RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — When Mayumi Nakamura, director of International Education at Randolph-Macon College, heard that former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe had been assassination on the campaign trail in Nara, Japan, she couldn’t believe the violent way he was killed.

“I was in total shock,” said Nakamura, who is from Kawasaki, Japan. “That’s not something you would see in the news in Japan.” 

That’s because gun control is strict in Japan and Nakamura says guns are not a part of life there, as they are in the United States. 

“This is not something you would expect to see happen to a political figure,” said Nakamura. “Because of social media, you could see it as it was happening and that was shocking.” 

Mayumi Nakamura is the director at the Office of International Education at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia

The Japanese people are set to vote in parliamentary elections this Sunday. Abe was killed on Friday.

Nakamura came to the U.S. as a high school student for a month, then again for a year in an exchange program as a college student and then once more as a graduate student in 2003. She has been on staff at Randolph-Macon in Ashland, Virginia, for 15 years, and the director of International Education there for the last three years. 

The college has developed Japanese studies and exchanges over the years and is one of the few colleges in the region to offer a Japanese Studies minor, which provides students with a comprehensive approach to the study of Japanese language, culture and history. The college offers study abroad experiences in Japan as well as exchange programs through support from the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund honoring a 2008 graduate who lost her life in the 2008 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

When Nakamura learned of Abe’s death, she reached out to her family in Japan who were as shocked as she was. 

“They were seeing it in real-time,” said Nakamura who said the event has made it difficult for her to focus on her work. 

But on Friday, she had to face the news head-on when she addressed a group of 40 students from around the state who are attending the Virginia Governor’s Japanese Academy, a three-week immersive culture and language studies residential program that is a part of the Virginia Governor’s World Language Academies.  

Students in the program had not heard about the assassination yet because they do not have access to social media during the program so they can focus fully on their studies. 

“They were in shock,” said Nakamura who is passionate about her work in promoting intercultural understanding. “I incorporated the event into my talk. I told them they are the future of our country, that we can overcome our differences without using violence. I emphasized to them the importance of learning about other cultures and other views.” 

Nakamura believes the assassination will impact how political campaigns are conducted in Japan in the future. She hopes there will be an increased number of voters in the Japanese election. 

“Having that relationship and partnership [between the people and governments of the United States and Japan] is important right now for solidarity,” said Nakamura. “We need to support each other.”