Dated on Apr. 20, 2004 from Kashiwa

/ Back and forth between Cambodia and Japan /

I went back and forth between Cambodia and Japan, before and after the performance of the traditional Cambodian dance "APSARA" by the Cambodian girls. From February to April, the temperature rises rapidly and the air becomes dry in Cambodia. This is the hottest time of the year and the temperature hit 42 for several days. We expected that we would have rain but there was not a single drop during the time.
I was leaving Cambodia on April 9th this year, and I heard the first news of the Japanese hostages in Iraq. I myself have had horrible experiences time and time again. Also those horrible experiences happened to people around me. Some were taken hostages and released later. Some others were killed. Since the Iraq hostage situation, we often hear the word, "Self Responsibility." Even when you follow the advice of the embassy, incidents inevitably happen. I have always had this in mind and have taken the best measures not to be involved in trouble. I have done so not only for myself but because I think my actions represent Japan.
When an armed uprising occurred in Cambodia in 1997, I left for Cambodia with a ticket which cost double the usual and my entry visa was supposed to be guaranteed. I waited for the right time, flew to Vietnam and what I saw there was a certain airline company selling a ticket to Japan for nearly 100 thousand yen!!
When you are surrounded by warfare, the first thing you should do is to leave the place. Of course you have to pay for the wartime special fare (which is outrageously expensive) yourself.
The next year my car was stolen by an armed gang. We were relieved that the car was the only thing we lost. I went to the safety meeting at the embassy to apologize for causing trouble.
Back in 1993 when Mr. Nakata, a member of the United Nation Volunteer (UNV) was shot to death, all the volunteers were convened to Phnom Penh, and were told, "U.N. cannot guarantee your safety. And we do not assume that the General Election will finish without any trouble. If you have any anxiety, it is better to go back to your country." Security guards accompanied me when I arrived in Campot which was designated as the danger area. I was shouldering the responsibility of self-protection in case of a crisis and also the burden of the Japanese government's alarming reaction.
Your being involved in an incident means it causes trouble to other people. Anyway, it was a relief to hear that the Japanese hostages were all released safely.
Before the PKO was staged, during the Gulf War, Japanese UNVs were dispatched there. It was then that the Japanese government stated that these volunteers were outside of the government's protection. This idea shocked me and I realized "Nobody but me protects me." I told my family, "If I were ever held hostage, never pay the ransom." This is necessary to prevent other abduction cases. Maybe war is a time which allows heinous acts like taking hostages and demanding ransom.


/ Friendship between Japan and Cambodia /

"KIZUNA" bridge is the one which runs across the Mekong River, built with ODA by Japan. Local people seem to think that "KIZUNA" is a person's name(it actually means "a bond"). ASAC is also trying hard to strengthen the bond between the countries.
I enjoyed the article on the "APSARA" dancing performance that appeared in a Cambodian newspaper with two photos, though I was embarrassed by the girls' comments that the happiest memory was that they saw snow in the "Monkey Town." They were saying that they couldn't see any cows or pigs in Japan. So maybe monkeys reminded them of their country.
Our staff member, Seila's wedding also appeared in a newspaper with a color picture. Both stories were referred to as heart-warming as there have been lots of horrible incidents recently.
10 people in six different groups visited me during my stay in Cambodia. We also had media coverage to introduce our activities. As I met different guests every day, I felt that the bond between Japan and Cambodia was becoming stronger.

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