World and Japan

Tragedy in Bangladesh

5_sThe hostage crisis, which ended as the tragedy in Bangladesh, shocked the Japanese people very badly.

The attack began when armed men burst into the café at around 21o’clock on Friday, the last Friday night of the Muslim holy month of  Ramadan in Dhaka. They took many hostages, including 8 Japanese civilians, who were consultants for JICA, Japan’s aid agency, working on a project to enhance  Bangladesh’s economy. There were some Italians, one US citizen and one Indian girl  among the hostages too.

After around 10 hour’s of futile attempts to  negotiate, more than 100 troops raided the café, killed 6 attackers and arrested one. They rescued 13 hostages.

In the end, they found 20 hostages were killed, including 7 Japanese, 9 Italians, one American and 3 Bangladeshis. One Japanese and the Indian were among those who were rescued.  

ISIS claimed the attack on the self-styled Amaq news agency, but it is not independently confirmed yet. There, however, are witnesses saying that the attackers were shouting “ Allahu Akbar! ” at the outset of  the assault and Bangladesh’s Daily Star reported gunmen tortured anyone who could not recite the Koran. It is assumed that the attack was by Islamic extremists.

The café was a famous place for foreigners to gather in Dhaka. This target is assumed to have been selected with the assumption that the incident would be reported worldwide if the hostages were foreigners.

JICA, The Japan International Cooperation Agency provides bilateral aid in the form of technical cooperation, Japanese ODA loans and Grant Aid. JICA’s main objective is the promotion of economic development and welfare in developing countries. The people victimized in the incident were civilian consultants working with JICA.

It is heart-breaking that those with good intentions were killed brutally. The families left behind must be in such shock and deeply grief-stricken.

I feel anger towards this unreasonable terrorist attack.

The attack vehicles, armed troops…the confusions and fears were all in the air. Most of Japanese people must me frightened with all those atrocities.

I am sad.
No, more than sad.  I am furious.

But I have to admit another fear came up to the surface of my mind.
I am afraid that these things would amplify the Japanese’s feeling “ It is dangerous to travel to foreign countries”, or “ I do not want to take the risk to visit or live abroad”.
This is the nagging concern of mine.

Japan was devastated after the 2nd World War. The people all tried their best to reestablish the country and Japan came back as an economic power led by a national commitment to international trade. The Japanese economic recovery has been described as a “miracle”.

We knew we had to industrialize the Japanese economy as quick as possible. To manufacture any products, Japan, which has very few natural resources, needed to import raw materials. Many corporate warriors went to any corner in the world to build international relationships, and to buy the raw materials.

And many others went to many countries where they sometimes did not speak its languages in order to cultivate new clients who would choose to import Japanese products. They were all pioneers single-mindedly devoted to the rebuilding of their devastated nation. The country could not survive without them.

Once the trade surplus had grown too huge, the success of that efforts caused trade conflicts with many countries all over the world. Then Japanese corporations needed to judiciously invest their profits in those foreign countries in order to produce their products in the area in near the market.

Without their desperate and painful sacrifices decades ago, there would be none of Japan’s prosperity today. I know the economy of Japan is matured and the domestic market has grown too.

It, however, would not change the situation in which Japanese people living in the safe homeland are all benefited by the hard work of those Japanese,  who are fighting abroad despite the huge inconveniences of language, culture, traditions, food and on top of those, “safety”.

As one of the largest economic powers, Japan has played the role to enhance the economies and societies of developing countries through ODA, and the work of JICA since 1954,beginning less than ten years after the war ended in defeat. There is the belief underneath those efforts that not only Japan, but also many other countries have to have stable economies and societies to share the peaceful prosperity together.

When I was in Israel, I had the chance to visit and observe the development of the “  Jericho Agro Industrial Park ” near Palestine city Jericho. In the compound developed by JICA, some Palestinian industries were going to manufacture the products using materials mainly from Israel and export them to Jordan with the cooperation of Israel to reach the huge market of the surrounding Arabic nations. The project,  JAIP-Jericho Agro Industrial Park, aimed to contribute to the delayed peace process of the region by enhancing the standard of living of the Palestinians. The dream was coming true.

When I saw the supplements tablets produced by the first factory in the compound, I was so happy and wished the dream would come true as soon as possible.

I hear that the number of Japanese youth who want to study abroad is decreasing. I also was informed that there is a tendency that young people are avoiding the companies, which could dispatch them to foreign countries.

I worry that these phenomena might be a reflection of the indifferences of Japanese people to international affairs.

The UK chose to cut one of the most important ties that connect it to the world by voting OUT of the EU last week. There are so many British people having second thoughts and hoping to have a second referendum. They are now realizing they might have made a fatal mistake.

But it seems to be too late. Some mistakes cannot be undone. The European leaders made it clear that there would not be a second referendum and the UK has to choose either accepting the freedom of people to keep its access to the single market or divorce completely. “ There is no picking cherry ”.

The influence of the UK will fade. The status, which the UK had enjoyed as the bridge between the United States and Europe is going to be lost.

The UK would not have achieved its economic success without “the City” as the center of the European financial markets or without affluent skilled immigrants from other EU countries. After a divorce, it will not enjoy such economic prosperity either.

Now I think about the tendencies of Japanese people after the Brexit.
We have not voted any dramatic referendum for sure. Aren’t we, however, choosing the slow exit from the global society?

It is so slow that not many of us notice what we are doing. Japan would be left behind from the quickly changing international environment if we keep this indifference and turn our back towards international affairs.

In this modern globalized world, it will mean to decline slowly if we decrease relationships with the outer world. NO, it could be said that by turning inward, we are moving towards our own ruin.

In the Edo era, between 1600 and 1867, Japan could survive with its “national isolation policy”. It was mainly because the seas surrounding Japan protected the island fortress from her overseas enemies. It was not easy to conquer another country over the ocean when steamships built of iron did not yet exist.

But things have changed today.
 Some international  adversaries have long-range missiles, powerful warships, and even submarines that could launch nuclear warheads from under the water.

If Japan is left behind by nature of excessive separation from developments elsewhere in the world, it could lead us to a fatal situation. NO, we are not voting in an acute and dramatic IN-or-OUT referendum.

We, should realize, however, the deleterious effects of  the many, small choices we are chronically making in everyday life that could lead us to the “Japan-exit” from the world in the future.

It is imperative that we re-ignite within our nation, and especially the younger generation, the commitment and vision that the post-war generation had, to the virtues of building strong ties to and with the outside world, rather than choosing a slow, but nonetheless fatal, exit from the world.  

Fortunately for Japan, this is a voluntary matter.  Let us hope that with the right leadership and policies, we make the right choice at this point in our history too.

-World and Japan