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Many people consider Abe, slain hostages troublemakers

By Associated Press in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-07 08:02

In Japan, where conformity takes precedence over individuality, one of the most important values is to avoid meiwaku - causing trouble for others.

And sympathy aside, the two Japanese murdered by the Islamic State group are now widely viewed as troublemakers.

So is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Many Japanese feel that if the hostages had not ignored warnings against travel to Syria, or if Abe had not showcased Tokyo's support for the multinational coalition against IS, Japan would not have been exposed to a new sense of insecurity and unwelcome attention from Islamic extremists.

"To be honest, they caused tremendous trouble to the Japanese government and to the Japanese people. In the old days, their parents would have had to commit hara-kiri (ritual suicide) to apologize," said Taeko Sakamoto, a 64-year-old part-time worker, after first expressing sympathy over the deaths of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.

Sakamoto also sees Abe as part of the problem, for not being more mindful of the risks at a time when he had already been pushing to expand Japan's military role, which is limited to self-defense under the pacifist Constitution drafted by the US after Japan's defeat in World War II.

"I don't want Mr Abe to do anything else that may be seen as provocation, because that's what would put us at a greater risk," Sakamoto said.

Japan until recently had not become directly involved in the violence surrounding IS. Days after Abe announced during a Middle East trip last month that Japan would give $200 million in nonmilitary aid to support the fight against IS, the militants demanded a $200 million ransom for the two hostages.

The hostage crisis came to a tragic end with news on Sunday that Goto, a journalist, had been beheaded by the extremists. The killing of Yukawa was announced earlier.

Abe has been adamant about his commitment to fight terrorism as part of the international efforts.

The public's response to the hostages was chilly from the beginning. Few seemed to sympathize with Yukawa, a 42-year-old gun enthusiast and adventurer who was taken hostage in August.

Goto's reputation as a veteran journalist whose reports focused on children and refugees in war-torn areas won him more sympathy. According to his wife and others who had spoken with him, Goto had gone to Syria late last year to try to save Yukawa.

To address the meiwaku problem, both victims' families apologized repeatedly to the government and the people for "the trouble" their sons caused, even after they died.

Koichi Nakano, an international politics professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, said: "The hostage crisis is causing a tremendous impact on Japanese society, and has polarized views about which direction Japan should go in terms of national security. In a way, people saw what could happen under Abe's security policy."

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