On March 20th, 1995, five men from a doomsday cult released a deadly nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system. At the height of the morning rush hour, the men boarded separate trains with packages of sarin gas wrapped in newspaper. They punctured the packages and ran off the subways. Within minutes passengers stumbled out of the trains coughing and choking. Many collapsed and went into convulsions. No one had any idea what was going on.
By the next day the number of injured had grown to nearly 5 thousand and 8 were confirmed dead. Eventually the death toll would rise to 13. By the next day authorities had also confirmed that the gas released was sarin gas.
Within two days of the attack police began to focus on a secretive religious cult called Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth). Their leader, Shoko Asahara, was a partially blind, charismatic guru who taught a mix of Hindu and Buddhist doctrines and was obsesses with the apocalypse.
Thanks to Political Science Professor Paul Midford for his contribution to this episode. Professor Midford is Director of the Japan Program at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology. He lived in Tokyo at the time of the sarin gas attack.