Fumihiro Joyu

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Fumihiro Joyu (上祐 史浩 Jōyū Fumihiro?, born 17 December 1962) was the spokesperson and public relations manager of the controversial Japanese "Buddhist" group Aum Shinrikyo, and has been the de facto chief of the organization from 1999 to 2007, when he split and formed a new group.

High society member[edit]

Fumihiro Joyu, originally from the Kurume, Fukuoka on Kyūshū island, graduated from Waseda University, one of Japan's most prestigious private colleges, with an M.A. degree in Artificial Intelligence.

1995: spokesperson for Aum Shinrikyo[edit]

Summoned to Japan on the wave of arrests of senior followers following the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway; resumed his position as Aum Shinrikyo's spokesperson. Arrested and tried for "inciting others to make false statements during [1992] court hearings". Some observers linked Joyu's indictment to a supposed government attempt to "decapitate the cult". The arrest, lengthy trial and subsequent acquittal of Japan's veteran attorney and Human Rights activist Yoshihiro Yasuda, then head of Shoko Asahara's legal team, a move which was harshly criticized by Human Rights Watch, is often cited in support of this hypothesis. Sentenced to three years in prison. Released in 1999. Later Joyu apologized for denying Aum's responsibility in the subway sarin attack, saying that at that time he believed that defending Aum this way as a spokesperson he did the right thing to do.

Joyu would often get into argumentative debates with reporters during his press conferences. Especially after the sarin attack, he was sometimes referred to by Japanese as "Aa ieba Joyu", which is a pun on the expression "Aa ieba koiu", meaning someone who is excessively contrarian and argumentative (literally "you say one thing and he says the opposite").

An icon for teenage girls[edit]

'During the height of Aum Shinrikyo arrests [...], Japan's teenage girls found an icon: Joyu Fumihiro, the cult's "Information Minister." They had not the slightest interest in AUM, religious experience or Buddha but were crazy about Joyu because he was a "heart throb" as the press cynically wrote.' (from 'Slapstick on the Precipice: The Ascent of Koizumi Junichiro' by Alex Shishin). ([Full article in Alex Shishin, The Cyber Dust Stories: Lost Internet Stories and Essays Centering on Japan (Smashwords, 2010): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33093 Dubbed 'Virtuoso AUM Recruiter' by Asiaweek.

Aleph 1999: a new course[edit]

On his release on 29 December 1999, Joyu became the de facto head of the organisation. Under his leadership, Aum Shinrikyo has changed its name to Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The group has admitted responsibility for the various incidents involving some of its former senior members, including the Tokyo Subway gas attack, delivered apologies to the victims and established a special compensations fund. Some of the controversial doctrines that previously attracted criticisms were removed. Most of the time, Joyu resided within Aum's religious facilities with occasional trips to the outside world. Police officials were quoted as advising him to refrain from public activities as they 'could not guarantee his safety'.

Joyu's attempts to soften tensions with society did not win him much praise, though. Judging from the statements made by the country's government officials and unanimously critical media coverage, Aleph is still regarded as a threat.

2007: The Circle of Rainbow Light[edit]

Leadership two opposing factions by the end of 2005, according to the Japanese media quoting the PSIA (Public Security Investigation Agency), which has been monitoring Aleph since 1999. While the fundamentalist faction wishes to keep the organization as close to its pre-1995 ideal, Joyu and his reformer supporters advocate a milder course, aimed at softening social tensions and re-integration into society.

Opposing fractions split in late summer 2006, with Joyu and his supporters (among them many former Aum leaders) residing in a separate building in Tokyo and calling themselves Hikari no Wa (The Circle of Rainbow Light). According to Joyu, many of the members have not taken sides yet, and keep staying with the opposing group. It was raided by PSIA agents on 10 May 2007.[1]

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