Hideo Murai (村井 秀夫 Murai Hideo, December 5, 1958 - April 23, 1995) was a member of Aum Shinrikyo and a scientist.
Best known as head of Aum's Ministry of Science, Murai was an astrophysicist. He received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Osaka University, studying X-ray emissions of celestial bodies, and was also a computer programmer. After graduation he embarked upon a respectable career at Kobe Steel in research and development, but soon joined Aum Shinrikyo, a cult founded by Shoko Asahara.
Murai quickly became head of Aum's team of scientists assembled by Aum Shinrikyo. He was researching a diverse and unusual range of topics, such as electromagnetic pulse weapons, microwave weapons, artificially induced earthquakes and giant plasma weapons positioned in Earth's orbit. On a number of occasions Murai traveled to Eastern Europe in an attempt to retrieve the papers of scientist Nikola Tesla, but discovered they were seized by Allied forces at the end of World War II. Murai also traveled to the U.S. to gain access to the documents, but it is unknown whether he was able to access anything besides the publicly available materials, or if any classified Tesla works detailing the classified technology indeed exist. Reportedly, Murai was persistent in his attempts to acquire the materials, and employed various means. He also visited Russia, where he met with a number of scientists, including Nobel laureate professor Nicolai G. Basov.
He was also reportedly involved in the purchase of computer and laboratory equipment that theoretically could be used in experiments with biological substances such as viruses; it is unknown whether any such experiments actually produced results and what they might have been. The bacteria reportedly produced by Murai which initially was claimed to be anthrax was later found to be absolutely harmless.
Murai also designed the plans for underground 'dokubo' ("retreat") chambers--small completely sealed rooms equipped with sensors to measure oxygen consumption. He also developed many of the electronic devices used by Aum Shinrikyo members, of which most widely used is the PSI ('Perfect Salvation Initiation') helmet, which translated the electromagnetic recording of Asahara's brainwaves directly into the brain of the wearer.
Murai was mortally wounded when an ethnic Korean man named Hiroyuki Jo (徐裕行 Jo Hiroyuki), a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi (the largest organized crime Yakuza group in Japan), stabbed Murai repeatedly, in the presence of 10 police officers and about a hundred reporters recording the events and broadcasting them live. The attackers didn't attempt to flee and were peacefully arrested on the spot. Murai died in an ambulance.
The yakuza have been implicated in a number of attacks of public figures in Japan who have angered the political right and certain business interests especially, such as that of Nagasaki mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, who criticized Japan's role in World War II; the photographer W. Eugene Smith who helped to publicize the corporate mercury poisoning of the citizens of Minamata, and the U.S. Ambassador to Japan under John F. Kennedy, Edwin O. Reischauer.
Immediately before the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, Murai lectured at a press conference at the facilities of the Tokyo Foreign Press Club, where he announced the results of his research at Aum. Some of the topics he spoke of at length that day were as follows:
Murai died six hours after the stabbing and Jo and another man were charged with murder. Hiroyuki Jo originally claimed that his personal decision to attack Murai was the result of his anger at the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and injured thousands, but he soon confessed that his Yakuza boss ordered him to commit the murder. Being a yakuza member, he had no choice other than to obey. Shortly after these revelations, Jo was found dead in his prison cell, reportedly a suicide, reasons unknown.
Equipment used by Murai and documents related to the research activities he performed were seized by the PSIA (Public Security Investigation Agency, Japan's equivalent to the FBI) during the raids.
According to testimony during the trials of a number of Aum Shinrikyo members, Murai was involved in the Sakamoto family murder and the production of the chemical gas sarin, which supposedly was manufactured at his orders and under his supervision. This testimony contradicts the theory introduced by the prosecution that Asahara was aware of and personally ordered all of the crimes, not Murai. The judge in Asahara's trial later ruled him guilty in issuing orders, thus agreeing with the prosecution. Murai was never tried, as he died before he was brought to trial. Some think Murai's exclusion from the process was unfortunate. It is difficult to say with certainty whether Murai's testimony could have helped the defence team by shedding more light on the most important point--whether Asahara was aware of what was going on.