TOKYO METROPOLITAN SUBWAY LINE
Two men were assigned to drop sarin gas on the Chiyoda Line: Ikuo Hayashi and
Tomomitsu Niimi. Hayashi was the principal criminal, Niimi the
Why Hayashia senior medical doctor with an active "front-line" track record at
the Ministry of Science and Technologywas chosen to carry out this mission
remains unclear, but Hayashi himself conjectures it was to seal his lips.
Implication in the gas attack cut off any possibility of escape. By this point
Hayashi already knew too much. He was devoted to the Aum cult leader Shoko
Asahara, but apparently Asahara did not trust him. When Asahara first told him
to go and release the sarin gas Hayashi admitted: "I could feel my heart
pounding in my chestthough where else would my heart be?"
Boarding the front car of the southwestbound 7:48 a.m. Chiyoda Line, running
from the northeast Tokyo suburb of Kita-senju to the western suburb of
Yoyogi-uehara, Hayashi punctured his plastic bag of sarin at Shin-ochanomizu
Station in the central business district, then left the train. Outside the
station, Niimi was waiting with a car and the two of them drove back to the
Shibuya ajidAum local headquarterstheir mission accomplished. There
was no way for Hayashi to refuse. "This is just a yoga of the Mahamudra," he
kept telling himself, Mahamudra being a crucial discipline for attaining the
stage of the True Enlightened Master.
When asked by Asahara's legal team whether he could have refused if he had
wanted to, Hayashi replied: "If that had been possible, the Tokyo gas attack
would never have happened."
Born in 1947, Hayashi was the second son of a Tokyo medical practitioner.
Groomed from middle and secondary school for Keio University, one of Tokyo's two
top private universities, upon graduating from medical school he took employment
as a heart and artery specialist at Keio Hospital, after which he went on to
become head of the Circulatory Medicine department at the National Sanatorium
Hospital at Tokaimura, Ibaragi, north of Tokyo. He is a member of what the
Japanese call the "superelite." Clean-cut, he exudes the self-confidence of a
professional. Medicine obviously came naturally to him. His hair is starting to
thin on top, but like most of the Aum leadership, he has good posture, his eyes
focused firmly ahead, although his speech is monotonous and somehow forced. From
his testimony in court, I gained the distinct impression that he was blocking
some flow of emotion inside himself.
Somewhere along the line Hayashi seems to have had profound doubts about his
career as a doctor and, while searching for answers beyond orthodox science, he
became seduced by the charismatic teachings of Shoko Asahara and suddenly
converted to Aum. In 1990 he resigned from his job and left with his family for
a religious life. His two children were promised a special education within the
cult. His colleagues at the hospital were loath to lose a man of Hayashi's
caliber and tried to stop him, but his mind was made up. It was as if the
medical profession no longer held anything for him. Once initiated into the
cult, he soon found himself among Asahara's favorites and was appointed Minister
Once he had been called upon to carry out the sarin plan, Hayashi was brought to
Aum's general headquarters, Satyam No. 7, in Kamikuishiki Village near Mt. Fuji,
at 3 a.m. on March 20, where, together with the four other principal players, he
rehearsed the attack. Using umbrellas sharpened with a file, they pierced
plastic bags filled with water rather than sarin. The rehearsal was supervised
by Hideo Murai of the Aum leadership. While comments from the other four members
indicate that they enjoyed this practice session, Hayashi observed it all with
cool reserve. Nor did he actually pierce his bag. To the 48-year-old doctor, the
whole exercise must have seemed like a game.
"I did not need to practice," says Hayashi. "I could see what to do, though my
heart wasn't in it."
After the session, all five were returned by car to the Shibuya ajid,
whereupon our physician Hayashi handed out hypodermic needles filled with
atropine sulphate to the team, instructing them to inject it at the first sign
of sarin poisoning.
On the way to the station, Hayashi purchased gloves, a knife, tape, and sandals
at a convenience store. Niimi, the driver, bought some newspapers in which to
wrap the bags of sarin. They were sectarian newspapersthe Japan Communist
Party's Akahata (Red Flag) and the Soka Gakkai's Seikyo
Shimbun (Sacred Teaching News)"more interesting because they're
not papers you can buy just anywhere." That was Niimi's little in-joke. Of the
two papers, Hayashi chose Akahata: a rival sect's publication would have
been too obvious and therefore counterproductive.
Before getting on the subway, Hayashi donned a gauze surgical mask, of the sort
commonly worn by many commuters in winter to prevent cold germs from spreading.
The train number was A725K. Glancing at a woman and child in the car, Hayashi
wavered slightly. "If I unleash the sarin here and now," he thought, "the woman
opposite me is dead for sure. Unless she gets off somewhere." But he'd come this
far; there was no going back. This was a Holy War. The weak were losers.
As the subway approached Shin-ochanomizu Station, he dropped the bags of sarin
by his right foot, steeled his nerves, and poked one of them with the end of his
umbrella. It was resilient and gave a "springy gush." He poked it again a few
timesexactly how many times he doesn't remember. In the end, only one of the
two bags was found to have been punctured; the other was untouched.
Still, the sarin liquid in one of the bags completely evaporated and did a lot
of damage. At Kasumigaseki two station attendants died in the line of duty
trying to dispose of the bag. Train A725K was stopped at the next station,
Kokkai-gijidomaethe stop for the Japanese National Assemblyall passengers
were evacuated, and the cars were cleaned.
Two people were killed and 231 suffered serious injuries from Hayashi's sarin
*Ikuo Hayashi was sentenced to life imprisonment. At the time of going to press
he was serving time in prison and Tomomitsu Niimi was still on trial [Tr.]
"Nobody was dealing with things calmly"
Kiyoka Izumi (26)*
Ms. Kiyoka Izumi was born in Kanazawa, on the north central coast of the Sea
of Japan. She works in the PR department of a foreign airline company. After
graduation she went to work for Japan Railways (JR), but after three years she
decided to pursue her childhood dream of working in aviation. Even though job
transfers to airline companies are extremely difficult in Japanonly one in a
thousand "midcareer" applicants is acceptedshe beat the odds, only to
encounter the Tokyo gas attack not long after starting work.
Her job at JR was boring to say the least. Her colleagues objected to her
leaving, but she was determined. It was good training, but the union-dominated
atmosphere was too confining and specialized. She wanted to use English at work.
Still, the emergency training she received at JR proved invaluable in unexpected
circumstances . . .
*Numbers in parentheses refer to the age of the interviewee at the time of the
Tokyo gas attack. [Tr.]
At the time I was living in Waseda [northwest central Tokyo]. My company
was in Kamiyacho [southeast central Tokyo], so I always commuted by
subway, taking the Tozai Line, changing at Otemachi for the Chiyoda Line to
Kasumigaseki, then one stop on the Hibiya Line to Kamiyacho. Work started at
8:30, so I'd leave home around 7:45 or 7:50. That got me there a little before
8:30, but I was always one of the earliest to start. Everybody else showed up
just in time. With Japanese companies, I'd always learned you were expected to
arrive thirty minutes to an hour before starting, but with a foreign company the
thinking is that everyone starts work at his or her own pace. You don't get any
brownie points for arriving early.
I'd get up around 6:15 or 6:20. I rarely eat breakfast, just a quick cup of
coffee. The Tozai Line gets pretty crowded during rush hour, but if you avoid
the peak, it's not too bad. I never had any problem with perverts copping a feel
I never get ill, but on the morning of March 20 I wasn't feeling well. I caught
the train to work anyway; got off the Tozai Line at Otemachi and transferred to
the Chiyoda Line, thinking, "Gosh, I'm really out of it today." I inhaled, then
suddenly my breathing frozejust like that.
I was traveling in the first car on the Chiyoda Line. It wasn't too crowded. All
the seats were pretty much taken, but there were only a few passengers standing
here and there. You could still see all the way to the other end.
I stood at the front next to the driver's compartment, holding the handrail by
the door. Then, like I said, when I took a deep breath, I got this sudden pain.
No, it wasn't so much painful. Really it was like I'd been shot or something,
all of a sudden my breathing completely stopped. Like, if I inhaled any more,
all my guts would come spilling right out of my mouth! Everything became a
vacuum, probably because I wasn't feeling well, I thought; but, I mean, I'd
never felt so bad. It was that intense.
And then, when I think back on it now it seems kind of odd, but I thought, "Just
maybe my grandad's died." He lived up north in Ishikawa Prefecture and was 94
years old at the time. I'd heard he'd been taken ill, so maybe this was a kind
of sign. That was my first thought. Maybe he'd died or something.
After a while I was able to breathe again somehow. But by the time we passed
Hibiya Station, one stop before Kasumigaseki, I got this really bad cough. By
then everyone in the car was coughing away like mad. I knew there was something
strange going on in the car. The other people were so excited and everything . .
Anyway, when the train stopped at Kasumigaseki I got off without giving it much
thought. A few other passengers called out to the station attendant,
"Something's wrong! Come quick!" and brought him into the car. I didn't see what
happened after that, but this attendant was the one who carried out the sarin
packet and later died.
I left the Chiyoda Line platform and headed for the Hibiya Line as usual. When I
reached the platform at the bottom of the stairs I heard the emergency alarm go
off: Bee-eee-eep! I knew immediately from my time working for Japan
Railways there'd been an accident. That's when an announcement came over the
station PA. And just as I was thinking "I'd better get out of here" a Hibiya
Line train arrived from the opposite direction.
I could see from the station attendants' confusion that this was no ordinary
situation. And the Hibiya Line train was completely empty, not a passenger on
board. I only found out later, but in fact that train had also been planted with
sarin gas. They'd had a crisis at Kamiyacho Station or somewhere, and dragged
off all the passengers.
After the alarm there was an announcement: "Everyone evacuate the station."
People were making for the exits, but I was beginning to feel really sick. So
instead of going straight out, I thought I'd better go to the toilet first. I
looked all over the station to find the stationmaster's office, and right next
to that the toilets.
As I was passing the office, I saw maybe three station attendants just lying
there. There must have been a fatal accident. Still, I carried on to the toilet
and when I came out I went to an exit that emerged in front of the Ministry of
Trade and Industry building. This all took about ten minutes, I suppose.
Meanwhile they'd brought up the station attendants I'd seen in the office.
Once out of the exit I took a good look around, but what I saw washow shall I
put it?"hell" describes it perfectly. Three men were laid on the ground,
spoons stuck in their mouths as a precaution against them choking on their
tongues. About six other station staff were there too, but they all just sat on
the flower beds holding their heads and crying. The moment I came out of the
exit, a girl was crying her eyes out. I was at a loss for words. I didn't have a
clue what was happening.
I grabbed hold of one of the station attendants and told him: "I used to work
for Japan Railways. I'm used to dealing with emergencies. Is there any way I can
help?" But he just stared off into space. All he could say was: "Yes, help." I
turned to the others sitting there. "This is no time to be crying," I said.
"We're not crying," they answered, though it looked like they were crying. I
thought they were grieving for their dead colleagues.
"Has anyone called an ambulance?" I asked, and they said they had. But when I
heard the ambulance siren, it didn't seem to be coming our way. For some reason,
we were the last to get help, so those in the most serious condition were last
to be taken to the hospital. As a result, two people died.
TV Tokyo cameramen were filming the whole scene. They'd parked their van nearby.
I ran after the film crew, saying: "Now's not the time for that! If you've got
transport, take these people to the hospital!" The driver conferred with his
crew and said, "All right, fine."
When I worked for JR, I was taught always to carry a red scarf. In an emergency
you could wave it to stop trains. So there I was, thinking "scarf." Someone lent
me a handkerchief, but it was so small I ended up giving it to the TV-crew
driver and instructing him: "Get these people to the nearest hospital. It's an
emergency, so honk your horn and drive through red lights if you have to! Just
I forget the color of the handkerchief; it was just some print. I don't remember
whether I told him to wave it or tie it to his side mirror. I was pretty excited
at the time, so my memory's not that clear. Later when I met Mr. Toyoda, he
reminded me, "I never returned your handkerchief," and gave me a new one. He'd
been sick in the backseat and used mine.
We managed to lift Mr. Takahashi, the station attendant who died, into the back,
along with another assistant. And still there was room, so one more station
assistant got into the van. I think Mr. Takahashi was still alive at that point.
But at first glance I thought, "He's a goner." Not that I'd ever witnessed
death, I just knew. I could picture it; he was going to die this way. But still
I had to try and help, somehow.
The driver pleaded with me, "Miss, you come along with us," but I said, "No, I'm
not going." There were still lots of others being brought above ground and
someone had to look after them, so I stayed behind. I don't know to which
hospital the van went. I don't know what happened to them afterward either.
Then there was that girl nearby, crying and trembling all over. I stayed with
her and tried to comfort her, saying, "There there, it's all right," until
finally the ambulance came. All that time I looked after lots of different
people, all of them white-faced, completely washed out. One man, fairly old by
the look of him, was foaming at the mouth. I had no idea humans could foam like
that. I unbuttoned his shirt, loosened his belt, and took his pulse. It was
really fast. I tried to rouse him, but it was no use. He was completely
This "old man" was in fact a station attendant. Only he'd removed his uniform
jacket. He was pale and his hair was thin, so I mistook him for an elderly
passenger. I later found out he was Mr. Toyoda, a colleague of the two staff
members [Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Hishinuma] who died. He was the only one
of the three injured station attendants who survived, and he was one of the
longest in the hospital.
The ambulance arrived. "Is he conscious?" they asked. "No!" I yelled. "But he
has a pulse!" The ambulance team put an oxygen mask over his mouth. Then they
said, "There's one more [i.e., a respirator unit]. If there's anyone
else in pain, we'll take them." So I inhaled a little oxygen, and the crying
girl took a good long dose. By the time we had finished there was a media
stampede. They surrounded the girl and the poor thing was seen on television all
While I was looking after everyone, I completely forgot my own pain. It was only
at the mention of oxygen that it occurred to me, "Come to think of it, I'm
breathing funny myself." Yet at that very moment, I didn't make a connection
between the gas attack and my condition. I was all right, so I had to look after
the people who had really suffered. Just what the incident was I didn't know,
but whatever it was it was big. And like I said before, I'd been feeling under
the weather since the morning, so I was convinced my feeling a little off was
In the midst of all this, a colleague from work passed by. He helped me rescue
the girl from the clutches of the media. Then he suggested we walk to the office
together, so I thought, "Okay, we'll walk to work." It takes about thirty
minutes on foot from Kasumigaseki to my office. As I was walking, I found it a
bit hard to breathe, but not so bad that I had to sit down and rest. I was able
When we got to the office, my boss had seen me on TV, and everyone was asking,
"Ms. Izumi, are you really okay?" It was already ten o'clock by the time I got
to the office. My boss said, "How about resting a bit? You shouldn't tax
yourself," but I still didn't really understand what had happened, so I just got
on with my work. After a while a message came from Personnel: "Seems it was
poison gas, so if you start to feel ill you're to report to the hospital
immediately." And just about then my condition was getting worse. So they put me
in an ambulance at the Kamiyacho intersection and took me to Azabu Hospital, a
small place not far away. Twenty people had gone there already.
I had coldlike symptoms for a week after that. I had this asthmatic cough, and
three days later a high fever, with a temperature of over 40?C [104?F]. I was
sure the thermometer was broken. The mercury shot up all the way to the top of
the scale. So actually my temperature might have been even higher. All I know is
I was completely immobilized.
Even after the fever resided, the wheezing persisted for about a month; clearly
the effects of sarin in my bronchial tubes. It was incredibly painful. I mean,
I'd start coughing and never stop. It was so painful I couldn't breathe. I was
coughing all the time. I'd be talking like this and suddenly it would start. In
PR you have to meet people, so working under those conditions was really hard.
And I kept having these dreams. The image of those station attendants with
spoons in their mouths stuck in my head. In my dreams, there were hundreds of
bodies lying on the ground, row upon row far into the distance. I don't know how
many times I woke in the middle of the night. Frightening.
As I said, there were people foaming at the mouth where we were, in front of the
Ministry of Trade and Industry. That half of the roadway was absolute hell. But
on the other side, people were walking to work as usual. I'd be tending to
someone and look up to see passersby glance my way with a
"what-on-earth's-happened-here?" expression, but not one came over. It was as if
we were a world apart. Nobody stopped. They all thought: "Nothing to do with
Some guards were standing right before our eyes at the ministry gate. Here we
had three people laid out on the ground, waiting desperately for an ambulance
that didn't arrive for a long, long time. Yet nobody at the ministry called for
help. They didn't even call us a taxi.
It was 8:10 when the sarin was planted, so that makes over an hour and a half
before the ambulance arrived. All that time those people just left us there.
Occasionally the television would show Mr. Takahashi lying dead with a spoon in
his mouth, but that was it. I couldn't bear to watch it.
Murakami: Just supposing, what if you'd been one of those people
across the road at the time, on your way to work. Do you think you'd have
crossed over to help?
Yes, I think so. I wouldn't have just ignored them, no matter how out of
character it might have been. I'd have crossed over. The fact is, the whole
situation made me want to cry, but I knew if I lost control that would have been
the end of it. Nobody was dealing with things calmly. No one even caring for the
sick. Everyone just abandoned us there the whole time and walked on by. It was
As to the criminals who actually planted the sarin, I honestly can't say I feel
much anger or hatred. I suppose I just don't make the connection, and I can't
seem to find those emotions in me. What I really think about are those families
that have to bear the tragedy, their suffering is so much bigger to me than any
anger or hatred I might feel toward the criminals. The fact that someone from
Aum brought sarin onto the subway . . . that's not the point. I don't think
about Aum's role in the gas attack.
I never watch television reports or anything on Aum. I don't want to. I have no
intention of giving interviews. If it will help those who suffered or the
families of the deceased, then yes, I'll come forward and talk, but only if they
want to know what happened. I'd rather not be danced around by the media.
Of course society should severely punish this crime. Especially when you
consider the families of the deceased, there should be no getting off easy. What
are those families supposed to do . . . ? But even if those criminals get the
death penalty, does that solve anything in the end? Perhaps I'm oversensitive
when it comes to human mortality, but it seems to me that however heavy the
sentence, there is nothing you can say to those families.
Excerpted from "Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche" by Haruki Murakami. Copyright © 2001 by Haruki Murakami. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.