Islamic State hostage Kenji Goto mourned by family and friends

by and

Staff Writers

A video posted online early Sunday morning that shows what appears to be the beheaded corpse of Islamic State group hostage Kenji Goto has left his family and friends speechless and in anguish.

Goto’s 78-year-old mother, Junko Ishido, was barely able to speak as she read from a prepared statement to express her grief.

“Kenji has passed away. I am at a loss for words, facing such a regretful death,” she said late Sunday morning at her home in Koganei, western Tokyo. “The only thing I can do now is to shed tears of deep sorrow.”

She added, however, that she believes such feelings of pain should not lead to a chain of hatred.

“I strongly hope we can hand down Kenji’s wish of creating a society without war and saving children’s lives from war and poverty,” she said, referring to the work of the 47-year-old freelance journalist.

Goto’s older brother, Junichi Goto, 55, told NHK that he appreciated all the efforts made to rescue his sibling, including those of the Japanese government, the people of Japan and others all over the world.

“As a brother, I had hoped Kenji would come back safe and thank everyone himself, so this is extremely regrettable,” he said.

“I am proud of the work he has done in the past, but I think the action he took this time was indiscreet,” he added.

Junichi Goto said although he was preparing for the worst, he had hoped the negotiations would somehow work out and his brother would come back alive.

“The Islamic State group has been showing off its power and expanding its influence by taking away the lives of my brother and many other people,” he said. “Such actions are anti-social and unacceptable.”

Shoichi Yukawa, the 74-year-old father of Haruna Yukawa, 42, who was being held with Goto, told reporters Sunday morning he feels sorry for Goto’s death.

“I have heard that Mr. Goto went to save my son. I feel deeply sorry for his family,” he said. “Mr. Goto is a very respectable person. I feel so regrettable that I can think of nothing else to say.”

Yukawa is believed have been executed on or before Jan. 24.

Freelance photojournalist Naomi Toyoda, who worked with Goto in Jordan in 1996, was overcome with grief because he had been trying to save his friend since the hostage crisis began on Jan. 20.”It’s devastating,” Toyoda said Sunday. “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t rescue him.”

Toyoda, who had earlier released two statements through the Japan Visual Journalist Association pleading for Goto’s release in English, Arabic and Japanese, said he is angry at both the Islamic State groupand the Japanese government.

“Tell me, what has the government been doing after all this time? Can it swear that it did its absolute utmost to negotiate with (the captors)? Did it really mean it when it said it will save him? I’m angry, disappointed and exasperated.”

Journalist Junpei Yasuda, who has covered numerous civil wars and was good friends with Goto, expressed disappointment in the tragic outcome. He fears Goto’s death will put Japanese at greater risk of being targeted by terrorist groups.

“Until now, Japanese have been relatively free of dangers,” Yasuda said. “The outlook will change completely after this.”

Kozo Nagata, a professor at Musashi University in Tokyo and a former NHK producer, worked with Goto for the first time in 2000, and the pair collaborated on TV documentaries. Nagata said that although Goto’s death is tragic, people should not get carried away in their grief, and must avoid hasty reactions.

“We have to respect the words Goto left in a video he filmed before entering Syria, which said we shouldn’t blame the Syrian people,” Nagata said. “We have to think why the Islamic State group has expanded so much and become so heinous. Japan has been the target of terrorism this time, but we shouldn’t overreact and call carelessly for countermeasures against terrorism.” Hiroshi Tamura, pastor of the Chofu, western Tokyo, congregation of the United Church of Christ in Japan, said his heart aches when he thinks about what Goto’s family must be feeling. Until March 2013, Tamura had been a pastor at the Denenchofu congregation of the same church, which Goto attended.

“At the same time, I strongly hope that this will not trigger a negative chain (of events). It would be the unhappiest thing, if fear comes to dominate people’s minds because of this and invites further negative reactions,” Tamura said. “During World War II, 70 years ago, tens of thousands of people were captured as hostages and became victims of the war. We have to make efforts not to make ugly war again.”

On Sunday morning, nearly 200 people attended a prayer meeting for Goto and his family, said Kazuto Takahashi, pastor at the United Church of Christ in Japan in Denenchofu, a residential area of southwest Tokyo, where Goto was sometimes a member of the congregation.

“We all prayed hard for his family, who are in the midst of deep sadness. We also prayed that God’s blessing be given to him,” Takahashi said. “Furthermore, we prayed that we will have a society with no conflicts, a society where peace prevails.”

While Goto could not attend the church regularly as he spent much of his time abroad reporting, he was known among the congregants as a gentle man with deep compassion for children, Takahashi said. “Everyone also said he had a tireless passion for his work and a strong sense of justice,” he added.

Information from Kyodo added

Full coverage of the Islamic State hostage crisis

  • Thomas

    My heart and prayers go out to the family and to Japan. It is times like this that we come together and hold our heads high knowing that what we are doing is the right and just it in Iraq confronting ISIS or standing up to Russia over the the invasion of Ukraine.

  • Immir

    My sympathies. The sane world needs to put a swift end to Islamic terror groups.

  • Tony Karais

    At this point I honestly believe the only option is nuclear. The whole place needs to be wiped out and then we can start over. There’s no ‘reforming’ these people, its an ideology/sickness that can’t be cured.

    • Barry Rosenfeld

      You sick immature savage Yank….lets drop one on you you bloody git

    • Esv80

      No, nuking them won’t solve anything. We’ve already tried diplomacy, invasion, occupation, and war with these people. You can nuke their cities, put them in concentration camps, and slaughter them by the millions. But in the end, that won’t change anything. An ideology doesn’t die with it’s people, it dies when the people realize that the ideology that they’re following has no merit, no value and ultimately no reason to follow it anymore.

    • Reality Check

      A few problems with that. Firstly the crazies are coming out of Brussels, London, Paris, etc. Should we nuke them? Secondly the Jordanians, the Kurds, the Egyptians are in a life and death struggle to rid themselves of the scourge. They are our natural allies, and far more effective than the West. Why on earth would you want to nuke them too? Thirdly, the Pakistanis might not take kindly to it. Finally are you that daft, do you know what the Greens would to you?


    RIP Goto-san.

    At some point Japan needs to stop hiding behind the whisper thin shield of pacifism. You were warriors once, you are warriors still. Just wield the swords for the right reasons this time.

  • Joshua

    I don’t know this is crazy man! A mother never should see your child die Iike this…stupid holy war Ike God will accept it this in other side…

  • wibas

    It is really sad to hear this news, think of how much pain it is to his mother at the age of 78 and also his wife and other family. This is heart wrenching, yet in this emotional moment we need to remember that we all are humans and are here to uphold human values unlike the barbarian murders, so I wish japanese government and local community will help and heal this family. If my message can reach to Junko Ishido then it would tell her “Madam, your son Kenji Goto san is brave and a torch bearer of humanity. You should be proud to be mother of such courageous and glorious son”.

  • Moco

    Jarnalists think that they talk and see. But they said that they are wolves that thist blood.
    They must understand the difference.
    Money or amy, to solve the problems.
    We killed our 2 nations without do anything. That’s negative impact to all.
    They said that this begins the tragedies for all Japanese. Gov. leaves the problem, and they know it.
    Not go to their countries.

    • I really, really do not understand what you are saying… in this post and another post.

  • Gerardo Gallo

    I agree with a previous poster who recommended Japan keep it’s immigration policy tight and not allow in those (also tourist) who do not share her values wish to integrate fully into her way of life. That was Europe’s biggest mistake. I point to the British born “executioner” , the france born Paris attentate, ecc. Nihon ganbatte!!

    • Fry

      You must be one of those funny right-wing gaijin that try to emphasize their cultural integration by going neo-fashistoid. Let me guess … netuo? ;) Sorry pal, You are not informed well. Japan’s immigration policies are extremely tight and strict – there is de facto no immigration because of the “permanent resident” status. Most permanent residents are academics or students. And of course there are millions of chinese low-salary workers. How can You even compare a archipel like Japan, which isolated itself for over 200 Years during sakoku until it came to a cultural and political meltdown, with an open range strucrure like Europe?

  • Reality Check

    Permit me to add my condolences to Mr. Goto’s family and friends and to the Japanese public. Sadly you too have been drawn into this horrific tragedy. We will all need to stand shoulder to shoulder to rid the world of this scourge.

  • RIP Goto-san.

  • Mirta Ana Schultz

    This saddens me deeply. I had been praying for Goto-san. May the God who avenges the death of his saints destroy these monsters who are persecuting, torturing, kidnapping, raping, and murdering innocents. May his wrath make them as nothing.
    May the Goto family receive much support and comfort. We mourn with you , Japan.

  • balu chaamy

    If you are a moron to go to these countries knowing your life could be potentially in danger but still chose to do so, then you deserve the fate. I bet this wont be the last incident of this nature, more morons to follow…

  • Yuko Takei

    Why be angry at our government, Toyoda-san? It is not the fault of any of our countrymen for what has happened to Goto-san and Yukawa-san. They knew the danger there. Why should they risk their lives for unworthy people? And why should we shoulder the ransom for them?