Shorinji Kempo Shike
Chairperson of the Shorinji Kempo Group
President of the World Shorinji Kempo Organization
Representative Officer of the SHORINJI KEMPO UNITY
- Special Message -
(Appeared in the November 2009 issue of Kaiho Shorinji Kempo)
An Agonizing Choice
At noon on July 17th, I received an e-mail on my cell phone.
"I've heard there were two terrorist attacks at foreign owned hotels in Jakarta this morning. I know you are having a World Taikai event in Bali soon, but will it be OK?" It was from a friend of mine.
I pulled over my car, and immediately ordered the secretariat of the World Shorinji Kempo Organization (WSKO) to collect any information available.
Our plan was to have a Taikai event on July 25th and 26th, followed by an international study session for two days on 28th and 29th. Nearly 500 members from around the world would come together in Bali to join around 600 kenshi in Indonesia to attend the "2009 Shorinji Kempo World Taikai in Bali, Indonesia." Meetings for WSKO board, council, and country representatives were planned before the main event; therefore the WSKO Secretariat were to arrive in Bali on July 21st, and the first group of the official tour groups from Japan that includes Taikai performers was to leave Japan on July 22nd, to be followed by the second, third groups of the tour.
The WSKO Secretariat and the Tokyo Office of the Shorinji Kempo Federation started collecting information through various sources, including the Indonesian Shorinji Kempo Federation which is the host organization for this event, the Terrorism Prevention Division of the Japan's Foreign Ministry, and companies with local corporations or branches stationed in Indonesia.
The bombing attacks this time targeted two luxurious hotels, Ritz-Carlton and JW Mariotto located in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.
A suicide bombing occurred in a restaurant of JW Mariotto at 7:40 local time of July 17th, and only after two minutes another bombing happened at Ritz-Carlton. These attacks killed 9 people including 4 foreigners, and injured 50 victims.
Hotels in Jakarta the capital are put on high security alert at any time. Not just western hotels but Japanese hotels require you to have security checks under your car and its trunk, as well as yourself, before arriving at the front door of a hotel. Then you are checked again with your belongings and your body just like when you go through the security gate at an airport. I assume the western hotels had much heavier security system. The bombings occurred under such circumstances, giving me many sources to feel uneasy.
On July 18th, as I was frustrated with less information I needed, I myself tried to collect information using my mobile phone, e-mails, fax, and the internet. The fact that there had been no claim of responsibility for the attacks was one of the reasons I was so irritated. No such announcement means the terrorists have not completed their mission. I contacted people who have resided in Jakarta or Bali in the past to get information from various aspects.
Should we open the Taikai, or cancel it?
I knew the members of the Indonesian Federation had spent their time to realize the event, holding countless meetings for preparations and with the local government. Especially, because the Indonesian Federation is the second oldest and the second largest federation after Japan, when we decided to hold the 2001 World Taikai, which had been held only in Japan, in a new country other than Japan for the first time, Indonesia was chosen. However, the political instability of the time made the Indonesian Federation to withdraw their acceptance; therefore we immediately shifted the host country to France. After that we had a plan to hold an Asian Taikai in Bali, but the city was attacked by terrorists, and again the event had to be cancelled.
Holding a World Taikai in Indonesia has been a long-sought wish of the founders of the Indonesian Federation, who lived and studied in Japan and learned directly from Kaiso. They had seen the opportunities slip by and it was the time when they were about to bring their dream to reality at last. If we cancel the event, how deeply would they be disappointed?
I can imagine the excitement of the participants in the competition division who had gone through their local preliminaries and set their goal to the world stage, as well as the performers in the exhibition division, that would express the characteristics of Shorinji Kempo, who had been preparing for their trip to Bali.
The WSKO Secretariat had a small number of staff, but with the support by other organizations in the Shorinji Kempo Group, they had put their full energy into the preparation. As I thought of the people who had been involved in this event, I could not sleep and my stomach ached.
Information released by Foreign Ministries
"The Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is advising its citizens not to travel to Indonesia, as the terrorist attacks may occur anywhere at any time.
The some of the terrorist group leaders responsible for the bombing in Kuta and Jimbaran districts of Bali occurred on October 1st, 2005, are still on the run. Documents hinting another attack have been found, causing frequent alerts
We advice you to be very careful. If you are visiting or staying in Indonesia, not just Bali or Jakarta, you should avoid crowded places which could be easy targets for bombings such as shopping malls, restaurants, or major western facilities or gathering of unspecified foreigners. Please consider very carefully before you travel."
Our departure day was approaching. I was in close touch with the WSKO board members residing abroad with time differences. I spent 3 days holding my cell phone day and night.
I heard that it was the season for vacation in Europe; many participants had already left their home to travel around Asia before arriving in Bali, and they were out of reach. Participants from Canada, U.S.A., Brazil had also left their countries to come to Bali via Japan or other countries.
Without responsibility claim by the bombers or any good information to lighten any risk, a large number of precious lives were now heading to Bali to attend our Taikai.
At that time, I remembered the news that the Takatsuki Physical Education Association of Osaka declared bankruptcy and dissolved in June this year.
Thirteen years ago, the association organized a succor game. A lightning during the game struck a high school student, giving him a heavy aftereffect. The organizer was questioned its responsibility of letting the game continue without stopping it under bad weather. The court ordered the association to pay compensation of 300 million yen. The association filed for bankruptcy and dissolved.
It is not that the amount of 300 million yen frightened me. It was the idea of how grave the "responsibility of the organizers" is. How many among them knew that they were making a decision at the risk of precious human lives. It is never someone else's problem.
"Maybe it's OK." "Ours is not that serious." "We cannot stop now." "We don't have time to change." These are what we often say.
Even a case of a traffic accident the compensation may never be enough in some countries. All sorts of things kept swirling in my head. I could not eat. I could not sleep. My stomach ached as if it was perforated. Since my assuming this position 30 years ago, how many times have I suffered like this?
I didn't have time. On July 21st, the day before my own departure, I made the decision.
"We will cancel the World Taikai !"
It was not a discussion any more. It was a solitary decision of mine. I strongly understood that this was what is called an agonizing choice.
Anyway I commanded the staff to inform the decision to the hosts in Bali, and the participants from various countries by e-mails, fax, and phone; even it might be too late for them.
Serious Reflection as a Global Organization
On the next day, I flew to Bali from Narita Airport. Before the departure, our tour participants gathered at the airport without knowing about the cancellation, or with that information but they decided to fly. I explained the last-minute cancellation to them and apologized.
The key for the final decision was the fact that organizing a World Taikai event where people from various countries gather might create a target of terrorist attacks. The Indonesian Federation had devoted their tremendous efforts. Such a sudden cancellation would give them a heavy disappointment and problems with clearing up the mess. Are we giving in to terrorism? Such dignity of the organization should not come first. We put the highest priority to human lives above anything else. I thought that announcing the cancellation of the World Taikai would lighten the risks significantly for the members who were already in Bali and who were arriving after the announcement. People would take it as granted if nothing happens, but if anything happens, it would be irreversible.
If nothing happens and everyone returns in safe, people would say, "See, you should have done it as planned." I was ready to take any blames in such a situation, because nothing would make me happier if we could carry out and finish the event without problems.
The discussion with the Indonesian Federation about the events after the cancellation was to be scheduled after my arrival on 22nd.
Even the visitors decreased in number, nearly 300 people had flown in Bali. What can WSKO offer to them while keeping their safety the top priority? How the Indonesian Federation can support us? We had a heated debate.
After all, the cancellation of the Taikai had been already announced on TV, radio, and newspapers, we considered that the risk had been lightened, and we changed that Taikai to the Embu Exchange Gathering containing a practice session as a one-day program.
Despite the heavy security at the site, I never felt easy. I kept alerting the participants to be careful. When I saw the participants in the morning at our hotel leaving for sightseeing, I asked them to be cautious, and I felt relieved to see them again in the evening. My days there were spent that way.
We held a party in the garden of our hotel, but behind the stage was the beach, allowing anyone coming in. I was glad that the participants were enjoying the event. I could not say anything that would cause them worried. I could not avert my eyes from the stage during the event.
Mr. Timbul Lubis, President of the host Indonesian Federation, invited the participants onto the stage and they went up one after another to dance "Poco Poco" an Indonesian dance. I joined them and danced until the end.
I know some people thought I liked dancing, but it was not that. My knee condition allows me to dance 10 minutes at the longest. What I thought that time was "What would I do if anything happens on the stage with kenshi from around the world? It would be ridiculous if only I am saved." Thinking back now, my act might have been a foolish act of irresponsible courage.
The party finished without any problem. My knees with water swelled up. My back pained heavily. I could not lay on it.
Now that the entire event is over without problems and everyone returned safe, I can say we could avoid the risk except that the organization had to pay the cancel charges occurred due to the cancellation. I would like to express my appreciation to the Indonesian Federation who understood and accepted the last-minute cancellation and the shift of events, and their great support.
My deep regret is that I sent my staff to Bali after the decision of cancellation, giving them no choice at all. We held the WSKO Board, Council, and General Meetings as planned. If I think of any possibility, I should say that the risk management as an organization was not appropriate.
If we do not think that it was a "good luck" we had that nothing happened, and if we do not review the whole event very seriously, there is no tomorrow for Shorinji Kempo.
The terrorist attacks this time occurred only one week before the event started. However, we should reflect ourselves as a global organization in the process and ability of collecting necessary information and reaching the decision.
Lastly, taking this opportunity I would like to apologize to all kenshi who had been supposed to perform in the event and others who had planned to come to see the event.