A Japanese college student investigated over his alleged attempt to join the Islamic State extremist group has told The Yomiuri Shimbun that he just "wanted [something] to stimulate himself" and rashly decided to join the group.
The Hokkaido University student expressed regret over his attempt, saying, "It was thoughtless" in the interview in Tokyo on Saturday. The Metropolitan Police Department investigated the 26-year-old student in October on suspicion of getting involved in private war preparation and conspiracy.
"I thought if I put myself in an extraordinary world, I might get a sense of fulfillment," said the student, who has been on a leave of absence from school. He said he was attracted by a recruiting ad posted at a secondhand bookstore in Tokyo's Akihabara district, while he was staying in Tokyo for job hunting activities in April. The ad read, "Work location: Syria."
The student said he is good at math and therefore hoped without much real interest to work at an IT company. However, he was not basically interested in being a salaried company employee.
He said he often used to think vaguely that he "couldn't feel the importance of my friends, family, social status and other things," and just thought that he wanted to do something interesting.
He had never been abroad, and did not have much knowledge or interest in Islam.
"It didn't necessarily have to be Syria," he said.
The idea of going to Syria began to become real to him after a person related to the secondhand bookstore introduced him to Ko Nakata, a 54-year-old former university professor who specializes in Islamic studies. This led him to decide to join the Islamic State.
He even converted to Islam at Nakata's recommendation.
The student said Nakata told him he would work as an engineer in Syria. Regarding the possibility of being involved in combat, the student said: "I imagined that [I] might kill people or be killed. But I didn't think about it seriously."
The Islamic State has been condemned by the international community for posting footage of the executions of journalists and others, but the student said, "I didn't really think anything about that."
He initially planned to leave Japan on Aug. 11, but his departure was postponed to Oct. 7. The student's plan faltered when the MPD's Public Security Bureau launched its investigation one day before, on Oct. 6.
"I would've gone if the police hadn't taken action," he said. However, the student also said he had not heard anything about what he would do after arriving in Turkey on his way to Syria.
"If I'd investigated the plan carefully beforehand, I'd have realised how unrealistic it was and not gone," he said.
He said he now has no desire to join the Islamic State.
NPA raises alert against extremism
The Islamic State based in Syria and Iraq is threatening the international community by recruiting fighters from around the world through the Internet and other means.
In Japan, the National Police Agency noted in the 2014 edition of "Chian no Kaiko to Tenbo" (Report on review and outlook for security) that due to the attempt by the Hokkaido University student to join the Islamic State, the NPA is on increased alert regarding the possibility of Japanese people trying to join the extremist group.
Japanese people have been detained and killed in Iraq after they entered the country amid the turmoil of war. In August, a man who appears to be Japanese was detained in Syria.
Satoshi Ikeuchi, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo who specializes in the history of Islamic political thought, stressed that the Hokkaido University student was ignorant of Islam.
"This is a special case to Japan, whereas young people in Europe and the United States leave [to join the Islamic State] after being influenced by the philosophy of Islam. I think it's quite unlikely in Japan for similar cases to happen again," Ikeuchi said. "However, it's essential for the investigative authorities to be alert for the spread of extremism while giving serious consideration to human rights."
Private war preparation and conspiracy
One of the crimes related to diplomatic relations in the Penal Code. Those who prepare or plot with other people to join in combat against a foreign country as a private individual will be subject to imprisonment for at least three months and a maximum of five years. The case involving the Hokkaido University student was the first in which the NPA had conducted a compulsory investigation regarding this crime.