No. 3 Aleph – Aum Reloaded
To have Aum Shinrikyo on the list is a no brainer I think, but this once evil and dangerous cult has now degenerated into something more pathetic. After the horrible subway sarin gas attack and the subsequent dismantling of the cult, spiced up with good 'ol guru Shoko receiving the death penalty as he's gone completely over the edge flinging his feces around him as he talks jibberish naked in his cell (yeah, he's gone from dangerously insane to outright loon-crazy) the cult has been struggling. However, the cult did not completely die after the incident, although it obviously lost members and financial assets pretty radically. What makes this amusing is how some PR genius in the cult realized that “hey guys, maybe the name “Aum” has too much negativity now, let’s change the name” and the cult officially stated that the sarine attacks had been misguided and disowned former guru Shoko Asahara (but yeah, basically only the mass murder of innocent people, otherwise they still think he’s an all right dude) and changed the name to Aleph. And yeah, for some reason this great PR coupe didn’t create the boom that they expected, but I’m sure they’ll be back in the media later on!
No 2. Life Space – Return of the (Dead) Mummy
This cult was relatively benign, at least compared to Aum/Aleph and without having studied the details of their teachings, I believe that they originated from Sai Baba's new age mumbo jumbo and the cult leader had the pseudo-India cult leader look down pefectly. They were a pretty small cult and hit the news when a member had fallen sick (to be fair, it was an elderly person if I’'m not mistaken) and the cult had refused (probably with the consent of the patient) to get her the proper modern care that could have saved her. Instead the cult chanted and was going to save her through faith and their own interesting treatments. To no surprise the patient pretty soon passed away, but it's here where things took a turn to the bizarre. Instead of accepting that the individual had passed, the cult insisted that she was just recovering in a coma and would wake up very soon if they could just continue their “care”. This “treatment” carried on for considerable time and by the time police had been alerted to strange on-goings and odors and intervened at the apartment, the "sick" cult member had reached a stage of mummification…
Still, the cult would not acknowledge that she was actually very very dead but insisted that she could wake up any second. If I remember it correctly, the guru got a light prison sentence and the cult fell back into obscurity, but they should be credited with putting mummies on the news!
No 1. Pana Wave Research Institute - Whiteout!
This was a really hard choice, but from a personal stand point I do have to admit a weakness for sci-fi cults based on pseudo/bogus-science. I mean, who doesn't have fond memories of something relating to Heaven's Gate and Scientology? Some people probably would argue that a real cult should have a real bearded guru in the top and while I can understand that sentiment I do not completely agree. A large cult like scientology and smaller more radical ones such as Heaven's gate has shown that even the guru or fervent preacher deal is not the only route a cult can take these days.
Pana Wave hit the news some years ago as they were traveling around Japan in huge convoys with their white vans, cars and trucks and randomly (to an observer, internally I'm sure they had perfectly “logical” reasons) set up camps in the country side and only ventured outside dressed in white contamination protection suits, complete with goggles and facemasks. They put up huge white sheets around the areas where they performed their “work” – exactly what they were working with is still a bit unclear, but it seems like it was connected to saving the world from certain destruction (I do that every day so I know it can be tiring).
For a while they were regulars in the news as they moved around the country and made people highly uncomfortable with their mysterious activities. But it does seem that the cult was relatively benign and they were actually out to save the world and not to bring about its destruction… To my disappointment, the cult has been very silent recent years and since the founder and leader (a woman which is nice for a change) passed away a few years ago it is possible that the cult will fall into obscurity again.
Recently there has been few cult news here in Japan, but I'm sure something really bizarre will show up sooner or later, it always does...