Photo/IllutrationRelatives place flowers after the burial of three victims of the same family who died in the Easter Sunday bomb blast at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22. (AP Photo)

The Iwakura Mission, a special diplomatic mission named for its leader, Tomomi Iwakura (1825-1883), serving in the role of plenipotentiary ambassador, was dispatched to the United States and Europe by the Japanese government during the first decade of the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

The mission visited Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) on its way back to Japan in 1873.

An official log kept by the mission, titled "Tokumei Zenken Taishi Bei-O Kairan Jikki" (Record of a tour of the United States and Europe by the Japanese envoy extraordinary and Ambassador plenipotentiary), contains an entry to this effect: "Ceylon feels like a human paradise (compared to Europe, which we just left)."

The visitors were totally taken by the verdant mountains, the crystal-clear air and the cerulean ocean surrounding this island.

However, their impression of the local population was not exactly positive. While lauding the Ceylonese people for their gentle and courteous ways, the visitors found them to be "too self-effacing" and "passive."

In the eyes of those elite Japanese bureaucrats of the time, who were totally focused on making their nation catch up with the great powers of the West, Ceylonese society must have appeared too laid back and lacking in drive.

Still, Sri Lanka's abundant natural beauty, the friendliness of its people and the solemn dignity of its Buddhist monuments continue to attract many tourists from around the world today, including more than 40,000 visitors from Japan every year.

But terrorism has ripped through this nation.

A series of eight blasts, which occurred almost simultaneously on April 21, were targeted at Catholic churches and upscale hotels in Colombo and other cities.

It was Easter Sunday, and Masses were being held at the churches when the bombs went off.

According to the Sri Lankan government, Islamic extremists are believed to have been involved.

The attacks were apparently planned and mostly carried out by suicide bombers.

Those individuals treated their own lives as a tool of destruction, seeing the victims as nothing more than the "numbers" they could kill.

This is the same old act of barbarism that keeps recurring, and I have to wonder what sort of hatred fuels it.

Kaori Takahashi, a Japanese citizen who was killed, was reportedly a resident of Sri Lanka. Among the victims were a good number of non-Sri Lankan citizens, each one of whom must have been serving as a "bridge" between their own countries and the host nation.

The blasts have killed them all.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 23

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.