Posted by debito on June 7th, 2007
Hi Blog. Interesting talk here by Imai Noriaki, one of the group of Japanese who went to Iraq three years ago on their own for research and humanitarian work, and wound up getting kidnapped (and shown on J TV with knives to their throats) by Iraqi militants. They were released, but not after running the gauntlet of hostile J media and politicians, and in my view quite a setback for activists in Japan.
Why this is interesting is because Imai doesn’t really come off as strongly as he should in his talk. Granted, he was young then (18), and full of vim and will. But he doesn’t really make his case even today as to why it was important that he go, and how unfair the consequences were in Japan afterwards (I do it instead in my Japan Times article excerpted below). Could be a language barrier (I’ve met the guy personally in Sapporo, since he’s from there, and he’s got a good heart), but at root is his pichipichi idealism which needs a few more doses of the realities of debate in the 21st Century.
He does, however, offer his attempts to make himself heard (trying to answer the critics–even making his cellphone number available to the anonymous and often very abusive online community in Japan), and where they got him (nowhere, really).
I sympathize. I am no stranger to criticism–I receive it practically every day from people who nitpick or attack without daring to identify themselves, or take any responsiblity whatsoever for what they say. They are not in the debate to actually offer any possiblity of changing their own minds–just blowing off steam or criticizing for sport. And I’ve long since learned there’s practically no point in responding because they are beyond being reached (especially when I have made my views as clear as I can in the thousands of essays over fifteen years I’ve archived on Debito.org), so I for the most part just don’t answer. After all, there are lots of them and one of you, and there are only so many hours in a day. More on how I reached this conclusion myself in my book JAPANESE ONLY.
Anyway, have a listen. Arudou Debito in Upstate NY.
“Why I Went to Iraq…Three Years Later”
March 29, 2007
Noriaki Imai, student environmental and peace activist
At 18 years of age, Noriaki Imai traveled to Iraq to study the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqi children. While in Iraq, he was taken hostage and threatened to be killed unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq. Fortunately, he was released alive, but when he returned home to Japan, he faced enormous public criticism.
Two different audio and video formats at
Part of the Japan at Chicago Lecture Series: Celebrating Protest; sponsored by the Japan Committee of the Center for East Asian Studies, the Human Rights Program, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the Environmental Studies Program and Middle Eastern Studies Students Association.
Kidnap crisis poses a new risk
Japan’s outrage toward the former hostages in Iraq could result in bad public policy
By Debito Arudou, The Japan Times, May 11, 2004
When five Japanese were taken hostage in Iraq last month, huge public concern for their safe return quickly gave way to hostility and a campaign of vilification. A disastrous public appeal by the families of three of the hostages for the withdrawal of SDF troops from Iraq encouraged the government to take a tough line, and facilitated a media frenzy that sought to paint the hostages as reckless, naive and of dubious political affiliation.
However, a series of measures proposed by officials emboldened by the backlash and designed to prevent a repeat occurrence of the kidnap crisis may only have the effect of snuffing out Japan’s nascent volunteer movement…