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Following the assassination of Dr. Tetsu Nakamura in Afghanistan earlier this month, the government of Afghanistan held a memorial ceremony for him as his body was delivered to the airplane that would take it out of the country. President Ashraf Ghani was one of the pallbearers. When Nakamura’s coffin arrived at Narita Airport on Dec. 8, the highest public official on hand was Japan’s state minister of foreign affairs.

This was surprising given Nakamura’s international reputation as a humanitarian. He had been active in Afghanistan since the 1980s, first as a practicing physician and then as an aid worker building irrigation systems that have improved the lives of so many. In fact, Nakamura was probably more famous in Afghanistan than he was in Japan. The Diet did observe a moment of silence in his memory and, last week, he was decorated posthumously by the government for his international service. Nevertheless, Nakamura’s relationship with his own government was not necessarily cordial while he was alive.

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