On adjacent televisions at my gym, I watched breaking news on the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto by the Islamic State group next to a "One Piece" anime segment in which fresh-faced youth defended their boat from marauding pirates. The kids routed them in a jiffy and suffered no casualties, a metaphorical moment where reality and fantasy collided.

The Islamic State has vowed to target Japanese all over the world because they have joined the American-led coalition against the terrorist group. Just before beheading Goto, his masked executioner declared, "Let the nightmare for Japan begin." His murder has shocked the nation and sharpened divisions on Japanese security policy. However, since Goto's reporting focused on the horrific humanitarian consequences of war, his mother and colleagues have expressed dismay that he is being used as a martyr to justify the move to shed pacifism and embrace a more assertive military posture.

Following the axiom that no crisis should go to waste, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately launched a campaign to beef up Japan's military capabilities, vowing retribution and justice by "making the terrorists pay the price." Politicians and pundits jumped into the fray on TV talk shows and some made the claim that, after Japan's own 9/11, a majority of the public is ready to stop daydreaming — they're ready to back Abe's agenda of upgrading the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and strengthen security cooperation with the United States.