Notes on Underground and the 1990 election

January 9, 2021 By mk

I trace it back to February 1990, when Aum stood for election in the Lower House of the Japanese Diet. Asahara was running in Shibuya Ward, the Tokyo district where I was living at the time, and the campaign was a singularly odd piece of theater. Day after day strange music played from big trucks with sound systems, while white-robed young men and women in oversize Asahara masks and elephant heads lined the sidewalk outside my local train station, waving and dancing some incomprehensible jig. (Haruki Murakami, Underground, Part 1)

At that time, I also experienced what Murakami did at the same time in the same place. I wonder if it could be interesting for someone on the sequel story of what Murakami wrote;

The 1990 election campaign was strange, as Murakami wrote. However, the media (no internet at that time) called the girls in white costume as “Aum-sisters” and treated with attention. However, Shibuya people almost neglected, and Asahara could gain only 0.3% of the total votes and defeated with losing JPY 2M (USD 125,000) deposits.

Asahara got angry and loudly claimed electoral fraud on TV and sent his followers to the vote-counting office and pressured the officials, but no change in the result. Upon claiming the fraud, Aasahara’s team was creative enough to make stories, such as there was a specially crafted machine in the vote-counting office to replace the ballot and made the fraud.

They distributed paper flyers on the street (no SNS in 1990); however, nobody took it seriously. It is said that his failure at this election drove him to conduct the gas attack in five years later. This experience gave us a kind of “immunity” against electoral fraud claim by a defeated candidate, the immunity still works after 30 years in some people, but not covers all.

What Murakami wrote in the later part in the book still stay in my mind.

All I mean to say is that something in that encounter, in their presence, must also have been present in us to necessitate such active conscious rejection. Or rather, “they” are the mirror of “us”! (Haruki Murakami, Underground, Part 1)

I hope the world be a better place. Have a good weekend.

(Added the following part on January 10, 2021)
In 1990, only very few people used the internet. Since then, several people have suggested that we impose the remote-voting election. Still, we have never adopted it to eliminate the possible room to be claimed against the electoral result in any sense; until now, we admit only on-site voting with perfect privacy. I think it is partly because of our experience in 1990.

The cult started as a yoga club in 1984. Since then, media treated its leader like a subcultural celebrity at the entertainment TV shows. However, once the gas-attack happened, they completely turned the attitude and never mentioned that they used them for their business but started to report every detail of the cult. However, what Murakami wrote was what I had felt at that time.

None of which told me what I wanted to know. No, mine was a very simple question: What actually happened in the Tokyo subway the morning of March 20, 1995? (Haruki Murakami, Underground, Part 1)

Underground was published on March 13, 1997. I appreciate Murakami for recording the tragic event before the memories got hazy, and sublimated it to the fictional narratives; After Dark, Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84.

Hope world be a better place.