“Koda-kun” by Shiga Naoki (translated by Shiori Yamazaki)
My wonderful graduate student Shiori Yamazaki translated the post that appeared here on the Irregular Rhythm Asylum blog. Shiga is the same anarchist and punk singer (of Guchi) who made this "dismantle the emperor system" poster. He is currently traveling around the world. The names in Shiori's translation below are like in English with the surname last and given name first. Please share this with others.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2007
"Koda-kun" by Naoki Shiga
translated by Shiori Yamazaki
There is an inn in Amman in Jordan, where Shosei Koda, who was killed in Iraq, had once stayed. One backpacker set out for Iraq by himself from this inn three years ago.
Iraq has been in a state of invasion by the US Army from the Gulf War up until the present. The US Army has killed countless Iraqis during this invasion. The Japanese government also has dispatched the SDF (Self Defense Force) troops to support the US Army. There are many guerrillas, of course, in Iraq (the US calls guerrillas terrorists), who resist these invading armies.
Under these circumstances, Koda-kun was captured three years ago by the guerillas who were resisting the US army’s invasion. The guerrillas demanded that the Japanese government withdraw the SDF troops from Iraq, as a condition of Koda-kun’s release.
The news about Koda-kun being taken as a hostage spread all over Japan. However, the Japanese government didn’t accept the guerrilla’s demand. And he was killed. Mass communication and public opinion expressed sympathy toward him before he was killed. As soon as he was killed, however, mass communication and public opinion, from the government on down, all of the sudden, started to criticize Koda, depicting him as the bad guy, who had selfishly gone to Iraq. In the end, they tried to deny his entire existence by using the word “jikosekinin [self-responsibility].”
Since that day, I’ve never been able to forget about his death. There are, of course, occasions when I forget, but it’s stuck somewhere in my heart all the time.
Why is that? Is it because I am the same age as him? Or is it because I am a traveler like him? Or is it because I’ve opposed all sorts of wars such as the one being carried out by the US army? Or opposed the Japanese government’s reaction toward him? Or opposed the mass communication and public opinions, who kept insulting him, a man who had already died?
Probably, all of these things have stuck in me. Most of the mass communication didn’t talk about such a thing as “why” he went to Iraq. What on earth did he want to do in Iraq?
The answer was written down on a note, which was left at KODA hotel (Mr. Samer, an employee of the inn where Koda-kun stayed, named it after Koda-kun to mourn him).
Koda-kun wanted to help Iraqi kids who had been hurt by the war, and he tried to look at reality with his own eyes, the reality which TV doesn’t show. And he acted.
There are pictures in the note which Koda-kun passed Mr. Samer before leaving for Iraq.There are Iraqi children in this picture who have been hurt by the US army’s bombings. (Koda-kun’s family made a copy of this picture and sent it to Mr. Samer later.)
I had no idea for what reason Koda-kun tried to go to Iraq until I came to the inn, “Koda Hotel” in Amman. So, I want to introduce it here for those like me who didn’t know about it. (The reason why he tried to go to Iraq has been referred to in some books and magazines.)
I couldn’t for the life of me forget about Koda-kun’s death. I offered rice hot from the pot and vodka for Koda-kun’s picture, which was decorated in Koda Hotel. Also, I chanted a sutra and said a mass for him. This picture [of Koda-kun] is the one which Koda-kun’s family passed on to Mr. Samer.
Nothing changes, however, even after a fake monk or a high priest holds a mass. The thing that’d change is just my feelings. I just take over his will as I like – his wish to help Iraqi children. And I act to disallow this kind of situation [which is portrayed in the] pictures of Iraqi children, who have been hurt by bombings. I will also live his life as well. I like to think of it in this way.
I can’t help feeling that Koda-kun, who is on trip, is in this inn in Amman. I also feel that he is supporting us who are traveling around the world like him. This might be an illusion, but I feel it is so.
(These notes are the story that I gathered from what Mr. Samer of Koda Hotel told me. I hope you can read it well.)
P.S.1 Many refugees, whose homes in Iraq were taken, have been escaping to Jordan and Syria. The Iraqi doctor who I talked to told me about the many killings by the US Army. Our talk was interrupted because we were at a loss for words, because of either sadness or anger.
And on the same night, a few Japanese, Iraqi, American, Australian, Germans and I went to see a movie called “the Zigizigi Land,” which is about a Palestinian who works as a taxi driver in the US. The movie opens up the pathology of the whole American society, cynically and sharply shown through the conversation between the Palestinian driver and the passengers. It criticizes severely the apartheid toward Palestinians by the Israeli government.I thought that it is a significant thing to be able to talk about the Palestinian problem through one movie with everyone, as individuals, beyond our nationalities, races, and situations such as being Iraqi, American, Japanese, Australian, or German. I also think that it is [because of] the power of movie or art.
Besides, we all are against the war as individuals when we get rid of our delicate positions. I think that it is the first step to change how each government deals with Palestinian apartheid, Israel’s invasion, and the US Army’s invasion of Iraq, starting with the Japanese government who supports them. Then, if we could take them into our daily lives practically, even it’s slow, I think they would have widespread grassroots support.
P.S. 2 I went to the Palestinian refugee’s area in Lebanon. Kids full of energy were running around downtown among the remains of gunfire. The city was full of life with various kinds of shops. The Palestinian flags were displayed and the posters of Palestine releases were put up all over the town. The road of returning to Palestine hasn’t ended yet. Even if the world forgets when it’s convenient, they’d live like weeds which grow through asphalt.
I went to a shop there which sells Palestine releases. I bought some T-shirts and Palestine stoles. Please purchase them when they get to IRA soon if you are interested. (They are here! IRA)
Labels: Anti-War, Palestine, shiga
POSTED BY IRA_K AT 2:57 PM
There was a phone call to Cliff Hotel from an Arabian man (I think he is a Taxi driver.) at around 4 in October 19th, 2004.
“There is a Japanese person who wants to go to your hotel. Can you tell me the address?” he said.
Koda came to Cliff Hotel with the driver 5 minutes later.
He didn’t even mention about Iraq at first, but said “I want to stay at a dormitory,” so I took him to his room and was writing his name (check-in). (The interaction around here is a little different from the book by Yuji Shimokawa, but I’ve just recorded the story of Samer himself.) [Yuji Shimokawa wrote a book called “Why Shousei Koda was killed?”]
Then, he suddenly said “I want to go to Iraq. Can you tell me where I can use a service?”
“It is too dangerous to go there by a service,” I said because the people who use a service are only tourists and there is a risk of being targeted.
And Koda said “I have to go.”
I asked the reason, and he said “I want to help Iraqi children. I want to go to Iraq, look at what is going on with my own eyes, and tell the Japanese people when I return to Japan.”
I answered “you can only go by bus if you really want.” He said “OK. Please make a reservation now.” I could have made a reservation if I wanted to, but I thought there’d be a chance that I could stop him, so I lied saying “it’s too late to make a reservation today.” He returned to his room saying “then please make a reservation on tomorrow’s bus.”
It was around 4:30pm when Koda came out from his room and went out to buy a sandwich and ate it at the balcony in the back of reception.
After that, he went back to his room, and after a while, he was looking at an information note standing in front of the bookshelf in the lobby. And he went back to his room right after that.
He looked different from other tourists. (he seemed like he was thinking about something.)
After half an hour, he came out from his room, sat on a chair for a long time in the balcony, and was looking out the street. I was worried about him, so I went out to the balcony and talked to him asking “do you still want to go to Iraq?” He just answered “yes” with a serious face. I asked a guy who was staying at the Cliff hotel at that time to talk to Koda. I wanted him to quit thinking about going to Iraq by talking to a Japanese person.
That guy went out to the balcony, and talked with Koda. I tried to make him comfortable by telling some jokes “haven’t you changed your mind? If you really go to Iraq, you will be on Aljazirra (a news program of a satellite TV company in Qatar.)”
The other guy laughed at it, but Koda didn’t show a smile. He seemed upset.
After that, Koda and that guy talked for a long time. After they finished talking, the Japanese person said “He’s insisting on going to Iraq. No one can stop him.”
Koda woke up at around 10 the next morning (October 20th), asked me “did you make a reservation?” I answered saying “I did it for the bus leaving 6pm,” but it was a lie, because I thought there was a chance I could still stop him. He checked out at noon and was sitting the couch in the lobby, and I asked him many times “you haven’t changed your mind about going to Iraq?” but he said “no, I haven’t.”
I had to make a reservation by 2pm if I needed to make a reservation, so I asked him once again before 2. But he didn’t change his mind about going to Iraq. So, I had to make a reservation for a bus. I couldn’t stop him.
Koda passed me one thing at around 2 or 3 pm saying “please keep this until I get back from Iraq.” It was a stone that he picked up at the Dead Sea, a towel, and pictures of Iraqi children. There were about 10 pictures, and portrayed children who hurt by the war. Koda said “I got them from a Japanese person.”
After he died, I sent them to his family, and they sent me back one copy of the pictures and Koda’s picture. (they are in Samer’s book.)
The picture of children who they sent me was ok. Those pictures were the children who were hurt much worse than that. I think Koda wanted to do something for these kids.
Koda kept reading the information note until the departure, except for a time when he went out. The Japanese man (who talked with Koda last night) and I went to the bus terminal with Koda to see him off at around 5pm. He said “Assalam/Good-bye,” and took off on the bus.
2 hours after we saw him off, I decided to make a phone call to the Japanese Embassy. I said “A Japanese person, who is called ‘Shousei Koda’ left for Iraq 2 hours ago. I don’t think he has reached the border yet. I want you to stop him if possible.” The embassy said just “Thank you for your call. Please let us know if you get some more information.”
After that, I called someone who I know working at a hotel in Bagdad and asked if a Japanese person came or not, but I was told that he hadn’t. I was sure that Koda would go to the hotel because I told him about it, so I called again after a while. Then he said “A Japanese guy sure came by, but we can’t guarantee his safety, and the hotel could be targeted instead, so we couldn’t let him stay.”
A person from United Nation, who Mr. Samer knows, called the hotel at around midnight on 26th and said “A Japanese person was captured as a hostage in Iraq. Please watch either Aljazeera or NHK.” I turned on TV, and found Koda, who was surrounded by an armed group. I was so surprised and shocked.
When I found that Koda was captured by the element of al Qaeda lead by Zarqawi, I felt desperate like “if the Japanese government didn’t do anything during the time al Qaeda is demanding, he will be killed for sure.”
After that, people came from the Japanese government (foreign ministry) to Cliff Hotel, and asked me about various kinds of things concerning Koda. But when the three including Takato-san [and Imai-kun] were captured as hostages in Iraq a half years ago , various kinds of people like the foreign ministry, the SDF, the Jordan government, came many times, and asked me many more things, and it was chaos.
But, this time with Koda wasn’t like that.
I’m wondering if they were thinking that he would be rescued like the three, and not be killed. I thought, however, “this is dangerous.” The al Qaeda group who caught Koda was too dangerous.
Later, there were two reports saying “Asian’s dead body was found,” but it wasn’t Koda. But I learned that he was found dead at 10pm on the 30th by the news. There was a phone call from the Japanese government that told me that he had been killed.
2 days later, I received a phone call from his family, and I apologized. They said “it’s not your fault.” When I found out that Koda was killed, I swore that I would name the hotel after Koda when I own it- which is my dream- and never forget about him.
A few months later, I called the Japanese Embassy, and asked them to tell Koda’s family “I want to name the hotel ‘KODA HOTEL’.” 1 week later, his family sent me a fax saying “thank you very much. When you make a hotel, please use his name, either KODA or SHOUSEI is fine.”
But, I was told that the City of Jordan can’t allow me to use “KODA HOTEL.” (I wonder if that was because it’s a personal name or because of the incident.) Actually, there are some procedures to change the name of the hotel which I will take over, and it takes time and money. It is too much, so I will start with the hotel’s name as it is now, but when I have more time and money, I will try to change it to ‘KODA HOTEL.’
But if I could open a hotel, I’ll write ‘KODA HOTEL’ in Japanese under the hotel’s name (so that the city wouldn’t know it.) try not to forget about him ever, and I don’t want people to forget about him.
[the translator’s note: Mr. Samer did open his own hotel whose name is KODA HOTEL on October 1st this year.]
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