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One Japanese man tells why he wanted to fight in Syria

37 Comments

There must be many people in war-shattered Syria who would give a great deal to be in peaceful, prosperous Japan. What quest drove Yoshifumi Uzawa in the opposite direction, into a murderous war in which he had no stake and little interest?

Sometimes peace and prosperity aren’t enough. As profiled by Weekly Playboy (Oct 27), Uzawa, 26, comes across as a restless seeker, not easily satisfied. It all started, he tells the magazine, when he was bullied as a sixth-grader. “I thought of suicide. I began to think about life and death. What are they?” The road to discovery seemed to lie through “extreme situations. As far as my knowledge went then, ‘extreme situations’ meant war.”

He considered, naturally, joining Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, and after junior high school attended a technical high school with ties to the SDF. “A feeling of patriotism was born in me. I no longer felt like committing suicide, or even fighting. I wanted to make a contribution to my country.”

In Tokyo, he started an agricultural products sales firm, which within three years was turning a profit. Excellent. What next? “If I’m going to die tomorrow, what do I want to do today?” Childhood dreams die hard. The irresistible answer was, “To fight.” Only war, he decided, draws the very best out of a person. It’s the ultimate “extreme situation,” the ultimate test.

Why Syria? asks Weekly Playboy.

The answer, obviously, is that that’s where the war was. There were others wars, but Syria in early 2013 was getting worldwide coverage, and in those days before the terrorist group known as Islamic State materialized, “everything seemed clear-cut. There were the government forces, and the anti-government forces.” The brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad was easy enough to identify with evil. Those fighting him, therefore, must be good.

He crossed into Syria from Turkey. At a press center he met a Syrian fighter who spoke Japanese. He represented an Islamic rebel organization whose ways were comparatively easygoing – “they never executed anyone; the local people loved them” – but still, rules were rules; Uzawa was required to convert to Islam. This gave him pause, but only briefly. “I studied Koran with teenagers at an Islamic school.” It didn’t make a believer of him, but he, and perhaps his sponsors as well, were willing to stretch a point, and he entered the faith.

At first, “we spent days sitting around drinking tea,” he recalls wryly. But when volunteers were mobilized for an attack on a government prison, Uzawa’s hand shot up. That was in May 2013, a month after his enlistment. “Suddenly there was a flash from an enemy tank... I thought I was going to die. I thought my right leg had been sheared off.” No, it was just numb.

Two months in a local hospital tired him of the rigors of Islamic life. Now he’s back home, and what has the experience taught him?

“Gratitude,” he sums up. “My buddies took care of me, then at home my parents took care of me.”

Still, “I didn’t accomplish what I set out to accomplish” – a remark containing a hint of unassuaged restlessness, though his future plans remain vague. A second lesson is one he expresses in these terms: “Japan is a Galapagos society. Most adults have no idea what goes on in the real world.”

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
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this guy is insane. He shouldve stayed there, since he is suicidal theres no telling what he might do in Japan.

8 ( +9 / -3 )

"A second lesson is one he expresses in these terms: “Japan is a Galapagos society. Most adults have no idea what goes on in the real world."

Is he speaking for himself? Seems like he lives in his own fantasy world.

1 ( +5 / -5 )

A second lesson is one he expresses in these terms: “Japan is a Galapagos society. Most adults have no idea what goes on in the real world.”

Probably the greatest quote I have read here in JT that sums up the Japanese attitude at times.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

A regular thrill seeker, doesn't seem insane to me.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

He probably learned war from manga, movies, games and what not, romanticized story of brotherhood fighting for a good cause.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

he's not insane he's a thrill seeker. Like how early Colonial Royal British Adventurists, who were polished for a promising career, would put whatever theyre doing down and just go out and explore.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

A nutjob. Period.

3 ( +7 / -6 )

A jumping bean.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

insanity at its peak... for the sake of science and humanity can he please let the world know how cyanide tastes ?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Before reading the article, I thought this guy had to be crazy.

But then after reading the article, I thought this guy was far from crazy. He's just trying to figure out life and he's willing to do whatever it takes to find out that answer. I would even go a step further and call him "successful." He was bullied when he was younger and got through it. He said he was going to join the SDF and he did join the SDF. He started a company and started making a profit within 3 years. He seems pretty legit to me.

4 ( +12 / -6 )

There are no criminal penalties for joining a terrorist organization? When the next Aum comes along, maybe this guy's resume will give him the opportunity he's looking for.

1 ( +4 / -4 )

He might think of joining a disaster rescue team and put his questions to a useful cause. Help others in trouble and use his abilities: here in Japan might be helpful. I wish him good luck in the future.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Japan's bullying tradition has become the fertile breeding ground for jihadis volunteers!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

sounds like he's just looking for something to get out of life. Many people do stupid things to a higher degree with no purpose. i.e BASE jumping or trying to beat some insane record like deep diving... Not crazy, just depressed would be a better description.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The authorities need to keep a close eye on this crazy, now converted to islam too so who knows what in is warped head now.

Could be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, or maybe just an impotent fool, but can society take the chance ? No way !

Watch this fool closely. He has exuded unstable behaviour previously it seems.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I strongly believe this is actually an issue of personality combined with a little idealism. Foreigners heading off to fight in other nation's wars isn't anything new, after all. For example:

American Revolution (Lafayette and others, classic liberal idealism) Greek Independence from Ottoman Empire (numerous volunteers from Western Europe/North America, idealism of fighting to regain the figurative 'mother' of Western civilization from the Turks) pre-World War II Spain (idealism of fascists vs idealism of freedom fighters) And now Syria.

I believe that were is a certain personality type, let's call it type X. X type personalities tend to take dangerous/exciting jobs, so many of them wind up in the military as a natural choice. When the US went to war following 9/11, lots of these personality types joined to be part of something exciting. With those wars coming to an end though, they have to look elsewhere. So you combine a new, headline-grabbing civil war in Syria with idealistic notions of good vs evil and you naturally get these personality types heading out to fight.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Want a challenge, little man? Enter a career which contributes to society and provides a suitable income, meet a woman who you will love and protect, and raise children in an active way that also supports others in your community.

It's not easy, but it is the most functional way to fulfill your roll in society.

Japan is a Galapagos society. Most adults have no idea what goes on in the real world.

Your concept of the "real world" is screwed. The "real world" is what I mentioned above, and exists in the vast majority of global land areas. You clearly have Rambobia.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

He might think of joining a disaster rescue team and put his questions to a useful cause. Help others in trouble and use his abilities: here in Japan might be helpful. I wish him good luck in the future.

Sounds like a very good solution for this guy.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The article didn't clearly state which so-called "terrorist" group he had joined. It didn't mention that it was ISIS or the Islamic state...How can people understand without all the information clear and concise?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Kevin NG...Good point

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The question that still begs to be answered is how many others from Japan like this guy, or the one held captive, have made it to Syria and have any of them crossed over to the 'dark side' that could pose a future risk here domestically?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It sounds like he wanted to join the very same groups that the US is supporting, right?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Remember that this is an earlier guy, more understandable in a way, and not the more recent Hokkaido University guy who converted and wanted to join IS to kill people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It all started, he tells the magazine, when he was bullied as a sixth-grader. “I thought of suicide. I began to think about life and death. What are they?” The road to discovery seemed to lie through “extreme situations. As far as my knowledge went then, ‘extreme situations’ meant war.”

Absolute rubbish... I was bullied at school from age 11 up to age 16, and it was brutal and humiliating... fireworks in my clothes, attempted drownings and throttling, etc. Yes, a happy teenage part of my life. However, I don't recall ever feeling the urge to go to war... quite the opposite in fact. True it's left me hating any kind of bullying... but going to another country to get involved in a civil war? Sorry, but that's a pathetic excuse.

There's more to it than being bullied.

5 ( +4 / -1 )

I agree @Thunderbird2 Thunderbird, I hope you managed to move on fast from that kind of bullying.

I was bullied also, but most was emotional/verbal abuse. Bullying,if anything, it made me realize just how precious life is, and how any kind of trauma can leave so many signs Ergo, I ended up being a person who avoids all kinds of arguments or fighting and strives for peace.

much more to it than being bullied. Thrill seeker..

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Stick with Puzzles & Dragons buddy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

StormR,

now converted to islam too so who knows what in is warped head now.

It must be tough having a billion bogeymen to be terrified of, but he's not one of them:

It didn’t make a believer of him, but he, and perhaps his sponsors as well, were willing to stretch a point, and he entered the faith.

Proof that for so-called jihadis, Islam is simply a flag of convenience.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

well, common sense is not so common after all..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And what exactly does he want to accomplish? That seems to bother me most. Will he try to accomplish his 'fight' here in Japan? With all that is going on on that side of the world, I did not enjoy reading this article. Left me with a rather dull feeling - exactly like the weather today.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Maybe he should try the American Boot Camp in Malaysia.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When that first shell dropped, he went from brave to b---h, huh?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Qamar, yes got over it, thanks.

If everyone who was bullied at school suddenly turned into a wannabe terrorist... well, there'd be a lot of terrorists. Some people can get past it, others can repress it and forget it... but I've never heard of anyone using it as an excuse to go to another country, join a war and kill people.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This guy is only trying to find answers and experience life at a root level. He is trying to find answers from the root and has therefore gone there to find out for himself. Just as he said it, Japan is a Galapagos society and doesn't offer him the worldliness that he craves for. So what did he do, he went there to find out for him self the real reality, not the overly polarised reality presented on the media which is becoming more and more to represent the same level as communism. He is a great believer that we all die tomorrow and and we will do everything to experience the world in as many ways as possible. Not only that, He also went to do Koran studies and converted to islam apparently so. Do you think he actually converted to Islam? I don't think so. In hinesinght, he didn't although he made it out to his hosts that he had converted. A deep personality like himself will never show what what he really believes in or his views on a fundamental level. He would have done what I did long time ago in the 80's, enter the scientologists organization with a polka face mentality for the sheer purpose of absorbing knowledge and then run and get away from them. I read one of their books at my mechanics waiting room and I gave it a brave punt for knowledge sake. I quickly found out, that I had to rely more on my polka face and deepen my beliefs and convictions inorder to stop me from getting brainwashed. The ordeal was a fight /flight situation were I had to get out of or be absorbed into the negativity of the organization. This guy probably did the same thing. He is ruled by deep issues and therefore what he thinks will get them out of his system is through war. Its quite abberated actually but its all interrelated as well. What he should do is seek Syrian citizenship and fight in a war eternally, He should also denounce his Japanese citizenship as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The press shouldn't even be giving this guy any attention! He's lunatic and an attention whore

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"He considered, naturally, joining Japan’s Self-Defense Forces"

But, naturally, he never did join the SDF.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nothing unusual about a young man seeking war , he has every right to choose his life and possible death.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm more interested in the former Doshisa professor who was advising him about how to go about doing it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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