More than 200 people living near a Tokyo compound run by the main successor to Aum Shinrikyo took to the streets Saturday demanding that the cult disband as the execution of its guru and former disciples closed in.
Led by the mayor of Adachi Ward, Yayoi Kondo, who held a banner reading, "Absolutely against Aum," the demonstrators marched around the facility owned by its successor Aleph.
The demonstration was planned to coincide with the recently observed 23rd anniversary of the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 people and injured more than 6,200 — the most heinous of the multiple attacks and crimes carried out by Aum's followers.
"I'm worried what could happen after the executions," said Hisashi Mizukami, who represents a group of Adachi residents protesting Aleph. "We will remain vigilant."
Aum renamed itself Aleph in 2000, and two other splinter groups also formed. The Public Security Intelligence Agency has continued to surveil the groups, believing they are still under the influence of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, the convict languishing on death row along with 12 of his former disciples.
Residents of Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, a city that adjoins Adachi Ward, and some from Setagaya Ward, where a facility of one of the splinter groups is located, joined Saturday's demonstration.
According to the agency, the three groups have 1,650 followers in Japan, with 1,470 of them in Aleph.
Asahara and the other death row inmates could be hanged at any time as the Aum-related trials over its crimes, which left 29 people dead, concluded in January.
It is customary in Japan not to execute someone on death row if the case of an accomplice is pending before a court. Now — with the last trial over — there are no barriers to the executions.