Japan’s Public Opinion on Hostages and Abe

Regarding ISIS’ abduction of two Japanese citizens, quite a few Japanese people blame the hostages unlike the ordinary Western reactions. They are scathing about hostages for their “reckless” and “selfish” actions to visit battlefield in Syria regardless of the official advice on the danger there issued by Japanese government. Usually, the Western public opinion only criticises terrorists and dirty deed of kidnapping; but nevertheless, a completely different response has been observed in Japan. A thread on a BBS related to ISIS even carried a statement reportedly in the name of ISIS saying that Japanese have no mercy on the hostages. However, this kind of Japanese reaction does not mean that they are just cold-blooded without benevolence.

Most of those who blame hostages mention self-responsibility. They maintain that two Japanese hostages went to Syria although Japanese government most strongly recommended its nation not to visit there and these two are now facing their consequences. Additionally, they explain that freedom requires responsibility. Indeed, Japanese government advice its nation to avoid going to Syria and Iraq for any reason; but it is merely recommendation, not a ban because Japan is a free country which also make a point on freedom of transfers and travels. Concerning the article 22 of Constitution of Japan, the government cannot legally forbid any Japanese citizens to visit certain countries or areas. Therefore, every Japanese person has a right to go to every country in the world including Syria and Iraq; however, as mentioned above, freedom definitely requires responsibility. It is a fact that Japanese government demands its citizens to prevent themselves from visiting these countries. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) rates Syria as danger level four out of four; one of the most dangerous counties in the world. In fact, Goto stressed his self-responsibility on his own video before he got caught by ISIS; he exaggerated that “whatever happens, this is my responsibility” to visit Syria. It is, on the one hand, legal for you to go to Syria concerning Japanese laws, but on the other hand, you should account for your own decision since you are once cautioned about the dangerous situations there.

The reason why self-responsibility is considered as the most significant ground to blame hostages is Japanese ethics which strictly deny bothering the other people. In this case, these two hostages made many people get involved in the huge trouble which even influenced politics. The ethics encourage helping people, not relying on people; besides it has distaste for having troubled other people. For instance, Yukawa’s father apologised to “everyone” for the huge trouble which his son has caused. Therefore, viewing from this standpoint, these two hostages were against the Japanese ethics.

Moreover, there is another reason why Japanese seem to have little sympathy for the hostages; that is because of the progress of Haruna Yukawa’s visit to Syria and the hidden speech of Kenji Goto’s mother. As for Yukawa, he was the CEO of a private military company as the media reported. For most Japanese people it appeared to be thoughtless and even stupid because he had no experience in any military including Japanese Self-Defence Force. Also, the reason why he began his company was because he wanted to restart his life with a new excitement. Most Japanese thought his reason lacked enough persuasion, making him some kind of reckless debauchee who does not have any idea on conflicts or war. In addition, Japanese ethics detest earning money by helping kill people. This kind of occupation would never be respected. In the meantime, Goto basically gets Japanese sympathy, but his mother is a leftist to the core, which might also lower the image of her son. At the press conference she held, she mentioned nuclear plant and nuclear power so many times although it was held to express her feeling and ask ISIS to release hostages. The media reported her as if she only talked about her grief and strong will for her son’s free, but she actually expressed another message: anti-nuclear. Abe’s nuclear policy has completely nothing to do with this incident. Some Japanese had an impression of disagreement with her mother’s way and view of this political argument. It was much better for her not to refer the other topics.

Meanwhile, those who completely support and do not blame Japanese hostages mainly blame the correspondence of Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; these people apparently have leftist views. They insist that “theory of self-responsibility” rather sounds like “it is your fault” in the negative sense and have no sentiment on their fellow citizens, which can be considered as Japanese traditional kindness. These arguments are half true but half wrong. Beginning with true part, all the Japanese people should become one and help to release Japanese hostages. That is clearly a must, of course. As written above, Japanese ethics encourage supporting those who are in hardship; a basic humanity should be carried on.

However, there is a contradiction among them: they themselves are separating Japanese people and conducting themselves in the exactly same way the terrorists hope. It is the ISIS’ goal in this case to make Japanese government stop its policies in the Middle East. ISIS criticised Japanese government for killing “women and children” and destroying “the homes of the Muslims,” which are totally unrelated to Japanese humanitarian contribution to the Middle East. It actually includes the support for refugees in Syria, Iraq and Palestine but apparently Japanese leftists believe ISIS’ words and urge that Japanese funds are used for weapons to kill people and demolish homes. It is very strange of them to trust ISIS more; less their own government.

Concerning leftists who express their political views without regard to this tragedy, there is another example of it. Quite a few Japanese leftists used a hashtag called #IamNotAbe on Twitter and demanded ISIS to release the hostages. Nonetheless, it is explicit that ISIS does not care whether Japanese people are pro-Abe or does not have second thought about the release of Japanese hostages only because Abe does not represent Japanese people. Again, it has nothing to do with the incident. It is, rather, exactly same as the expectation of ISIS. On the first video, ISIS appealed to Japanese nation for persuading the government to discontinue its policies in the Middle East. That means ISIS wants Japanese people to pressure the government and make Abe give up his policy; and these leftists without considerations criticise Abe for everything. Look who’s laughing now.

In summary, some Japanese people blame two Japanese hostages for their self-responsibility which has to be taken when given freedom. In addition to the negative reputation of Yukawa, Goto’s mother might provide unnecessary information and impression to people. Moreover, unfortunately, some Japanese leftists are acting in the same way of ISIS’ intentions. However, criticise is not for provoking internal conflict, but for improving the current situation. Both Japanese government and the people including leftists have to respect each other’s opinions and become one to help the hostages.

(Note: at this moment, Yukawa’s death has not been confirmed by Japanese government. Although the possibility of his execution is very high, I will use the plural of the word “hostage,” having hope for survival of two Japanese hostages.)

One response to “Japan’s Public Opinion on Hostages and Abe

  1. Pretty much what I’ve been hearing in Osaka, esp re Mrs Goto and her rambling press conference. However, most criticize her for not apologizing for the bother and ranting about Abe’s policies, not being leftist. Leftist acquaintances dissed her most strongly. しらがさん’s dislike of left clouds otherwise good analysis. Well, a lefty friend watched the live conference -began in sympathy, ended enraged for reasons noted above.

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