Play, other events planned to honor murdered journalist Goto


A year has gone by since freelance journalist Kenji Goto was murdered by Islamic State militants, and Goto’s friends, still in mourning, are planning various events to pass on his legacy.

To commemorate the first anniversary of his death, Sakura Baba, 42, will be staging a play about Goto titled “Indigo Blue Shamal” for two days starting Saturday in the city of Osaka.

The play is about Kenji covering military conflicts around the world with a rookie female reporter he had met the year before. Baba, a native of Toyonaka in Osaka, had written the script in 2011,

In the play, Baba likens Goto to “shamals,” which means strong winds in Arabic. She cites Indigo as being a color also associated with mourning.

Kenji, the main character, is portrayed as a gentle and friendly person with a cheery smile who is devoted to reporting on the lives of people caught in war zones.

Baba said she was shocked to see Goto kneeling in an orange jumpsuit as the masked “jihadi John” stood beside him brandishing a knife in the hostage video released by the Islamic State group a year ago.

At first, she tried not to think about it. Then, after a while, Baba realized that media coverage of Goto had dropped off significantly.

It was then that she recalled his words: “The most important thing is to keep on telling.”

In one scene, Kenji shouts at the rookie journalist as she witnesses someone’s death.

“Keep on shooting (the video)! No matter how much you are jeered or yelled at, you need to accept it! That’s what journalists do,” his character says.

Baba believes Goto is still trying to convey some kind of message.

“What can we do to stop conflicts? I hope I can convey his message, even for a little bit,” said actor Hideki Yamamoto, 44, who plays Kenji.

Baba is not the only one who was touched by Goto.

Miki Urahata, 42, of Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, said Goto taught her the importance of never giving up.

When Urahata’s 10-year-old son, who goes to a public school for children with disabilities in Saitama Prefecture, was smacked in the face by a female teacher, she filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from Saitama and the teacher.

Goto used to sit in on those court hearings for support. In October 2014, she received a phone call from him not long before his ill-fated trip to Syria.

“Promise me you’ll fight until the end for the sake of your child, that you won’t give up,” Urahata recalled Goto as telling her.

In October last year, the court ordered the Saitama Prefectural Government to pay compensation, ruling that Urahata’s son had been physically abused.

But Goto was not there to witness the victory.

“I wanted him to say: ‘You did great,’ ” she said.

On Jan. 20, when Urahata held a gathering to explain the outcome of the case to her supporters, participants offered a silent prayer to mourn Goto.

Another close friend of Goto, Nakaba Kozu, 54, a graphic artist, still can’t come to grips with his slaying.

“I still can’t believe it really happened,” said Kozu.

The two worked together in 2010, creating artworks from Goto’s war photographs and records that were later shown to the public across the country.

After his death, Kozu produced a collection of three hymns Goto loved that were released under the title “By Your Side.”

The CD’s cover and booklet were illustrated with flower drawings by a girl Goto met while he was reporting in Syria.

“This CD shows a peaceful world, beyond religious and cultural boundaries. I want to spread Kenji’s idea of an ideal world,” he added.