The former leader of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult and six of its members were executed on Friday.
Shoko Asahara, who was 63, and whose real name was Chizou Matsumoto, was the first of 13 people scheduled to be hanged for a string of crimes that killed 29 people, including a sarin gas attack that killed 13 commuters and injured more than 6,000 others.
Japanese media broke into regular programming to report the news. Japan's Justice Ministry later confirmed reports that six followers of the cult had been executed along with the leader.
The Aum Shinrikyo cult was founded by Asahara, who was virtually blind, in 1987 and mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings. It staged a series of crimes including simultaneous attacks on Tokyo's subway in March 1995 using sarin gas, a nerve gas originally used by the Nazis.
The group had 11,400 members in Japan, including graduates from some of the country's elite universities, at the time of the subway attack, as well as members in Germany, Russia and the United States.
Asahara and 12 of his followers were sentenced to death and five others received life sentences.
More than 20 years of trials involving Aum members came to an end in January 2018 when Japan's supreme court upheld the life sentence of Katsuya Takahashi. Last year, a court ruled that Aum Shinrikyo no longer posed a threat to the public.
dv/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)