The apparent execution of Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese hostages being held by Islamic State militants, marks one of the darkest moments in Japan's experience of kidnapping.
Here are some key hostage crises that have embroiled Japanese nationals abroad in the past:
September 1977: Five armed Japanese Red Army (JRA) members hijack a Japan Airlines plane with 156 people on board, en route from Paris to Tokyo.
The hijackers order it to be flown to Dhaka in Bangladesh and demand $6 million and the release of nine imprisoned JRA members.
Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda accepts the hijackers' demands, saying that "human life outweighs the Earth".
Six imprisoned JRA members are released and the hostages are freed.
November 1986: The Manila office chief of Japanese trading giant Mitsui & Co is kidnapped in a suburb of Manila by five armed men. A ransom of $10 million dollars is reportedly paid and the hostage is released.
December 1996: Left-wing militants take hundreds of diplomats and others hostage during a party at the official residence of the Japanese ambassador to Peru.
The seige lasts more than 100 days before the Peruvian military moves in. One captive and all the hostage-takers are killed.
April 2004: Three Japanese spend a week in captivity in Iraq, after being snatched by a group calling itself the "Mujahedeen Brigades".
They demand the pullout of Japanese troops. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rejects the demand but the three are later released unharmed, reportedly after interventions by Muslim leaders.
The three, volunteer workers Noriaki Imai, (18 at the time) and Nahoko Takato, along with photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, both in their 30s, are roundly criticised on their return to Japan for being irresponsible and putting themselves at risk.
October 2004: Backpacker Shosei Koda, 24, is killed in Iraq by Islamists after Koizumi refuses to pull Japan's 550 troops -- on a reconstruction mission -- out of the country.
Koda's head and his body with hands and feet bound are found wrapped in a US flag in Baghdad.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group of Iraq's most wanted man Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posts a video and photos on the Internet showing three hooded men pouncing on the young tourist.
The militants say they spurned an offer from Tokyo of "millions of dollars in ransom" to save Koda. Japan denies offering a ransom.
September 2010: Freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, then 41, is freed unhurt after a five-month hostage ordeal in Afghanistan at the hands of Hizb-i-Islami.
Tsuneoka subsequently becomes known in Japan for his expertise on Islamic issues.
January 2013: Militants storm an isolated gas plant in Algeria, one of the country's largest upstream facilities, killing dozens of people over a four-day siege.
Ten Japanese are dead by the time Algerian commandos gain control of the site, the worst single death toll for any of the countries whose nationals are involved.