Boost Japan’s Soft Power: Listen to Kenji Goto’s Mother

She carries the spirit of her son, a soft power presence in peaceful principles and humanistic values that Japan needs now. The mother of Kenji Goto, who painfully appeared before the press a week ago pleading for her son’s life, was met with a throng of cameras on Sunday in Tokyo to make a statement about his death.

The sea of cameras surrounding Junko Ishido is most often the reserve of either paparazzi staking out Haneda or Narita airport to catch the comings and goings of Lady Gaga and Johnny Depp or the gaggle of stenographers to power who follow around Prime Minister Abe.

Weeping mothers are not usually embroiled in international crisis, nor are they typical foreign policy advisers. But now is the time for the Shinzo Abe government to listen to Mrs. Ishido. Less political outrage, more national contemplation.

Last week, when her son was still alive, she offered her life for his:

I can only pray as a mother for his release. If I could offer my life I would plead that my son be released. It would be a small sacrifice on my part.

She expressed surprise that Goto would leave his newborn daughter to try to help rescue the captive Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, who was killed last week. Goto’s sense of responsibility for Yukawa “was just the kind of person he is,” said his 76-year-old mother.

Today she is left with just the memory of her son.

Facing Kenji’s death, I cannot find a word. I am now only crying in sorrow. However, I believe that the sadness turning to ‘hatred of chain’ should not happen. I do hope that we are able to keep Kenji’s hopes of creating a society without war and preventing children’s lives from war and poverty.

This is the woman who heard her young boy tell her that all he wanted to do was to help children in the world. Goto did not see himself as a war correspondent. He wanted to lift the most vulnerable people in the world out of poverty and war, to awaken the consciousness of his home country to care about what was happening in far distant lands and how it connected to here at home. His freelance journalism was a tool for global concern and commitment beyond force.

Against the backdrop of this weeping mother, Prime Minister Abe vows to avenge the deaths of Yakura and Goto by increasing Japan’s support to countries fighting ISIS.

I’m inclined at this time to listen more to the mother of Kenji Goto than to the prime minister of Japan. I awoke in Tokyo at dawn, just as news of Goto’s hideous murder video went public. Japan, so long in global minds as a place of peace and tranquility, may never be the same.

We’ve all aged a bit more today.

We need to take a long, deep, collective breath and pause to reflect on the last two weeks. Mrs. Ishido, accidental foreign policy informant that you are, your instruction for us to take a pause and prevent a chain reaction of hate, is prophetic and healing. You are not alone in your sorrow. Your courageous appearance before the international press is a testament to the efforts your son made to tell the stories of everyday people. Kenji Goto, your son, did not die in vain. He has your voice.