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Old 04-23-2004, 02:06 PM   #1
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Normal Japanese hostages deserved what they got?

I don't know what to say about this. Yes, they certainly placed themselves in harms way by going to Iraq but to have your own country condemn you...

Kidnapped Japanese find different prison at home

3 return from Iraq only to go into hiding as nation blames them for own abduction.


TOKYO The young Japanese civilians taken hostage in Iraq returned home this week, not to the warmth of a yellow-ribbon embrace but to a disapproving nationís cold stare. The first three hostages, including a woman who helped street children on the streets of Baghdad, first appeared on television two weeks ago as their knife-brandishing kidnappers threatened to slit their throats. They landed here Sunday, in the eye of a peculiarly Japanese storm.

"You got what you deserve! " read one handwritten sign at the airport where they landed. "You are Japanís shame," another wrote on the Web site of one of the former hostages. They had "caused trouble" for everybody. The government, said it would bill them $6,000 for airfare. Their transgression was to ignore a government advisory against traveling to Iraq. But their sin, in a society that likes to think of itself as classless, was to defy what people call here okami, or, literally, "what is higher."

Treated like criminals, the three former hostages have gone into hiding. The kidnapped woman, Nahoko Takato, was last seen arriving at her parentsí house, looking defeated and dazed from taking tranquilizers, flanked by relatives who helped her walk and bow before reporters as a final apology to the nation. Dr. Satoru Saito, a psychiatrist who has examined the three twice since their return, said the stress they are enduring now is "much heavier" than what they endured in Iraq. Asked to name their three most stressful moments, the former hostages told him, in ascending order: the moment when they were kidnapped on their way to Baghdad, the knife-wielding incident, and the moment they watched a television show after their return here and realized Japanís anger with them.

"Letís say the knife incident, which lasted about 10 minutes, ranks 10 on a stress level," Saito said Thursday. "After they came back to Japan and saw the morning news show, their stress level ranked 12."

To the angry Japanese, the first three hostages Ė Takato, 34, who started her own nonprofit organization to help Iraqi street children; Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a free-lance photographer; and Noriaki Imai, 18, a free-lance writer interested in the issue of depleted uranium munitions Ė had acted selfishly. Two others kidnapped and released in a separate incident Ė Junpei Yasuda, 30, a free-lance journalist, and Nobutaka Watanabe, 36, a member of an anti-war group Ė were equally guilty in their countrymenís eyes.

Pursuing individual goals by defying the government and causing trouble for Japan was simply unforgivable. But the freed hostages did get official praise from the United States. "Iím pleased that these Japanese citizens were willing to put themselves at risk for a greater good, for a better purpose," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "And the Japanese people should be very proud that they have citizens like this willing to do that."

In contrast, Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese governmentís spokesman, said, "They may have gone on their own, but they must consider how many people they caused trouble to because of their action." The criticism began almost immediately after the first three were kidnapped two weeks ago. The environment minister, Yuriko Koike, blamed them for being "reckless."

After the hostagesí families asked that the government yield to the kidnappersí demand and withdraw its 550 troops from southern Iraq, they began receiving hate mail and harassing faxes and e-mail messages.

Even as the kidnappers were threatening to burn alive the three hostages, Yukio Takeuchi, a top official in the Foreign Ministry, said of the three, "When it comes to a matter of safety and life, I would like them to be aware of the basic principle of personal responsibility."

Grasping Japanís attitude toward them, the hostages have found themselves under crushing pressure. According to Saito, Imai, the 18-year-old, registered a high blood pressure reading. Takato, who had a pulse rate of over 120 beats per minute, kept bursting into tears. When the doctor told her she had done good work in Iraq, she cried convulsively and said, "But Iíve done wrong, havenít I?"

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Old 04-23-2004, 02:34 PM   #2
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I read this article today in the Times and thought I'd clicked on The Onion by accident. There are so many things about the Japanese culture that I find baffling.

Edited to add this photo and caption from the NY Times:

Family members of Japanese citizens recently held hostage bowing to apologize for the trouble that the hostages had caused Japan. Their transgression was to ignore a government advisory against traveling to Iraq.

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Old 04-23-2004, 04:18 PM   #3
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The Japanese have taken the concept of shame to an extreme, while we have practically eliminated it from our society. A little shame may do a society good, but this level seems crazy.
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Old 04-23-2004, 04:30 PM   #4
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
while we have practically eliminated it from our society. A little shame may do a society good, but this level seems crazy.
An interesting subject for another thread...perhaps for some other time.
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