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Tetsu Nakamura Remembered at Facility Named after Him in Afghanistan; Son of Memorial Service Organizer Called Nakamura

Yuji Yoshikata / The Yomiuri Shimbun
People present martial arts skills for the attendees of the memorial ceremony held for Tetsu Nakamura at the Nakamura Sports Complex in Kabul on Saturday.

KABUL — A memorial ceremony was held for Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura in Kabul on Saturday, at a private sports facility named after him, four years after he was killed.

Nakamura, who was the representative in Afghanistan for the Japanese humanitarian organization Peshawar-kai, was killed by members of an armed group in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, on Dec. 4, 2019. He was 73.

Sympathy for Nakamura’s ideals, who devoted his life to humanitarian assistance overseas, including the construction of irrigation facilities, has been steadily spreading among people in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, people would say, “Are you from Japan? Then you must be Nakamura,” whenever they met a Japanese. “Nakamura” has become synonymous with Japan in Afghanistan.

Nakamura’s achievements became widely known in Afghanistan after the murder. Many of the people who learned about his activities through videos and other media are said to have been impressed with him.

Samiullah Malang Azizi, 42, is one such person. He organized the memorial service for the second consecutive year.

Malang Azizi remembered seeing Nakamura riding a heavy machine when he was on his way to his parents’ house on weekends in the province. Malang Azizi said he was struck by how the wasteland turned into a lush area thanks to his efforts.

He thought Nakamura was one of workers at first. After hearing from the locals about him and reading his book he thought Nakamura was a wonderful person. Malang Azizi named his third son, who was born two days after Nakamura’s death, Nakamura.

Last year, Malang Azizi opened a learning facility named after Nakamura in Kabul. But it was forced to close six months later under the rule of the Islamic Taliban-controlled interim government that bans girls from attending middle school and higher education.

However in May, Malang Azizi invested his own money and established the Nakamura Sports Complex, hoping all Afghans will remember Nakamura. Men in their teens to 60s enjoy wrestling, boxing and other martial arts, as well as gymnastics at the facility.

At the memorial service held at the facility on Saturday, flowers were laid on a boxing ring decorated with Nakamura’s photos and a painted portrait. Martial arts skills also were demonstrated.

Malang Azizi said his next dream is to open “Nakamura High Schools” throughout his country for children who want to study at university.