The Japanese government’s Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) has released a report that shows a record high number of new followers in the two split factions of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, known as being responsible for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. Since that incident and the search and arrests for all member involved, a hunt that ended this summer, the cult split into two sects, each revoking any relation to Aum, but the government keeps regular tabs on their activities.
In the records revealed December 21st, the PSIA says that the total number of new followers joining Aleph, the more mainstream Aum Shinrikyo sect, and the breakaway Circle of Rainbow Light, now stands at 255. The two groups have been under government surveillance since 2000, and are required to submit records on their number of followers and assets four times a year. The final report for 2012 shows an increase from the 213 new members in 2011, and nearly three times more than those in 2008.
The largest increase in demographics is those aged 35 or under, making up 22% of new followers at the end of 2008, but now at 32%. Those in their 20s specifically have risen from 7% to 19% over the same four years. Aleph has been found to be entering university campuses in April, the beginning of Japan’s school year, and again in May and November, when festivals are often held. They then put up flyers for their organization on bulletin boards meant for school clubs without permission. The PSIA is concerned over these actions as the posters don’t specifically have the Aleph name or reveal the group’s religious nature. While the number of new members is increasing, the total follower count shows no drastic changes as people regularly quit the cult as well.