FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (Kyodo) Touring Pacific islands for three years proved a turning point in the life of Kazuyoshi Ogawa, a former radio program director who used to work many hours of overtime.
He now lives in Funafuti, capital of Tuvalu, a nation of atolls and coral islands in the Western Pacific that has drawn world attention as it faces being submerged by rising sea levels due to global warming.
Ogawa, 49, is a specialist in charge of coordinating a variety of Japanese assistance programs and a development policy adviser to the Tuvalu government in Funafuti, located on a small island whose average elevation is less than 1.5 meters above sea level.
He was sent there by the Japan International Cooperation Agency on a year’s assignment that has just been extended for another year because Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia has placed confidence in him.
Ogawa visits Ielemia without an appointment and talks about measures to deal with the erosion of the seashore and disaster prevention.
He describes Tuvalu as a “wonderful country where people don’t cheat each other and don’t expect others to return good will with favors.”
He toured the Pacific islands for three years after quitting his radio job, during which he often put in 200 hours of overtime a month. “I wanted to be of help to make islanders happy,” he said in a recent interview.
He wrote a book on his travels and became a researcher at the nonprofit Japan Institute for Pacific Studies based in Tokyo.
Ogawa said sometimes the telephones in Tuvalu don’t work and the tap water is rainwater preserved in tanks.
“Everything is uncertain,” he said. “Airplanes sometimes don’t fly. Those who go to an outlying island by ship sometimes cannot return because of bad weather. Such things don’t bother people. Meanwhile no one gets mad when I suddenly try to see someone without an appointment.”
He said people in Tuvalu and the surrounding islands have many things in common with Japanese, pointing out that they “abhor confrontation, let the flow of time resolve problems, are polite and take their shoes off at home.”
Ogawa is joined by his wife and their 6-year-old daughter under swaying coconut trees on holidays.
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