National Geographic : 1974 Mar
JAPAN U.S. OTHER SHIPS 100% PASSENGER CARS COMMERCIAL VEHICLES MOTORCYCLES CRUDE STEEL, PIG IRON, AND FERROALLOYS ELECTRIC ENERGY ELECTRIC MOTORS TELEVISION AND RADIO RECEIVERS CAMERAS NEWSPRINT FISH CATCHES Japan's huge industrial output, here compared to the United States and the rest of the world, stands on an uncertain base of imported raw materials, including Mid east oil. Such dependence, underlined by the world energy crisis, ominously shadows Japan's current-and future-prosperity. mining engineers are digging for copper ore. "Very good people, the Japanese," an offi cial assured me in Nairobi. "I want to live in Kenya longer," said a Japanese hooked on the tropical highlands. I had already heard about the enthusiasm of young Japanese from Shoichi Ban, direc tor of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volun teers, or peace corps. "We have achieved our main target-the economic phase," he said. "Now some-especially the young people want to help the developing nations. They want to get in touch with different cultures." About 50 of Mr. Ban's 1,200 volunteers National Geographic, March 1974 358 work in Kenya. One, an auto mechanic named T. Kabasawa, was assigned to the Nairobi-Addis Ababa highway construction project near the Ethiopian border. "At our Turbi camp, we had to bring water many miles," he says. "No water there. Only sand and stone and dry bushes. I was work ing under a car one midday and flies came, seeking moisture from my lips. My hands had grease so I could not wipe them away. My friend saw me and laughed-and the flies entered into his open mouth! Very dry." Idleness an Unwanted Commodity A few action-oriented Japanese collide, culturally, with the ways of Africa. Engineer Takaji Suzuki, for example, loves Kenya but not big-game watching. "To see animals, you must wait so long." Welding instructor A. Nishimoto once had a collision of another sort. Driving with a friend near Kajiado, his car struck and killed a cow belonging to the Masai. The tall tribes men surrounded the car and angrily pounded on the door with their spears. Nishimoto-san rolled up the windows and waited. The Masai grew angrier. He waited an entire hour before an English-speaking African came by, translated the tribal demands, and arranged an indemnity. Yet Nishimoto's only complaint is not danger, but idleness: "If no work to do, the Japanese is crazy. Too much time." Kenya counts 300 Japanese residents, in cluding 90 children. Many big trading com panies have representatives in Nairobi, and business is growing. ("Kenya now exports Japanese-style green tea!") Families employ African servants and live well in houses far larger than they had at home. But I met one man who was actively un happy, Hirotaro Ogura, representative of a Japanese airline and dean of the Nairobi Nip ponese community. He told me the story of his last nine years, a story of exile away from Japan-Karachi, Teheran, Nairobi-and largely away from his family. "Because of school, my wife must now live in Japan with our children. They grow up fatherless." Mr. Ogura's trophies show the way he has spent his lonely years in Kenya: tusks, skins, antlers. What was the score, I asked, for the Great Yellow Hunter? He smiled wanly: "Well, 12 elephants, six buffalo, and one lion only .... They may have been sacrifices for my loneliness."