Makoto Okamura was born in Japan and was educated as a traffic and urban planning engineer. His career goal was to serve developing nations to improve their infrastructure. His work took him to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
A Life Cut Short
On July 1, 2016, five ISIS terrorists stormed a popular bakery and killed twenty-two people, seven were Japanese nationals, including Makoto Okamura. He was 32-years old and engaged to be married.
Grieving Parents Speak Out
Makoto’s parents want his story to be told again and again. On the one-year anniversary of the Dhaka terror attack, they spoke about their son to NHK Documentaries.They were the only family that accepted the invitation for an interview. Here’s the link to the NHK documentary.
Their Greatest Fear Was Assuaged
Though nothing will ever completely erase the Okamuras’ pain, they found a small bit of comfort, thanks to the crew from NHK Documentaries. You see, until the NHK crew came to their home, the Okamuras believed their son was tortured before he was killed. Their greatest fear was that Makoto faced his death alone. That wasn’t so. During the making of the documentary, NHK heard of a man that helped one of the victims. They tracked him down and interviewed him. When they showed the young man pictures of the victims, he identified Makoto as the man he was with during the attack.
A Guilty Heart
The man that was with Makoto is a Bangladesh citizen. At the time of the attack, he worked at the bakery. That night, he heard the gunfire and hid inside the walk-in fridge. As he closed the door, a hand reached out to him. A voice asked for help. That was Makoto. The two hid together in the fridge for hours in hopes they would survive. At times they did squats to keep from freezing. Other times they held hands for comfort. Hours later, ISIS terrorists forced the door open and ordered both men to lie on the ground. ISIS killed Makoto, but spared the Bangladeshi when he was able to recite a verse of the Quran.
Makoto still haunts his thoughts.
He wishes there was some way he could have saved Makoto. He lives with great guilt.
But, Makoto’s parents are grateful he was there, and that Makoto didn’t die alone. It is a small thing that is everything.
When the Okamuras had Makoto’s tombstone carved, they asked that it include a paper crane to symbolize world peace. Seven stars hover above the crane and stand for Makoto and the other six Japanese that were killed that July evening.
They had words carved into the stone that have caused some controversy. They say, “death by terrorist.” The Okamuras felt those words were important. They want people to remember their son and why his life ended. This was a big deal because such proclamations are frowned upon in Japanese culture. You don’t dwell on the negative. You avoid speaking about unpleasant things. That’s why writing “death by terrorist” on a tombstone has stirred such polarizing feelings in the country.
One final note:
The police shot and killed the five ISIS terrorists. When authorities attempted to return their remains to their families, they refused to claim ownership because they had brought shame to them and their religion. The terrorists were buried in a potter’s field without markers.
In-depth article that focuses on victims:
New York Times story on the attack and victims:
Japan Families Fly to Bangladesh in Shock: