Rest in peace, Kenkichi Nakadaira

It is with great sadness that Life Funds for North Korean Refugees announces the passing of its founding Executive Director, Kenkichi Nakadaira at the age of 89 from heart failure.

We are deeply grateful for the selfless devotion he showed, becoming the bedrock of the fledgling organization that LFNKR then was. LFNKR, a recognized NPO, is the organization it is today because of the foundation that Nakadaira-sensei established. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Nakadaira-sensei for everything he has done and we express our deepest condolences to his family.

Although we couldn’t hope to detail everything Nakadaira-sensei accomplished during his lifetime, we would like to look back at some of the highlights of his life.

Kenkichi Nakadaira was born in 1925 in Nagano Prefecture to Christian parents, graduated from the former Imperial Naval Accounting Academy in 1945, and was baptized at Tatsuoka Christ Church in his hometown in August 1946. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at Tokyo University in 1949 and from 1951 to 1972 he served as a judge at Gifu Family Court, the legal procedures branch of the Supreme Court, Morioka Family Court, Osaka District and High Courts, Hakodate Family Court, and Tokyo District and High Courts. While at the Tokyo District Court, he oversaw the Ienaga history textbook cases (1970 judgement) and in 1972 he went back to being a lawyer.

He is known as a human rights lawyer who championed children’s right to education as well as freedom of thought, creed, expression, and education. He worked on numerous cases, including the Pastor Taneya case, the Hitachi employment discrimination case, the Aoyama University Graduate School Theology case, the case opposing visits by SDF officials to Gokokuji Shrine, the school recommendations case, the Nagoya Sasashima day laborer case, the vaccination/Hepatitis B class action lawsuit, the Mito junior high school corporal punishment case, the Zushi mayor case (Ikego munitions depot case)

In addition to his legal work, Nakadaira-sensei was active working with human rights NGOs. From 1979 to 1983 he was the head of Amnesty Japan and from 1999 to 2006, as the head of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, he was involved with North Korean human rights issues and with helping North Korean refugees reach safety via the Siberia and Yunnan (Kunming) routes.

He was also a writer. Some of his works in Japanese include “Christian medic,” “Sent out into the World,” “Specialist Nursing,” “Learning from the Hepatitis B/Vaccination Case,” and “The Death Penalty System.”

His academic achievements reflected his strong Christian beliefs. During his time as a judge, he was active in the local churches of the various areas in Japan to which he was dispatched. As a lawyer, he developed relationships with many fellow believers in the different regions where he worked, regardless of sect. In addition, for 40 years he led the Jiyugaoka Christian Meeting.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
– John 12:24

Nakadaira-sensei mourned the loss of his older brother Kurao, an active Christian believer who was killed in the war. In “Sent out into the World,” Nakadaira-sensei wrote, “My brother was my ‘grain of wheat.’ Without him, my life would have been nothing.”