Ahmad the Japanese, Lod — Roumié — Tokyo: A documentary about Kōzō Okamoto

Here is a short documentary about Kōzō Okamoto, the Japanese revolutionary.

While usually labelled as a member of the Japanese Red Army, strictly speaking Okamoto was initially part of the loose brigade of Japanese attached to the PFLP, many of whom were affiliated with the Sekigun-ha (Red Army Faction, the original domestic group that produced the future JRA overseas). Okamoto, though, was only on the fringes of the Sekigun-ha and as such is often portrayed as a kind of “accidental terrorist” who was convinced to travel to Lebanon and take part in the suicidal mission to attack Lod Airport in Israel.

The details of the attack are still immensely contested, though its outcome is clear: 26 dead, mostly non-Israelis, plus two of the three Japanese radicals. Only Okamoto survived and he served many years in an Israeli prison before being freed in a prisoner exchange.

kozo okamoto japanese red army

Okamoto during his original trial in Israel in 1972. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The documentary, Ahmad the Japanese, Lod — Roumié — Tokyo, is almost entirely in Arabic with French subtitles. It was originally made by Rabih El-Amine in 1999 but has here been updated with some of the details of what happened after it was completed. It gives an interesting glimpse into the mood on the streets at the time of Okamoto’s extradition trial in Lebanon. He was arrested in 1997 by his former host country’s police, along with several Japanese Red Army colleagues, including the filmmaker Masao Adachi. They were held up on passport charges and the authorities began extradition procedures against them, allegedly for political reasons (Japan had promised Lebanon a large loan).

As a participant in the Lod attack, Okamoto is regarded as a hero to the Arab cause by both the young and old and his imprisonment met protests and a petition. He was eventually freed while his peers were extradited to Japan via Jordan in 2000 to face trials in their homeland. Adachi would see liberty relatively soon and would go on to make his own film inspired by Okamoto’s life, Prisoner/Terrorist (2007).

masao adachi prisoner terrorist film kozo okamoto

It is particularly interesting to see the interviews with ordinary Lebanese on the streets of Beirut. Many know Okamoto’s name but aren’t fully aware or have a slightly inaccurate idea of who he is and what he did. One person even thinks he is Chinese. When told Okamoto is currently held in Roumieh Prison, the response is one of condemnation over his treatment.

Okamoto remains in Lebanon today. He also remains wanted by the Japanese government and his face can be seen on posters outside police stations.

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1 Response to Ahmad the Japanese, Lod — Roumié — Tokyo: A documentary about Kōzō Okamoto

  1. Sarah says:

    I am astonished on the educational unity of two nations.

    Like

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