translated by Brett Larner
Accused of aiding attempted murder in the 1995 Tokyo Metropolitan Government mail bomb incident, former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Naoko Kikuchi, 42, underwent questioning May 30 at her trial in Tokyo about her time in the cult, infamous for the 1995 sarin nerve gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system. It was her first time making remarks in the trial since May 8. In her comments she touched upon her marathon training as part of the cult's "World Record Achievement Division," looking back on the harshness of the training as she said, "I had to run carrying a 10 kg weight, and when I was finished running I would do 1000 squats."
As the first day of questioning of the defendant, all questions came from the defense side. At the beginning of her comments Kikuchi apologized to victims of the bombing incident, saying, "It had a tremendous impact on people's lives, and for that I am sorry." Following that she appeared relaxed throughout her testimony, even smiling at times. With regard to her memories of joining the cult as a senior in high school in 1989 she said, "I was profoundly impressed with how people had overcome deep emotional trauma to discover and reveal their true selves. I was very happy to talk with people who had the same values. It was fun."
She also discussed her experience as an athlete in the cult's "World Record Achievement Division," how she underwent harsh training and ran in marathons to help publicize the cult. "Even when it was raining I did 40 to 60 km a day carrying a 10 kg weight. When I was finished I would do 1000 squats. I had to run with a surgical mask covering my nose and mouth duct taped to my face and just a pinprick hole in it, but I couldn't run like that."
The women's marathon world record at the time the World Record Achievement Division was operating in the early 90's was Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen's 2:21:06. Kikuchi said that the other five members of the Division did not really believe they could set world records, but that she had been completely serious. "From the beginning I knew that if I thought it was impossible then the chance really would be zero, so I started from the position that the possibility was 0.1% and trained to raise it to 1%, then to 2%. None of us had set a world record yet by the time the Division was disbanded, and I thought it was truly sad when it ended that way." Kikuchi's lifetime PB was ultimately 3:07:40 set at the 1994 Osaka International Women's Marathon.
On the main issue of the trial, her role in the bombing, Kikuchi consistently denied involvement. "I never really had much interest [in chemistry]," she said. "There were people working in the cult's facilities for making poison and whatnot who had gone to graduate school, so I felt like, 'What could I possibly do?'" Despite using current slang and speaking styles in her answers, Kikuchi also used respectful language when speaking of the cult, saying, "Asahara-san" in reference to cult leader Shoko Asahara and "shinto-san" of the other believers. Questioning in the trial is set to continue on June 2 and 3.