When President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked volunteers on national television, Keiichi Kurogi raised his hand to assist. And he was not alone. Ever since WWII Japan has not taken up arms. Something changed this week, though.
Dozens of Japanese men said that they wanted to be a part of an “international legion.” They would stand with the much smaller less equipped Ukrainian military and go up against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The 39-year-old saw a plea for help on Twitter. Even though he worked in an office, he decided to volunteer. Ever since WWII, Japan had not taken up arms. But something happened this week. The Japanese man phoned his country’s Ukrainian embassy to answer the call for democracy over a dictatorship.
Kurogi told Reuters he phoned the Ukrainian embassy in Japan on Monday after seeing the Ukrainians’ appeal for volunteers on Twitter.
In addition, told The Japanese Times:
‘When I saw images of elderly men and women in Ukraine holding guns and going to the front, I felt I should go in their place.’
The United States has banned all Russian planes, but thus far, we do not know whether Americans have been offering their assistance, too.
The embassy turned down Kurogi’s offer to take up arms. The reason they gave to him was that he did not have the required military background. But by Tuesday, there were an additional 69 men from Japan willing to go:
‘[They joined] 50 former members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and two veterans of the French Foreign Legion – [and] had applied to be volunteers, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said, quoting a Tokyo company handling the volunteers.’
The spokesperson told Reuters that it had been receiving requests to “fight for Ukraine.” They were welcomed if they “have undergone specialized training.”
By Wednesday in a rapidly moving war:
‘[The embassy had called for] volunteers with medical, IT, communication, or firefighting experience. It was not immediately clear if the volunteer positions were remote or involved traveling to Ukraine.’
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters:
‘The Japanese foreign ministry has issued an evacuation advisory for all of Ukraine and we want people to stop all travel to Ukraine, regardless of the purpose of their visit. We are communicating with the Ukrainian embassy in Japan and pointed out that an evacuation advisory is in place.’
Then, Ukraine closed its Kyiv Embassy for the time being, because the danger was too high.
Although Japan claimed a “pacifist Constitution,” the archipelago nation with its many islands gave its constitution another look some time ago. As a result, now Japan lets its citizens perform “collective self-defense or aid allies under attack.”
In addition, protesters by the hundreds showed up in Tokyo. After the Ukrainian embassy built a web page to ask for help, some 60,000 Japanese citizens contributed $17 million.
Another volunteer Ryoga Seki was in graduate school working for a master’s degree in computer science. The 23-year-old contributed a month’s salary from his parti-time tutoring job, which came to $868.
He indicated that this was his “first-ever major donation and the maximum amount he could transfer at one time from his bank:”
‘There are many people here, like me, who want to do something but can’t move around right now.’
As for Kurogi, he is adamant that he would volunteer again if Ukraine changed its requirements:
‘I’m from a generation that does not know war at all. It’s not that I want to go to a war, it’s more that I would rather go than see children forced to carry guns.’
The Ukrainians were grateful.
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