Underground the tokyo ga.., p.16
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, p.16

           Haruki Murakami
 

  I wanted to be as far away as possible from that parcel, so I moved right to the end of the train and traveled in the fourth car to Kasumigaseki. But while I was changing to the Marunouchi Line, everything went dark. I felt weak, too. I thought maybe it was the cold remedy I was taking, so I didn’t pay it much attention. The train went above ground for a while from—Station, and for some reason the sky was dark, as if it were black and white. Or sepia, just like an old photograph. “That’s odd,” I thought, “today was supposed to be sunny.”

  I arrived at the bank just at the last minute. I practically slid under the door, then rushed to change clothes and got right down to work. But something strange happened. Around 9:30, as I was getting started, I began to feel funny. First my eyes wouldn’t focus. I couldn’t read anything at all. Then I felt sick, like I was about to throw up. But it was an important day, and I knew I had to just bear with it—though everything went in one ear and out the other. I was “Yes, yes” all the time, pretending I was listening, but I felt sick, breaking out in a cold sweat. My nausea was terrible, but then I’d also felt the same with my flu, so I couldn’t tell the difference. No, I take that back. I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up, I only felt queasy.

  After 11.00 everyone went out to lunch. I was in no condition to eat, so I declined and went instead to the company sickroom. That’s when I finally found out I was suffering from sarin. Extremely serious, they told me. I rushed straight to the hospital. *

  I never was much one for going out and about, but these days I spend all my Saturdays at home. When I do go out, I feel run-down straightaway. It’s all I can handle just to go back and forth to the bank and do my job. I get back home and I’m a wreck. Even at work, 3:00 comes around and I’m thinking, “I am so tired.” Just worn out. It wasn’t like this before. It’s been this way the whole time since the gas attack.

  Maybe it’s partly psychological. I’ve tried to somehow put the whole incident behind me. But that kind of fright is something you never forget, no matter how hard you try. I don’t think the memory will go away as long as I live. The more I try to forget, the more it comes out—that’s what I’m starting to think. I can control it psychologically, depending on my mood, but it’s difficult. There are times when I can see things objectively, and times when I go faint if I confront things head-on. It goes in waves. I see it very clearly. All of a sudden, something will set it off and the gas attack will cross my mind. And when that happens I close up inside.

  I often have dreams about it too. Not so much right after the attack, but lately all the time. They’re so vivid. Then I wake up with a start in the middle of the night. Now that’s frightening.

  Even when I’m not dreaming, sometimes I’ll find myself in a confined space and I’ll just stop, especially underground—in the subway or an underground entrance to a department store. I’ll start to get on a train and my feet won’t move. That’s happened more and more since February. That’s nearly a year after the event. Times like that, I feel that no one understands. Everyone at work is really considerate and everything. My family’s been very kind too. But no one can really understand what it’s like, this fear. Not that I’d really want them to …

  Still, it makes a big difference, the way my boss at work and family and friends are so supportive. And then there are those with far more serious symptoms who are much worse off than me.

  My parents were against me giving this interview. This isn’t really the time for me to be remembering things I’ve been trying so hard to forget, but I made up my mind and accepted so that it would be a kind of cutoff point. I can’t keep creeping around avoiding things forever.

  * Toru Toyoda was sentenced to death. Katsuya Takahashi is still at large and is the subject of a special police investigation. [Tr.]

  * In fact, sarin packets had been discovered in the first car and the train had been taken out of service, though it remained in the station with all the doors open.

  * Mr. Ishino was taken immediately to JSDF Central Hospital in Setagaya, southwest Tokyo. Luckily he had only minor symptoms, so he was discharged after one night, although his feelings of fatigue and lethargy persisted. His contracted pupils returned to normal after a month.

  * Ms. Iizuka’s recovery did not go altogether smoothly. For one week she could not see at all. Nausea and lethargy sapped her strength. Although she suffered from almost continual headaches, she didn’t miss a day of work the whole time. She was in great pain, but continued to work out of a sense of duty. Even now, a year later, the fatigue persists. Since the gas attack, she’s virtually given up tennis. Any physical activity, even climbing the stairs, leaves her short of breath. Her condition improves only very slightly.

  TOKYO METROPOLITAN SUBWAY: HIBIYA LINE (Departing: Kita-senju / Destination: Naka-meguro)

  TRAIN A720S

  The team of Yasuo Hayashi and Shigeo Sugimoto planted sarin on a southwestbound Hibiya Line train that departed from Kita-senju Station for Naka-meguro.

  Yasuo Hayashi was born in Tokyo in 1957, and was 37 years old at the time of the gas attack. Apart from Ikuo Hayashi (no relation), Yasuo was the oldest person in Aum’s Ministry of Science and Technology, a deputy leader under direct command of Hideo Murai. Yasuo came from a science background, but unlike the sheltered species of the “purebred” scientific elite represented by Ikuo Hayashi, Toyoda, and Hirose, he’d had his share of hard knocks and setbacks. His father had worked for the Japanese National Railways prior to privatization, but died twenty years ago. The youngest of three children, his mother spoiled him—as much as she could on such a low income.

  After finishing high school on a part-time schedule, he entered Kogakuin University to study artificial intelligence. Without any prospects for steady employment after graduation, he was a temp in company after company, then went overseas. In India, he awoke to religion and began to frequent yoga ashrams, finally encountering the Aum cult, then becoming a follower of Shoko Asahara. In 1988, he took vows and rose to the number three position in Aum’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

  Said to have been one of the staunch defenders of the cult, he also had his kind and gentle side, and was looked up to as a sort of big brother by many of the younger converts.

  The morning of March 20, when everyone else received two packets of sarin during the training session at Satyam No. 7, Yasuo Hayashi got three. The extra packet was a flawed leftover he himself asked for. It was all part of a ritual “character test” that Hideo Murai (and very likely Asahara himself) had set up. Who among the five gets the extra packet? When Hayashi came forward without hesitation, Murai smiled knowingly. Hirose, who was also there, recalled rather glumly that “it was as if Murai had just won a bet.”

  Asahara had once suspected Yasuo Hayashi of being an undercover spy, which had apparently affected him deeply and made him exaggerate his “go-getter” tough-guy tendencies. Unfortunately, his “go-getting” attitude on the Hibiya Line train to which he was assigned caused the most deaths and casualties of any of the five subway lines under siege. All three of the packets were punctured …

  Yasuo Hayashi went to Ueno Station in a car driven by Shigeo Sugimoto. En route he wrapped his three packets securely in newspaper. He was scheduled to board the 7:43 A720S from Kita-senju. At Ueno, he boarded the third car, dropped his newspaper parcel onto the floor, and when the train reached Akihabara two stops later, he poked at it several times with the sharpened tip of his umbrella. He made the most number of holes of any of the five perpetrators. Alighting at Akihabara Station, he got into Sugimoto’s waiting car and returned to the Shibuya ajid by 8:30. He’d fulfilled his duties without a hitch, not even a moment’s hesitation.

  The sarin began to leak out and smell shortly after the train left Akihabara. By the time it reached the next station, Kodemmacho, passengers traveling in the third car from the front began to feel physically ili. People spotted the newspaper parcel leaking liquid. There was already a puddle around it. Thinking it must be the proble
m, one passenger kicked the parcel out onto the Kodemmacho Station platform.

  The ejected sarin quickly dispersed into the atmosphere of the tiny Kodemmacho platform area. Four people died here, including Japan Tobacco employee Eiji Wada.

  Meanwhile, train A720S continued on its scheduled run with a puddle of sarin on the floor of the car, the number of casualties mounting with each subsequent stop—Ningyocho, Kayabacho, Hatchobori…—a real-life Hell Train.

  At 8:10, soon after the train pulled out of Hatchobori Station, one passenger, unable to stand it anymore, pressed the emergency button in the third car. But according to regulations, a train cannot stop in the middle of a tunnel; so it proceeded to the next station, Tsukiji. When the doors opened, four or five passengers tumbled out and collapsed on the platform. A station attendant ran over. It took this long before any members of the Subway Authority realized something was wrong. The train was taken out of service immediately and medics called. The first communication to go out from Tsukiji Station to Subway Authority Central was the driver’s report: “Something seems to have exploded with white smoke in the train, many people injured.” As a result, for some time thereafter, the gas attack was known as the “explosion at Tsukiji Station,” word of which traveled quickly to all stations on all lines.

  The station attendants at Tsukiji recognized soon enough that it was not explosives. “Poison gas!” they shouted, trying to clear the station of passengers as quickly as possible. Subway Authority Central was slow to catch on: it was more than twenty minutes later—8:35—before it decided to completely shut down the Hibiya Line. Then the word came: “Evacuate all commuters, then evacuate all subway personnel.”

  At the five stations en route a total of 8 people died and 275 incurred serious injuries, a full-blown catastrophe.

  Thereafter Yasuo Hayashi—the “Murder Machine”—went into hiding, living on the run until December 1996, nearly a year and nine months later. He was finally arrested on Ishigaki Island a thousand miles from Tokyo. Throughout his flight, he reputedly carried with him a small Buddhist altar to atone for the lives he’d taken.

  What follows are comments from passengers who traveled on Hibiya Line train A720S, on which the sarin was planted. *

  “I’d borrowed the down payment, and my wife was expecting—it looked pretty bad”

  Noburu Terajima (35)

  Mr. Terajima is a maintenance technician for a major photocopier manufacturer. He commutes from Soka on the Hibiya Line to Higashi-ginza. He conducts regular spot checks on his company’s machines and does repairs.

  He lived alone in an apartment in Soka until he married six months before the gas attack. Then he obtained a loan and bought a new condominium in Soka. Not long after that his wife became pregnant. Just at the turning point between early adulthood and the responsibilities of middle age, he ran straight into the gas attack. The first things he thought of when he became ill from inhaling sarin at Kodemmacho Station were his unborn child and the huge loan he’d taken out to cover the down payment on his new condo.

  We met upstairs at a coffee shop in Soka on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Outside the window, young couples and families with small children strolled down the avenue in front of Soka Station: a peaceful, suburban weekend scene.

  Mr. Terajima answered questions slowly, with a great deal of thought, but was careful not to say too much.

  I always wanted to be a painter, but when my father died just after I graduated from high school, we needed money. My elder brother was in college, so we had to at least see him through to a degree. I failed my college entrance exams, but paid my way through vocational school, which meant I had to find work quickly.

  At first I sold property. Not bad work, but really demanding, so I changed jobs after a year and settled into my present company. Actually, I wanted to work in planning or advertising props, but I lacked experience or I didn’t have a driver’s license. One thing or another. But, well, I ended up in a company with a solid reputation. In other words, I went for stability.

  I was married the September before the gas attack and bought a condominium in Soka. Signed the contract in September for a full handover in April. Until then we continued living in my rental apartment in Soka. So we were getting ready to move in just around March 20 when the attack took place. We’d scoured the local stores for boxes and were packing up everything.

  No, I never pictured myself buying a condominium. I didn’t much care where I lived, but we went to a showroom and liked what we saw. When we discussed the interest, the broker convinced us, saying if we acted now it was 3.9 percent, but soon it was going up to 4.0. It was an impulse buy. A twenty-five-year loan. It’s no joke, buying a home.

  We have a little girl, noisy as hell. Up until two years ago I was living happily on my own, but now I’m married, a father, a loan on my back, and completely broke, just like that. All my money’s gone (laughs).

  If I wasn’t married by 35, I wasn’t going to get married at all. I decided it would be too much bother. But, well, I got married at 34. I met my wife windsurfing. I’ve been a keen windsurfer since I was 25. I can’t be bothered now, but I was young and would drive all the way to the beaches at Shonan or Zaimokuza. Once a week I’d get up at 5:00 in the morning and drive for three hours. I was full of energy then. This was before windsurfing became a popular sport. A friend and I bought a surfboard secondhand and kept it down by the beach—I wonder what’s become of it?

  Nowadays, if I have a spare moment, pachinko’s about all I can manage (laughs). * Forget oil painting! I’m the sort of person, if you get me started on something, I get all wrapped up in it. I need lots of time.

  March was pretty busy for me. My area of responsibility is Kasumigaseki, so there’s full-payment purchases of equipment to balance, office budgets, huge deliveries … They’ve got to use up their allotted funds before the end of the fiscal year, so it’s one of the busiest times in the whole year. The gas attack fell right between two public holidays, but I was in no position to take off a long weekend.

  I rarely eat anything in the morning: coffee and a pastry and I’m out the door. I wait for a Hibiya Line train where I can usually get a seat and go in the first door of the third car. That day I must have caught the 7:53. As soon as I sit down, I’m generally out like a light. No newspaper reading for me. My eyes always pop open automatically just before Higashi-ginza, though I have overslept three times (laughs).

  That day I woke up at Kodemmacho. An announcement came over the PA: “There’s been an explosion at Tsukiji. We will wait here temporarily.” So I just sat there and waited, until finally they said: “We do not foresee resuming service.” What choice did I have but to get off? That’s when I got a sharp smell of isopropyl alcohol. We use the stuff for wiping clean the glass in our copiers, so I know it very well. I always carry it on the job.

  When I got off the train, there was a station column to my right, and next to it was something wrapped in newspaper, which seemed to be giving off the isopropyl alcohol smell—though I hardly noticed it at the time. I do remember looking down at the ground for the source of the smell. When I was sniffing I breathed deeply. Isopropyl alcohol isn’t a dangerous chemical, after all.

  At Kodemmacho Station, I saw only one person who was in a bad way. A man. I noticed him as I passed through the ticket barrier: back propped up against a column, foaming at the mouth and vomiting, hands trembling. But he was the only one, so I thought he’d fallen ill or something.

  Outside the station, I decided to walk to Nihombashi. But then I started to feel really bad: nauseous and dizzy. My eyesight got worse, or rather it made no difference with or without my glasses. I couldn’t focus. Everything was a blur. I had a headache, too. I lost my sense of direction, had no idea where I was going. I thought that walking in the same direction as everyone else would get me somewhere, so I just went along with the crowd.

  I had to sit down and take a breather several times. I wanted to go home, but I knew the office was closer, s
o I decided to walk to work. But I lost track of where I was going and went back and forth the same way two or three times. Walking was so hard! I thought I was suffering from anemia. I thought about going into a convenience store and buying a map of Tokyo, but I was in no shape to read.

  I suddenly panicked that maybe I’d burst a blood vessel. Recently it’s been on the rise among people in their thirties. That’s when I remembered I’d borrowed the down payment, and my wife was expecting—it looked pretty bad. What if I snuffed it there and then?

  Walking blind, somehow or other I made it to Nihombashi Station. I caught the Ginza Line to Ginza, then walked to the office from there, though I don’t remember a thing about this part. No memory at all. I reached the office a little after 8:45. Morning ceremonies were under way. I changed into my work clothes and joined in, but I couldn’t even stand up. I’ll never know how I managed to change clothes, but it shows I have a strong work ethic (laughs). Force of habit. Otherwise I’d never have gone to work in such a state.

  I couldn’t take it any longer so I went to Hibiya Hospital. I got there around 10:00. By then lots of people were already being treated. When I saw the TV news and heard them mention the frontmost door of the third car on the train stopped at Tsukiji, it all clicked: “Hey, there was that newspaper bundle when I got off at Kodemmacho.” I’d been looking down, sniffing, trying to work out where the stink was coming from, so I got it much worse than the others.

  I was in the hospital for a night. The problems went away after I had an IV; my eyes gradually got better.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll