International desk – The oldest of the Japanese victims of the Dhaka massacre, 80-year-old Hiroshi Tanaka, was in Bangladesh to help the impoverished country develop its railway network.
Japan’s widest circulated The Asahi Shimbun came up with the news story four days after the siege at a restaurant in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka where Islamist terrorists killed 20 hostages and two security officials on Friday night.
A devout Catholic, Tanaka spent his career in the rail industry and even at his advanced age had been tapped as an aid worker to bring his expertise to many Asian countries.
“I thought he’d come back home to Japan, just as usual,” said Akifuyu Nakamura, 77, his Catholic friend of about 20 years.
“It’s such an awful shame.”
Tanaka was one of seven Japanese killed after Islamic militants targeted an upscale restaurant known for its foreign clientele, leaving 20 people dead.
The youngest of the Japanese victims was a 27-year-old woman.
“He probably organized things for the group, as he was the oldest,” Nakamura said. “He must have gotten attacked after finishing the day’s work.”
Nakamura learned of his friend’s death from Tanaka’s wife on the morning of July 3.
Tanaka, a resident of Yokohama, was visiting Bangladesh as part of an Oriental Consultants Global Co. project. According to Nakamura, Tanaka worked as a technician for the Japanese National Railways before it was privatized, the newspaper reported.
Tanaka was involved in projects to export Japanese railway technology to emerging economies like Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar. He was once the head of the Technical Exchange Committee at the Association of Japanese Consulting Engineers, today known as the Engineering and Consulting Firms Association, Japan.
In between his busy business schedule, Tanaka lectured at an event for novice Christians in Tokyo.
“I’ll be in Bangladesh for a month after tomorrow,” Tanaka said in one of those sessions in early June. “I will take part in a project to assess what it would cost Japan to build a railroad there.”
Nakamura would work with his friend in organizing the weekly lecture sessions. During summer, Tanaka would sometimes hold science classes for the local children.
Learning that Tanaka had been slain, friends, relatives and co-workers came together at Tanaka’s home on July 3.
According to his 72-year-old brother Takashi, Tanaka was the eldest of seven. His siblings had just gathered together on May 12 to celebrate Tanaka’s 80th birthday.
Tanaka was quoted by Takashi as saying, “I’m going to Bangladesh to spread railway technology as part of a Japan International Cooperation Agency project. I want to work for the local people.”
Takashi said, “He was an older brother I could respect. It’s just terrible that he was attacked like this when he had been working so hard and earnestly.”
The Japanese government took the bodies of the victim back home Tuesday after Bangladeshi people paid respect to the victims of the deadliest attacks.