What Does It Mean to Be a Japanese Citizen After the ISIS Executions?

Images mixed by Izumi MIHASHI

Images mixed by Izumi MIHASHI

In 1945, advancing American troops and urging by Japanese soldiers drove thousands of Okinawa's civilians to kill themselves to avoid capture. Japanese Internet users’ reactions to the recent executions of civilian hostages Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa by ISIS demonstrate how extreme conditions produce tragedies like the one in Okinawa so many years ago.

Dewi Sukarno, a Japanese television personality and ex-wife of Sukarno, Indonesia's first president, said she wished the hostages had just killed themselves:

私は 1970年6月、3才3ヶ月になった娘のカリナを連れて、パリからスカルノ大統領の 死の床に殺される事を覚悟で馳せ参じました。その時、只ひとつのことを神に祈りました。「もし私が銃弾に倒れることがあったら、どうか数秒でもいい、 カリナの命を我が手で絶つ力を与えて下さい」と願ったのです。カリナが敵の手におちることなど考えられなかったからです。不謹慎ではありますが、後藤さんに話すことが出来たらいっそ自決してほしいと言いたい。私が彼の母親だったらそう言います。我が子を英雄にする為にも ・・・

In June 1970, I brought my three-year-and-three-month-old daughter, Carina, with me from Paris to the deathbed of President Sukarno, fully prepared to be murdered. I asked God for just one thing: “If I were to be shot and killed, please give me a few more seconds to kill Carina with my own hands,” I wished. I couldn't imagine Carina falling into the enemy’s hands. Knowing this may sound imprudent, if I were to talk to Mr. Goto, I would urge him to commit harakiri. If I were his mother, I definitely would do so — I would want my son to be a hero.

Sukarno's blog entry received more than 50 comments applauding her for echoing their thoughts (though it's worth nothing that Sukarno screens and moderates the comments on her blog). One anonymous comment reads:


Some journalists defended his right to go there, but this is what it comes to. The freedom of press may be important, but what about responsibility for making the entire Japanese people regarded as an enemy?

The Japanese embassy is also widely derided online for abandoning its citizens in foreign hot spots. Asa Nonami, a crime fiction and horror writer. says:

A friend of mine was a reporter for a major newspaper company. He kept saying the Japanese Embassy never once assisted him, when he ran into a trouble in a foreign country. The embassies of other countries would always help him because they could not stand by and watch any longer. It seems we should face the fact that we belong to such a state.

Rieko Saibara, a manga artist, recalls what her ex-husband, a war photographer, used to say:

When he was alive, Kamo told me he was shot at in Myanmar and tried to escape into the Japanese Embassy. Once embassy staff confirmed he was a Japanese citizen, they shut the door. He barely escaped alive, and reported later what happened to his teacher, who only yelled: “You idiot! How could anyone be as stupid as you! Escape into the US Embassy without hesitation! They would have helped you, whoever you are!”

Masahiko Komura, the vice president of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, didn't even disguise of his lack of sympathy for the hostages.


Entering terrorists’ territory against the Japanese government's warning was not courageous; it was pure idiocy, no matter how intense their sense of mission was.

Not all Japanese Internet users are so eager to fault the latest ISIS victims, however. Keigo Takeda, ex-editor of the Japanese version of Newsweek, explained his understanding of the state's obligations to citizens:

No. Even if a sexual-harasser and anti-Japanese man who had not paid his pension insurance went there out of mere curiosity and was arrested, a state is obliged to try to help him, as long as he is a citizen. RT @ararano Goto tuned out others’ attempts to stop him and went off to a danger zone on his own. He brought this trouble on himself. Moreover, the government's responsibility [for its citizens] isn't unlimited be default.


  • O.

    The sheer amount of victim-blaming. These journalists are doing a service to their insular country by reporting on the goings-on of the outside world, whether it is the political instability of Myanmar, or the atrocities committed by ISIS in the Levant, they are educating the Japanese public and deserve to have the protection of the Japanese state.

  • Ample Waters

    Both guys went to a war zone without the blessing (which implies support) of their government. At least one of them was batshit crazy… What were they thinking?

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