Tour guide becomes Masai warrior’s wife No. 2

by Reuben Kyama

Kyodo

A Japanese woman who has been conducting safaris and excursions for Japanese tourists in East Africa for nearly 10 years has married a Masai warrior in Kenya whom she met and fell in love with a year ago.

Maki Nagamatsu, a tour guide from Kitakyushu, tied the knot in April as the second wife to Jackson ole Seyio, a traditional Masai warrior who never attended school.

The wedding ceremony took place April 9 in a traditional setting in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, renowned for its spectacular variety of wild game.

The wedding was held in accordance with the Masai tradition, with a touch of Japanese as well. Some 40 guests from Japan were among the large number of wedding guests who were treated to a fusion of Japanese and Kenyan food and culture.

“I loved this guy and decided to marry him out of love,” Maki, who is in her late 30s, said recently.

They first met in December 2003 during a ritual ceremony of initiation for young Masai warriors.

Seyio was one of the “morans” — the Masai word for warrior — “graduating” at the time. Maki was guiding a group of Japanese tourists.

Suddenly her group came upon the fascinating ceremony — a rite of passage for young Masai men — in the middle of Masailand.

They took photographs, but Maki got herself something unique and different.

Puzzled by the community’s unending zeal for their traditional beliefs and culture, she admired one of their athletic warriors.

The Masai are a nomadic people who travel across Kenya and Tanzania, moving their large herds of cattle, goats and sheep from one place to another in search of water and pastureland.

They are proud of their traditional culture and before any boy can become a man he must kill a lion with his spear — and then marry.

For Maki, the Masai evoked memories of love and affection.

It was after the first encounter that Maki made a brave move and decided to approach Seyio. Tracing him again in the scattered villages of the Transmara district in Kenya’s vast Rift Valley Province proved a hard task. She spent several days trying to locate her African prince.

“I kept asking everyone I came across if they knew of his home place, but it was not easy,” she said.

When she eventually succeeded in finding her love, she was more than pleased. His home, a traditional mud hut, lies in an arid plateau of sparse grass and thorn bush, surrounded by lions, elephants, giraffes and cheetahs in the serene Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Seyio speaks Kiswahili, a local dialect widely spoken across eastern Africa, which Maki also speaks well, so they use Kiswahili to communicate.

According to Seyio, his new second wife is good and he is optimistic that she will soon adapt to the Masai way of life, just as his first wife, 18-year-old Ankoi Pasei, did.

His two wives, he said, now get on very well. His first wife has borne him two children and he said he would like to have some more with his new Japanese bride.

“Since we got married, I can say she has been a good wife and I hope we can get children,” Seyio said.

The family has allowed Maki to continue working as a tour guide, though she has to be at home when off duty to perform her domestic chores as a second wife and a member of the Masai community.

“We want her to help us develop our community,” said 49-year-old Shadrack ole Seyio, her brother-in-law, a community worker. “She has the ideas and she can even help us build a school here.”

To meet the challenge, Maki is in the process of putting up a traditional mud hut a few meters away from her husband’s homestead in accordance with Masai culture.

She has to contend with long distances trekking home under the hot sun, as well as walk great distances in search of water and firewood.

In the past, Masai warriors have wed British, German and American women in whirlwind love affairs that often culminated in bitter tussles and divorce.

Tough, intelligent and quick learners, many Masai become pre-eminent in almost any field they choose to enter.

Compared with other Kenyan tribes, however, they place little value on formal education. Most boys receive just elementary education and some girls never get to school at all.