Nakamura: A Pacifist Extremist

A prominent Japanese physician and humanitarian aid worker Tetsu Nakamura killed in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan on December 5. He was gunned down along with 5 Afghan colleagues in an attack against his vehicle by an unknown armed group.

Dr. Nakamura headed NGO called Peace Japan Medical Services which is also known as Peshawar-Kai in Japanese and sacrificed his life providing medical aid and agricultural support to the people of Afghanistan.

Nakamura arrived at Peshawar, Pakistan 35 year ago for taking part in grass-roots medical assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then he expanded and shifted his activity more in the field of agricultural development in Afghan-Pakistan borderland. In the past two decades, he devoted himself to a quixotic venture of digging wells, opening waterways and growing greeneries.

In Afghanistan which has been devastated by war, drought and extremism, Dr. Nakamura’s activity was a as if a drop of water in the scorched earth.

In recognition of his humanitarian work, he had been awarded honorary Afghan citizenship in October this year.

The hashtag “ناکامورا#” (#Nakamura) spread in Afghani Twitter-sphere. There was outpouring of grief from Afghan people on his death and some messages were outright apologies for not being able to protect Dr. Nakamura. The Taliban immediately issued a statement denying any involvement in the crime.

Dr. Nakamura was an extreme example of the post-World War II Japan’s pacifist tradition. He was a radical pacifist in his conviction and a militant in non-military humanitarian assistance.

He was the most vocal critic of the US military intervention in Afghanistan and opposed to any support by Japan to it.

His approach was to throw himself unarmed, into the midst of the area which has been dominated by Taliban. Even elements of IS have been seen frequenting to that region recently. He mingled with the ordinary people in Afghan society and by doing that, has been guarded by the weakest in the local community.

To set yourself intentionally in a very vulnerable situation, keep your utmost sincerity open to everyone, and let others protect you, is a very Japanese way of securing peace and security.

There is an ongoing controversy among Japanese on the post-World War II pacifist constitution. There have been criticisms on the unrealistic nature of the ideal of demilitarization and disarmament stipulated in the Japanese constitution and Japan as a state is almost abandoning this tradition of pacifism.

Dr. Nakamura can be seen as the “last samurai” of Japan’s extreme pacifism and its spirit still lives on in the pulse of the Japanese nation.