When the Editor of this Bulletin asked me to let him have some information on Tanzanian activities in Japan I was worried because I have never been to Tanzania and didn’t know very much about it!
Luckily my husband found three articles about Tanzania in recent issues of the ‘Japan Times’, one of four English language daily newspapers in Japan. You will have seen extracts from these in Bulletin No. 32.
I decided to phone the author of the articles, Mr. Hidaka, to ask him if he could put me in touch with any other Tanzania related activities. First however he told me that he was planning another article about Tanzania and this subsequently appeared in the ‘Japan Times Weekly’. It was about the Masuguru (North West of Dar es Salaam) settlement of South African PAC (Pan Africanist Congress of Azania) refugees. He quoted one resident in the camp as saying that “we have two enemies. One is the white-controlled government in South Africa. The other is the wild animals here!” Mr. Hidaka had been told that the PAC had another camp in Tanzania where military training was being conducted but his informant had refused to reveal its whereabouts.
THE JAPAN TANZANIA ASSOCIATION
Later I heard that there is in Japan an association like the Britain-Tanzania Association with a similar name – the Japan-Tanzania Association. I called the Tanzanian Embassy in Tokyo to find out its address. On contacting them I learnt that it had been established as long ago as 1978. The Association’s membership comprises 26 Japanese companies with business ties to Tanzania and includes three former Japanese ambassadors to the country. The Chairman is Mr. K. Ikeda, President of the Nippon Koei Co. Ltd whose offices house the Association. They produce an annual newsletter – usually a single or a double sheet; half is in English and half in Japanese.
A TANZANIAN EXHIBITION IN TOKYO
At the beginning of this year a photograph appeared in the ‘Japan Times’ showing the opening ceremony of a Tanzanian exhibition in Tokyo. It was being held from February 1st to March 3rd 1989 and was the first Tanzanian exhibition organised by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) for sixteen years. So I decided to go and have a look.
On arrival, because I wasn’t sure what to do and because most of the people seemed to be gathered there, I went first to the shop. There was a good display of Tanzanian products for sale. I bought a bracelet and also a greetings card made from Tanzanian paper to send to the Editor to indicate that I was doing my best!
By this time I was quite relaxed and ventured into the main hall of the exhibition. It wasn’t very large – about the size of two fair sized rooms. I saw a beautiful large scale photograph of Kilimanjaro, an exhibition of Tanzanian paper, jewellery, leatherwork and there were two video tapes. I was given two glossy brochures full of beautiful pictures and informative articles. There weren’t many people at the exhibition but those who were there stayed a long time.
I learnt that there remains a heavy imbalance in trade between the two countries. Japan exports (mostly vehicles, electrical goods and machinery) almost ten times what it imports (mainly coffee but also shellfish, fabrics, sisal, various raw materials and animal products). For us Tanzania is the 51st most important export country; for imports to Japan Tanzania stands in the 101st position.
Included in one of the brochures was guidance to potential Japanese tourists. Prices were said to be very high but with recent devaluation it was becoming cheaper. A typical eleven day tour costs about £2,000. Potential tourists were warned that there is only one radio station in Tanzania – in Japan we have nine! – and television can only be seen in Zanzibar. The most popular souvenirs as far as Japanese visitors are concerned are Makonde sculpture and painting (there is a Makonde museum in Nagoya, Japan’s third most important city) batiks and Zanzibar chests.
Twenty Tanzanian firms had taken stands at the exhibition. I spoke to a representative of JETRO and showed him a copy of the Bulletin of Tanzanian Affairs. He was very impressed because it was being produced by British people interested in Tanzania on a voluntary basis. He implied that this was something more likely to happen in Britain than in Japan where commercial motivations were very pronounced. The representative said that the Tanzanian exhibition was the most successful one they had organised during the last year in terms of sales from the exhibition shop.
THE SAVANNAH CLUB
He also told me that the real centre of activity for Japanese interested in Tanzania is the Savannah Club in Tokyo. This was established some twelve years ago and attracts lots of Japanese businessmen, photographers, air hostesses, anthropologists and others who have been to or love East Africa. It is a social club with some seven hundred members which meets every two months and has visiting speakers on East African subjects. They publish an eight page journal every two months. The issue I saw contained articles on their 82nd meeting, new books, including one on chimpanzees in Tanzania, and their Christmas party at which the Tanzanian Ambassador and his wife had apparently been the first on the dance floor ! The Chairman is Mr. Yukio Togawa, a well-known writer. I was put in contact with Mrs. Kitamura, one of the members of the club, and it was through her help that I was able to meet Mrs Uno who later provided a personal memoir of her period in Tanzania. (This is given below in a rather abridged form because of space limitations – Editor).
TANZANIA AND I
First I would be most happy if you could know that here in Japan there are so many persons like me who are interested in and love Tanzania.
As for the relations between Tanzania and I, I have to go back to the year 1967 when I started my voluntary activity as one of the members of the Japanese Overseas Volunteer Cooperation – JOVC. I stayed in Dar es Salaam teaching housewives (who are not high society women) sewing at the biggest community centre. At that time, as Japan had almost no relations with Tanzania and had no colonies in Africa, Japanese people, except a few knew only that Tanzania is the country of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, the land of Masai and wild animals by reading books and seeing pictures.
When I was dispatched there by the Japanese government as a member of the first group of JOVC, my friends asked me why I chose that country in Africa and advised me I had better stay here in Japan. However, as soon as I stepped out in Tanzania I found that almost all the preconceptions that Japanese had about Tanzania were wrong. Really, seeing is believing.
I was much impressed with the hospitality that Tanzanians showed me. Human relations full of love that I could recognise easily; their greetings in Swahili to respect others, especially the aged; the traditional way of living and cheerful and open minded nature. I felt some similarity in their attitude, philosophy and customs compared with the ones that old Japanese had and it made me feel at home.
Although they were not rich at that time they seemed to know how to enjoy life and to have special talents in making things turn to good condition with their originality and inventions, things we have forgotten for a long time in our developed society. The words ‘pole pole’ in Swahili mean slowly and before my departure from Japan I was told Tanzanian people do everything ‘pole pole’ and there is no development at all. But when I got there, although it was sometimes true, I found that quite often things had to be done ‘haraka haraka’ (quick, quick). Moreover I recognised that people were clever enough to do things as well as people in the developed countries. Opposition to them is for the reason that because of their lack of education in colonial days foreigners assumed that they had neither common sense nor cleverness.
My Tanzanian students invited me often to their houses. I should say often it was not a house but a room (housing situation was very bad at that time); even if there was only one fish with them for five family members they warmly welcomed me always. Really I had a splendid time with them, eating Ugali by hand ….. I still have beautiful memories, especially their broad and warm heart. I must say that these good relations with them were caused by Swahili language which I had used instead of English during all my stay. If I had used English they would not have treated me as a friend nor showed me their real ideas or life. Truly they had keen eyes to judge whether this man is good or enemy. All of this came about because of their detestable time under colonialism. Without me speaking their national language this good relationship with them would never have existed.
Of course I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, crossed Lake Victoria, did safari in many national parks and enjoyed African dance and music. After returning to my mother country I started my new life by working at Radio Japan (The Japanese National Broadcasting Corporation’s overseas programme) Swahili section and my new relation with Tanzania also started. I found that Japanese still had biased imagination against Africa, so, in order to let them know the real situation in Tanzania I have written a book in Japanese under the title ‘My Beloved Tanzanian Mamas’.
In 1970 the World Exposition was held in Osaka, Japan and Tanzania took part. Then James Ikanga, a famous marathon runner, visited Japan several times and thus the name of Tanzania became much more well known in Japan.
More than that , Japanese assistance to Tanzania has increased. The number of JOCV volunteers has increased each year to more than 600 now. Similarly, students from Tanzania have come to Japan invited by the government and private companies. Members of the Savannah Club have bought patrol cars and binoculars for East African game parks.
I myself have visited Tanzania many times privately. When I visited Tanzania about six years ago I felt so sorry for Tanzanians for they were having a very hard time to live because of the lack of daily necessities and water, a Sunday driving ban due to lack of petrol and increased crime on the streets. People had to make a line to buy sugar and rice! They looked very sad and tired out with life. In the national parks I saw many carcasses because of the famine. In these bad conditions people lived by helping each other, dividing foods and other things among them.
Last year I had a chance to visit Tanzania again. My friend had started collecting money for the partial renovation of the UWT hostel building in Dar es Salaam by selling telephone cards (which are used here instead of coins in public telephone boxes). Each card costs 800 Yen (£3.50) of which 300 is a contribution. In two years the campaign has raised seven million Yen. UWT women welcomed us and we had a really nice time with them.
Throughout this trip I felt at ease as I could see that people were happier than at the last time though life is still not so comfortable and many troubles are not yet resolved. The town had become more beautiful and neater than before, and at the port there were so many ships at anchor. People had regained their smiles and become more vivid.
Thinking of my good friends of Tanzania who are living so far away from Japan I can’t stop praying for their happiness and prosperity.
Midori Uno Hitomi
Mrs KEIKO COLLINS teaches English in five universities in Tokyo. She has also translated some 17 books into Japanese.
Mrs MIDORI UNO has been employed by NHK Radio Japan – the Japanese equivalent of the BBC’s World Service.