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Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  13,488 ratings  ·  1,040 reviews
It was a clear spring day, Monday, March 20, 1995, when five members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo conducted chemical warfare on the Tokyo subway system using sarin, a poison gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. The unthinkable had happened, a major urban transit system had become the target of a terrorist attack.

In an attempt to discover why, Haruki
...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published April 10th 2001 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Kayleigh I agree with you! I haven't started reading "Underground" yet, but after reading "Ghostwritten" the summary immediately stood out to me and I started…moreI agree with you! I haven't started reading "Underground" yet, but after reading "Ghostwritten" the summary immediately stood out to me and I started to wonder if Mitchell based his story on the real-life situation. Very interesting, I feel like Mitchell is greatly influenced by Murakami in many ways.(less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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F
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, short-stories, japan
Absolutely heartbreaking. I had no idea about this event in history until reading this. Insane.
Alina
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Amazing, thoughtful compilation of interviews conducted by Murakami. While the accounts of the gas attack itself are both shocking and fascinating, it also gives invaluable insight into what it means to be Japanese and the life that is expected of you. In fact, when reading the rigid and all-prevailing work ethic of the commuters on their way to work on the doomed trains, the sense of entrapping routine makes you wonder how 'crazy' the interviewed Aum members are for wanting to escape it. A ...more
Lou
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On March 20, 1995, during the morning rush hour, five men dropped 11 bags of sarin on five subway trains in Tokyo. They punctured the plastic bags with the sharpened ends of umbrellas and exited the cars as the deadly liquid leaked onto the floor and evaporated into the air of the crowded trains. In the end, 13 people were killed and 6,300 more were injured, many of them left blind or paralyzed. Japan was flung into crisis mode.

The men who caused the havoc were members of Aum Shinrikyo, a
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"without a proper ego nobody can create a personal narrative, any more than you can drive a car without an engine, or cast a shadow without a real physical object. But once you've consigned your ego to someone else, where on earth do you go from there?"
-- Haruki Murakami, Underground

description

Looking back 20 years to the Tokyo Gas Attack, it seems inevitable that Murakami would write about it. Writing about dark tunnels that bridge both the victims and the devout, that link a damp tongue of evil with the
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Jackie "the Librarian"
There was a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway system carried out in 1995 by a religious cult called Aum. They released poison gas, called sarin, during rush hour on several different train lines, killing 13 people, and injuring hundreds of others.

This book contains interviews of people caught in the attack, as well as interviews of members of the Aum cult, although none of them were perpetrators of the attack.

As a reader from another country, I feel like I'm missing a lot. I read the book
...more
Matthias
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews
I had to learn more about the Japanese as a form of consciousness. - Haruki Murakami

I've always known Murakami for his mystical, mythical stories. Following his characters is usually like taking dancing classes: the first steps seem quite sensible but soon you find yourself in an inextricable knot that you don't know how to get out of. His stories are from another realm, to such an extent that Murakami himself seemed way out there. I always pictured him as a black-clad dreamweaver, spinning his
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Ms. Smartarse
In 1995, some members of the Japanese religious cult Aum have released toxic gas in the Tokyo underground system. While there were relatively "few" deaths, the survivors have all been left with a horrible mental and physical scars in the aftermath.

The first part of the book contains interviews with the victims and their families, while the second one (published a year later) is made up of interviews with current and previous Aum members.

News clipping about the attack

When I started reading it, I had absolutely no idea what
...more
Lobstergirl
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those interested in cults
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: the library shelf
The bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami gives a Studs Terkelish treatment to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995 which killed 12 and injured hundreds. There's a great deal about Terkel's methods to like (when Terkel uses them), but they fall flat here. I don't think the oral history treatment works well in this instance, in which every victim is in the same location (the subway system) and is subjected to the same assault; the approximately 30 victim accounts are extremely repetitive, which ...more
AC
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, fascism
This is actually two books. Part I (1-223), titled "Underground" (Andaguraundo) was published in 1997; Part II ("The Place that was Promised") was written and published separately the following year.

Part I consists of interviews with the victims (see updates; this section is too long and is tedious). Part II consists of interviews with members and former members of Aum Shinrikyo.

And this is where things get really weird....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aum_Shin...

The members of this cult -- who
...more
Junta
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Junta by: 22 other Murakami books
On March 20, 1995, Japan experienced its deadliest act of terrorism (and most serious attack since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of 1945) when members of the 'Doomsday cult', Aum Shinrikyo, released the lethal nerve agent, sarin, on multiple Tokyo subway lines at rush hour. 13 people died, 50 were severely injured, and thousands of commuters had to be taken to hospital.

The coordinated attacks shook the nation, known for its social cohesion and low crime rate, to the core, and there was no
...more
Aubrey
Words can be practically useless at times, but as a writer they're all I have.
A group of people killed another group of people. I could be talking about a number of things. A description of the present. An incident in history. A prediction of the future. The final result of brainwashing. The beginning of a new era. A cause. A conclusion. The means. The end. A resolution. An excuse. The threat executed by an oppressor. The exigency fulfilled by a nation. Culture clash. Revolution. Murder.
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Katherine Addison
[library]

This is a book about the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995. As you would expect from Murakami, it is thoughtful and careful. It consists primarily of interviews; the first part, Underground, is interviews with survivors; the second part, The Place that was Promised, is interviews with members and former members of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult responsible for the attacks.

The translation, insofar as I can judge, seems good. I hope it's accurate. The one thing I would
...more
Widyanto Gunadi
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haruki Murakami's journalistic effort in recording a daring and controversial subject in relation to the hazardous Japanese cult organization led by Aum, an esoteric figure behind Aum Shinrikyo is a masterfully written, heartrending book. In this nonfiction work, Murakami-san has interviewed several victims of the nationally shocking, chemical-fueled terrorist attack carried out in a Tokyo subway train station, back in 1995. He gave us, readers, fairly neutral point of view and coverage of the ...more
David
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it
The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground.
The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 were perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese religious cult, and attracted wide media attention. Aum emerged in 1984 when previously strict measures by the Japanese government against new religions were relaxed. During the post-war American occupation and in the years following, this laxness was an attempt to show that the new
...more
Seth T.
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Murakami's Underground was by turns devastating and intriguing. There were moments I wanted to abandon humanity in a wastebin behind an abortion clinic and others when I sat there dumbfounded, thinking Wow, humanity, you're like the most interesting people on earth. Love to hate to love to hate. Again and again.

That's what books about patent insanities do to me.

Underground chronicles the psychological aftermath of Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 deposit of Sarin nerve gas across several of the mass-transit
...more
Marina
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
** Books 117 - 2018 **

4,3 of 5 painful stars!

OMG! This books definitely unputdownable when i just start reading in the first pages! When i read the synopsis first i thought it just another fiction works from Haruki Murakami but I'm WRONG! This is the one that painful to me to read until the last pages! The idea of sensei compiles the story from Sarin's Gas attack Victims is really breaks my heart! So it is a book about Sarin's gas attack that happened in Tokyo Subway (Hibiya line/Chiyoda Line
...more
Mizuki
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should re-read this book someday.
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet


The Beginning: Two men were assigned to drop sarin gas on the Chiyda line: Ikuo Hayashi and Tomomitsu Niimi.

In ‘Underground’, Murakami interviews victims of the Tokyo gas attack. He asks them about their life and work, makes them describe in detail how they experienced the attack, what happened afterwards and how their life has been ever since.

It was a terrifying yet fascinating read. You could feel the claustrophobia and fear as people in the underground discovered that something was wrong,
...more
Rusalka
I really love Murakami as a novelist. But he needs to stay as that. He is not a journalist. As the almost 7 months to read this book will attest.

Murakami takes a really interesting subject and makes it... well... boring. The repetitive nature of his interviews with survivors, which really shouldn't be. The preachy, pseudo-psych, pseudo-philosophy essay in the middle which is peppered with "I'm just a novelist but" which undermines him and makes him look arrogant at the same time. The best part
...more
Paltia
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murakami’s partial attempt to explain why people joined Aum left me dissatisfied. Could it really be that some people want someone to watch over them and spare them the anxiety of confronting life situations on their own? A one way ticket delivering them from the need to ever have to think for themselves? He writes that we can’t fault people’s sincere attempts to find answers. Agreed. Does this mean that in one’s search they leave critical thinking behind? In one of the interviews he held a ...more
Aryn
On March 20, 1995 a Japanese religious cult, called Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas onto five subway trains during the morning rush hour. Cult members entered trains near the front with two or three newspaper-wrapped packets of sarin, piercing the packets with sharpened umbrellas the members were able to get off the train with minimal injury due to the gas.

In Japan, this book was published as two: the first being interviews with sarin survivors that had been affected in some way, even just
...more
Abhinav
I still remember the first time I came across this book at the local used-book store. I was about to check out with my purchases when I noticed a book with Murakami written on its spine behind the woman at the counter, so I asked her for it & quickly looked up the book on Goodreads. But I wasn't really keen on non-fiction back then, someone on my friends' list had given it a one-star rating & I being short on cash conspired together & I didn't buy it. Bad judgement on my part, now ...more
Cărăşălu
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a collection of interviews with the victims of the Tokyo subway gas attack, in the first part, and with some (ex)members of the cult that did carry out the attack. Although I did find the latter part more interesting, the first one is very revealing as well. Murakami sets out to show how the event was felt by those directly involved in it. What exactly happened that very morning? What did people do? Who reacted how? And the answers are very surprising, at times unbelievable. One of the most ...more
Chelsea Szendi
This book proves two things I've long suspected about Murakami Haruki. One is that he'd be a lot more interesting if he'd deny his own ego every once in a while, and the second is that he is not very skilled at analysis. This book of Murakami's is nonfiction and almost entirely the compiled testimonies of survivors of the March 20, 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway.

At first the experiment is absolutely absorbing. In his prologue, Murakami promises to explore the kind of "double
...more
Raquel
3.5
«The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground»

Review in English | Reseña en español (abajo)

I had this book on my tbr for more than four years but I never dared to read it. The main reasons: I didn’t like the two non-fiction books I've read written by Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and What I Talk About When I Talk About Writing–, and I thought that the 'essayist’ Murakami wasn’t my cup of
...more
Moby
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two parts-- heart-wrenching and tragic, harrowing and too emotional, the insight views from both affected victims/families and cult members, past and present. I love reading part one though quite distressing and redundant but reading on how people felt about the tragedy was an eye-opener. I like that the interviews not covered only about the tragedy but as well as the victims personal life, their relationship, work life and the after effect.

In part two I see a different views from the cult
...more
Stacia
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, asia
This is not your typical non-fiction book for various reasons. The largest part of the book includes interviews with survivors of the attack or relatives of those who did not survive. Murakami describes his method of finding the interviewees, convincing them to talk (which would have been a challenge in 1990s Japanese society), meeting with them, & recording their words. I worked for Japanese companies for over ten years (so I worked with many Japanese co-workers) & the survivor sections ...more
Stephen
This is really 2 books - one of interviews with victims of the Tokyo sarin bombing and the other, interviews with ex-members of the cult behind it. The first was pretty compelling reading and really gets into the personalities of the victims, the effect it had on them and what it was like to be there. The second half, I found quite heavy going, though. Miracle that more people weren't killed and that having taken place so many years ago, it hasn't happened again. Never did like going on ...more
David Haws
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-fiction
I don’t suppose any Japanese novelist since Natsume Soseki has understood the West as well as Murakami; and he was probably the perfect person to gather and interpret the autobiographical sketches. I’m sure his celebrity in Japan granted him access to people who might not have spoken to anyone else—and if anyone other than Murakami had come out with the book, I doubt if it would have been translated into English. I think he approached the subject as a curious 外人 and, as with most of his writing, ...more
Mag
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read it to get a better understanding of 1Q84. I wouldn’t say it’s essential reading for it, but it's very helpful to understanding the book’s themes and characters. Underground is a non-fiction account of Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin gas terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway in March, 1995. Aum Shinrikyo was a doomsday cult and the attack happened to fulfil its leader’s prophecy that a gas attack in Tokyo was to start the Third World War and lead to Armageddon. The attack killed 13 people (the last ...more
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72,878 followers
Murakami Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as 'easily accessible, yet profoundly complex'. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka...

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by
...more
“If you lose your ego, you lose the thread of that narrative you call your Self. Humans, however, can't live very long without some sense of a continuing story. Such stories go beyond the limited rational system (or the systematic rationality) with which you surround yourself; they are crucial keys to sharing time-experience with others.

Now a narrative is a story, not a logic, nor ethics, nor philosophy. It is a dream you keep having, whether you realize it or not. Just as surely as you breathe, you go on ceaselessly dreaming your story. And in these stories you wear two faces. You are simultaneously subject and object. You are a whole and you are a part. You are real and you are shadow. "Storyteller" and at the same time "character". It is through such multilayering of roles in our stories that we heal the loneliness of being an isolated individual in the world.

Yet without a proper ego nobody can create a personal narrative, any more than you can drive a car without an engine, or cast a shadow without a real physical object. But once you've consigned your ego to someone else, where on earth do you go from there?

At this point you receive a new narrative from the person to whom you have entrusted your ego. You've handed over the real thing, so what comes back is a shadow. And once your ego has merged with another ego, your narrative will necessarily take on the narrative created by that ego.

Just what kind of narrative?

It needn't be anything particularly fancy, nothing complicated or refined. You don't need to have literary ambitions. In fact, the sketchier and simpler the better. Junk, a leftover rehash will do. Anyway, most people are tired of complex, multilayered scenarios-they are a potential letdown. It's precisely because people can't find any fixed point within their own multilayered schemes that they're tossing aside their own self-identity.”
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“The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground” 23 likes
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