Why did you go to Iraq?
I went there last year to see the war. I went back this year to see how the situation had changed. When I went to Fallujah at the start of April, the area was under heavy air attack and a number of people were being killed. So I thought I had to go to see for myself.
Why did you ignore the government's warning that Japanese civilians should stay out of Iraq?
It is our civic duty to know the facts. Otherwise we cannot judge whether our country's actions are good or bad. Reporting is my job. In order for citizens to support the government responsibly, they need to know exactly what the government is doing.
Why were you taken hostage?
The area is a battlefield, so the Iraqis there stay at home. If an outsider walks around, he stands out. Also, a Japanese who is carrying a camera is most likely suspected of being a spy. The group that first took us was probably a local vigilante group, but on the second day we were handed over to a group of militiamen. They said they were attacking the Americans. They were mujahedin.
What was the scariest part?
When the militiamen accused me of being a spy, pointed a gun at me, and released the safety. They asked if I was spying for the cia or fbi, and wouldn't believe me when I said neither.
What else did the kidnappers say?
The man who pointed his gun at me told me he was walking on the sidewalk and was arrested by the G.I.s when he wouldn't answer their questions. He said he was imprisoned for almost a month and regularly beaten up. One day, he said, he was taken to a private room and sexually assaulted. He asked me what I would have done if I were him, and I had no answer.
Why were you released?
I'd say it was largely due to their basic humanity. Another major reason was that I wasn't carrying a gun. Also, Japanese history was on my side. They might think the Japanese are sending soldiers to their country, but they also proudly show off their Toyotas, and they talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Are you grateful to the Japanese government for its efforts to rescue you?
It's hard to say because it's their duty, and I don't know how much effort they put in. I am not overly grateful.
Why has the Japanese media been so critical of the hostages?
In the case of the first three hostages, their abductors demanded that Japan withdraw its troops from Iraq. In that kind of situation, it's quite natural for the parents and families to make emotional statements, with some politics thrown in. On top of that, there were people who tried to use this to protest against the war. All that might have caused the backlash. However, I don't understand the accusation that it caused trouble to the government. The government exists to protect the lives of its nationals with taxpayer money. It's their job.
Were you surprised by the public's negative opinion of the hostages?
I wasn't surprised. There have been similar cases before, and the abductees were more often than not told they were causing problems. So I sensed we'd be treated the same way ... I'm being careful what I say, and I haven't received any hate mail yet. All I've got is a call from a woman in Chiba asking me to marry her daughter.
Will you go back to Iraq?
I'll consider the timing, but I will definitely go back. I'll look at the situation in Japan because it's stupid to expose myself to criticism here just for the sake of it.