On Thursday, officials from Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency began investigations of 21 facilities owned by the group Aleph, a departure and renaming of Japan’s infamous Aum Shinrikyo religious cult. Eight facilities of another splinter group, Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light), which is led by former Aum spokesperson Fumihiro Joyu, were also inspected. The Aum Shinrikyo cult is most known for its sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, for which the group’s founder and leading members are still on death row.
The 29 facilities are located in 15 of Japan’s prefectures, spread out across the entire country. The Public Security Intelligence Agency operates under the Ministry of Justice, and is responsible for collecting and analyzing information on any potential threats to public safety or security. The last collective inspection of facilities operated by former Aum groups was in August 2011. During the massive police raids of the main Aum Shinrikyo compound near Tokyo after the subway attack, they discovered the cult had amassed a huge collection of guns, explosives, and other weapons, in preparation for a large-scale battle.
This year’s nation-wide inspections were triggered as a result of ending the 17 year-hunt for the final Aum fugitives. Naoko Kikuchi and Katsuya Takahashi were both arrested, less than two weeks apart, this summer. Takahashi led police on a final chase for about a week after they were tipped off about his location, only several hours ahead of them the entire way. The government’s Public Security Examination Commission stated in January of this year that the Aum-related groups would remain close surveillance for the next two to three years.