Goto, Yukawa mourned in spontaneous gatherings nationwide

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

People gathered at dusk Sunday at a number of locations nationwide to mourn the deaths of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, two hostages of the Islamic State group whom the militants apparently murdered last month.

Near the statue of Hachiko outside Shibuya Station in Tokyo, a popular landmark where crowds mill about on usual weekends, was enveloped in an unusually somber mood after people bearing candles and placards started to gather. The quietly standing people eventually filled the entire area.

Participants had responded to messages on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, saying the spontaneous calls to gather had grown naturally as they were relayed.

“I had hoped he’d come back, so it’s sad,” said Julia Maeda, who came with her husband and children, holding a candle in her hand. “I think the onus is on us all to keep his wishes for peace alive,” added Maeda, who was a friend of freelance journalist Goto.

Shiori and Nanami Katori, who came to the site together, stood holding placards saying: “May rest in peace. In memory of Kenji Goto (and) Haruna Yukawa.”

“I kept wishing Goto-san would come back alive,” said Shiori Katori, who then choked and fell silent.

Nanami Katori said: “We’re their compatriots, but couldn’t do anything for them. I felt useless.”

Similar gatherings reportedly took place at locations in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Sapporo, Sendai, Chiba and Fukuoka.

  • Ron NJ

    I fail to understand the thought process behind co-opting the rallying cry against the Paris attacks for use in protests against the death of Kenji Goto. The Charlie Hebdo staff were doing a legitimate service by expressing their rights to freedom of speech and expression despite the onslaught of modern over-political-correctness and religious extremism and should not have reasonably expected to have ever been put in a situation where their lives would be at risk (the keyword there was reasonably) by doing so. Kenji Goto on the other hand went to a known warzone where extremist terrorists with a history of brutally murdering captives were known to operate and wound up dead as a result of his own actions, which any rational person would have concluded to be a not unlikely outcome. Kenji goto chose his fate when he decided to go to Syria. The Charlie Hebdo staff did not do the same when they decided to pick up the pen, and, in my opinion at least, the “I am Charlie” slogan is more of a protest against attacks on our rights by religious extremists and a sign of solidarity with those who stand up for and protect those rights by exercising them, not a simple protest against singular terrorist actions or a sign of solidarity with freelance warzone journalists. Frankly other than the fact that both incidents involved Islamicist extremists, I fail to see the connection, and I certainly fail to see any connection that warrants borrowing the slogan for anything other than coattail-riding purposes.

    • You apparently missed

      This has been a thing for a while. Catch up.

      • Ron NJ

        Not being an American, I don’t see how or why I would know about any of those things, but thanks for the information. I think the scope and gravity of the Charlie Hebdo attacks changed things, similar to how the “never forget” line was coined for the holocaust yet is very much associated with 9/11 now. If these people were holding up “1/30 never forget” signs the media would be questioning their actions similar to what I’ve done here, I expect.

      • No one in Japan questions signs that say “3/11 忘れないで(never forget)” in reference to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami from 2011.

        What about “Keep Calm and ____” that has been memeified…

        Slogans get remixed and become newly associated with the generations, cultures, and incidents that use them all the time, its just easier and faster with the Internet and all.

        instead of concentrating on how something is being said, I feel it’s more important to concentrate on the message that is trying to be communicated.

    • tisho

      because it takes creativity to come up with your own slogan.

  • timefox

    Because there was this sacrifice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could prevent journalist’s reckless voyage. It’s regrettable that two people weren’t saved, but I’ll utilize this lesson in the future.