out in memoir
Rika Matsumoto, the daughter of the leader of a deadly Japanese doomsday cult, has published a memoir about her father, Shoko Asahara. Photo courtesy of Kodansha Ltd.

TOKYO, March 26 (UPI) -- The daughter of a Japanese doomsday cult leader – held responsible for a 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo – has published a memoir detailing her life and a radically different portrayal of her father, Shoko Asahara.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rika Matsumoto, 31, described her father as a "warm, big man," who would let her play with his beard as she sat on his lap as a little girl.


Matsumoto said she is not convinced that her father, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, directly ordered the attacks 20 years ago, when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult could have carried out the deadly assault themselves.

On March 20, 1995, cult members punctured plastic bags containing sarin nerve gas on three Tokyo subway lines during morning rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 6,300.

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Of the 299 survivors of the attack, more than half said Asahara and 12 others, sentenced to death, should be executed soon. A survivor of the attack, Atsushi Sakahara, said he believed the cult leader should be hanged.

But Matsumoto, whose book in English translates into Stopped Clock, said Japanese courts have found her father guilty without giving him a proper trial.


Kyodo News Agency reported Matsumoto was in the public spotlight as a child, when it was revealed she was one of the highest-ranking disciples in the cult.

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Soon after her father was arrested, Matsumoto was just 12 when her family broke up. Her mother, Tomoko, another senior cult leader, was convicted of murdering another colleague in Aum Shinrikyo.

As a young adult, Matsumoto said her past affiliations have presented significant setbacks in Japanese society. She said high schools and colleges denied her admission, and that she was dismissed from jobs because of her family ties.

Matsumoto said visitations with her father stopped in 2008. During her visits, which began in 2004, she said she realized her father had lost his mind, the Journal reported. He was also physically deteriorating and was appearing in court wearing diapers.

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"He was rawboned, his skin was peeling off...He lost his eyeballs so his eyes were hollow," she said.

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