On what otherwise would have been an ordinary Friday morning, Shizue Takahashi was watching an NHK program when a breaking news headline sent a shock wave across the nation and beyond: Shoko Asahara, the guru of the notorious doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, had been executed.

Upon learning of his demise, the 71-year-old widow, whose husband, Kazumasa, was killed by the cult's sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, said she found herself feeling rather void — not relieved or vindicated as some might expect.

"When the news of his death came in, all I did was process the information that he had been executed," Takahashi calmly told a packed news conference convened soon after the hanging of Asahara and six other former senior members of the cult. Asahara's real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.