Been incredibly busy the last week or so. Managed to grab a quick evening shot of Tokyo Skytree while out shooting on Monday.
I like this shot as it was taken from near Edogawa where there are many older, traditional houses and buildings which provide some nice foreground for this iconic, modern addition to the Tokyo skyline
Will be posting back soon.
It has been a week since the news of journalist, Kenji Goto’s murder by ISIS militants.
Tonight in Shibuya in Tokyo, and in seven other cities across Japan, people gathered to hold silent prayers for his memory and that of Haruna Yukawa who was killed a few days before.
About a hundred or so people got together at 5pm in Hachiko Square. Word had spread on twitter and other social media and those nominally organising the events asked that people use it to remember the lives of the two hostages, and that of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh; The Jordanian pilot shot down in December who was shown being burnt to death in a gruesome ISIS video earlier this week, by not bring their banners and anger to the event. Some people in Japan blame the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, for the death of the hostages: fearing his growing geo-political reach and ambitions are now making Japan a target for such terrorism. Other fear his relatively obvious naivety and ineptitude when dealing with the hostage crisis last month may have hastened the murders.
It is hard to know how this is true as it should not be forgotten that ISIS are a cruel and unpredictable opponent with perhaps much more to gain in publicity by actually killing those they have kidnapped.
For the most part the people at the vigil stayed true to the purpose; silently remembering those who had died with prayers and candles. Signs proclaimed solidarity with “I am Kenji” or “Je Suis Kenji” out-numbering those that angrily proclaimed they were not Abe.
The vigil finished around 7:30; a small shrine had been built on the floor of Hachiko Square and as the candles were put out friends of Kenji San and Haruna san in the crowd promised that the flowers and messages would be delivered to their families.
In all a very touching and dignified celebration of two lives cut brutally short.
RIP Kenji san and Haruna san.
His fellow hostage, Haruna Yukawa (who Goto San returned to Syria in an effort to free by negotiating with ISIS) was supposedly killed a week ago; a few days after they were first shown on screen, kneeling in the desert, as prisoners of the self styled Islamic caliphate. (top photo)
At first their lives were to be ransomed for 200 million US Dollars. This amount matched the pledges of non-military assistance Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had made, in a shockingly inept piece of international diplomacy considering he knew Japanese hostages’ lives were at stake, to those fighting ISIS terrorism while on a tour of the middle east.
Having convinced the world that they were serious with the cruel death of Yukawa san the demands got strange for a week. The usual videos were replaced with audio recordings that might or might not have been Goto San and obviously photoshopped images helped move the demands on to the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an al Qaeda prisoner and failed suicide bomber, from a Jordanian jail where she is facing the death penalty for terrorism attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed 60 people. The Jordanian government were surprisingly open to the deal at first, dependent obviously on the additional demand that a fighter pilot of theirs, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh whose plane crashed over ISIS held territory in December 2014, was also released.
For a while, at the end of the week, there was even a feeling of very cautious optimism that Kenji Goto might actually get out of this alive. Rallies of support tried to pressure the Prime Minister to do more to ensure that and an “I am Kenji” campaign started; mirroring the “Je suis Charlie” movement that grew in response to the terror attacks in Paris. As the Thursday sunset deadline for al-Rishawi’s release came and went though the hope began to ran out. ISIS were unwilling and perhaps unable to prove that the pilot was still alive and the deal that people so desperately wished for seemed to stall and then fade.
Over Friday and Saturday the silence from ISIS on the fate of the two captured men was deafening. A last, hopeful rally by around 200 supporters outside the Prime Minister’s home on Friday night (photo 2 and 3) showed how much the story of this man’s life had affected the population. Despite reports, like this one in TIME magazine that many people didn’t care and actively blamed the hostages for their predicament, I feel many people really saw something nobel in the efforts of Kenji Goto especially to help the much weaker, and perhaps judged as much less worthy, Yukawa.
Sunday morning many people who had followed this convoluted drama for the last week or so woke up to find the TV showing a worryingly familiar image on the screen. This time though there was only one man kneeling in the dust wearing that orange jump suit. This time the distracting talk of digital manipulations and them not really being there as captives was pointless. Jihad John roughy held Goto’s neck and angrily told the people of Japan that they were now targets in an “unwinnable war” as he waved a knife around. He then apparently decapitated Kenji San with that knife.
I know not one person who is not sad and angry at this. Kenji san, who I never met, was a good man by all accounts. He cared deeply about the lives of those that suffered and were affected by conditions they did not control. This is probably why he foolishly went back to held Yukawa san gain freedom because he had suffered many unlucky situations in his personal life and been drawn to the danger of reinventing himself as a Military contractor in Syria and Iraq. The world has lost a good man who died to help a man whose story he felt equally sad as those of the children and women afflicted by war that were the staple of his reporting. I hope we do not forget them as we are bound to forget the man who dedicated his life to telling their stories.
RIP Kenji Goto San
Around 7,000 people turned out yesterday afternoon to protest the construction of a new United States military base at Henoko in Okinawa.
The protest started at 2pm and ended by forming a human chain around the National Diet Building.
The US Military have a long and troubled history in Okinawa. While it is true the islands’ economy relies heavily upon the presence of 28 military camps and other facilities, most locals would rather they were not there. Plans to move the main US Marine airbase away from the suburban areas in Futenma to the much less developed Henoko, 50 kilometres north, are meeting large and very angry protests. The are chosen for the new base is a coastal area with tourist-valuable coral reefs. It is also a sanctuary for the rare dugong marine mammal. Of course until Shinzo Abe came back to power at the end of 2012, the people of Okinawa had been led to believe that the Americans would be moved out of the prefecture all together to somewhere like Guam. But at the end of 2013 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then Governor of Okinawa, Hirokazu Nakaima signed the agreement to build the new US base at Henoko and the resistance started.
Protest have set up a camp outside the proposed site, they take to the sea in canoes and boats to protest the construction and are often met with aggressive and violent suppression at the hands of security by the police and coastguard.
Taking the fight to the heart of the government is a logical step. I doubt Shinzo Abe will listen however.
I went along to take a few photos, as I tend to do at most protests in Tokyo. This one was little different however as I had my two sons with me. A new and eye-opening experience for them for sure (and they were very good too because I didn’t even lose them once in the crowds). This meant, of course, that I couldn’t get quite as deep in among the protestors as usual. Though we did wiggle our way into the main speaking area where many well-known and passionate activists rallied the crowds including Catherine “Jane” Fisher, Mizuho Fukushima and the man in the bottom image, journalist, Satoshi Kamata.
A good day in the end.
More images of the Anti Henoko Base Protest in Tokyo at my archive here:
Been a busy winter break so a belated Happy New Year to everyone.
Avoided the crowds on Thursday the first, instead going off to Kamakura at the weekend to wash some money at Zeniarai Benten Shrine in the hope that it will double this year.
Off out to shoot now. Hope my own photography will be doubly profitable this year.
Got an hour to myself, as my boys went out for Christmas events, so took a quick walk to the nearby train-yard to photograph workmen and women cleaning and fixing the trains. Is always quite interesting here and the light was fantastic.
These might be the last photos I take this year so Happy New Year to all my readers!