Tokyo : The Mideast is half a world away from Japan, and its troubles often seem so too. So Japan was shocked by a stark video from Islamic militants last week threatening to kill two Japanese hostages.
Here are some voices from Japan on the unfolding crisis, as it enters its second week.
"It's not that they were in Japan living peacefully and kidnapped out of the blue. They decided to go to Syria and were seized by militants. Do you think taxpayers will agree that they should save the hostages lives?"
-- Kenji Arai, 46, accountant.
"Kenji Goto reported on children in war zones. He let us know about how children fared in these places. These are things major media outlets weren't able to do, and he risked his life for this. He must come back alive. To the Japanese government, I ask that they do everything possible to save him."
-- Yoko Yabe, 62, who was protesting the government's policies at the prime minister's residence.
"I cannot sympathize with them, because they have caused Japan a lot of trouble. ... Japan is not that rich. Japan cannot afford it. We have lots of domestic problems such as health care."
-- Akiyo Tsunokawa, 77, homemaker.
"Unfortunately bad people exist no matter what. ... We need to accept the fact that the Islamic State exists. It's like you hate hairy caterpillars but you cannot eradicate them."
-- Toshihiko Ozeki, 67, retiree.
"I feel Abe's misguided shallow acts have trigged this ransom demand. Maybe he should be attending to problems at home."
-- Toshiko Okada, 68, who opposes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to loosen constitutional restraints on the military.
"We need to give out the message of what religion in its true form should be, that it is not something that should be used for war."
-- Buddhist monk Takao Takeda, at interfaith prayers for the return of Kenji Goto.