"Even before he could walk, even when he was just tottering on his feet, whenever he could be with other children, he would always show great kindness to them. So I believe he always cared about other people," she said Friday morning to a packed room at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
It was that desire to help a friend that took her son, 47-year-old Kenji Goto, to Syria in search of Haruna Yukawa. The two Japanese men are captives of the Islamic State group, threatened with death unless their government coughs up a $200 million ransom.
In a teary and somewhat rambling message that also touched on her opposition to nuclear power, Ishido said: "My son is not the enemy of the Islamic State. He went over there all by himself, simply hoping to rescue his friend."
Ishido, 78, said she felt angry that her son had left for Syria just two weeks after his wife delivered a baby, but given his character, she understood why.
"Time is running out. Please, Japanese government, save my son's life," she said, at times wiping her tears with a white handkerchief. In Japanese fashion, she apologized repeatedly for "all the trouble" her son has caused the country and its people.
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