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FEATURE: Diary from 1930s gives vivid account of Afghanistan.

YAMAGUCHI, Japan, March 1 Kyodo

Afghan experts say a diary written by a Japanese farm official who spent time in Afghanistan in the 1930s contains valuable information about life in the central Asian nation before it was thrown into decades of conflict and war.

Mitsuo Ozaki, who died at age 83 in 1985, left his diary totaling more than a dozen volumes in which he documented his impression of Afghanistan during the three years he was there as a farm expert at the invitation of the Afghan government.

Ozaki's adopted son Yukinori found the diary and expressed his hopes that its release will be useful for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Ozaki, who was an official of the predecessor to the present Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, and his wife Suzuko went to the landlocked country in October 1935 during the period when Afghanistan was pressing ahead with a modernization drive under King Mohammad Zahir Shah.

Yukinori, 67, said he was pained by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban last March and the U.S.-led military operation against the Taliban and al-Qaida members following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Those events led him to search for new items last October that his father had left behind and stumble upon the diary. Sixteen years ago Yukinori spotted photographs of Afghanistan and its people that the late Ozaki had taken.

According to Kosaku Maeda, a Wako University professor of the history of Asian culture who is well-versed in the history of Afghanistan, Ozaki's day-to-day record is highly valuable because there is not much historical material on the modern history of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was laid waste following the former Soviet Union's invasion of the country in 1979 and the ensuing drought and conflicts. Also, according to researchers, there are very few books and other materials recording prewar Afghanistan available in the world.

They said Ozaki's diary could become valuable historical material for nation building in Afghanistan.

Japan and Afghanistan established diplomatic relations in 1931, four years before Ozaki went there to teach Afghans fruit cultivation and tree planting.

His daily journal included parts that featured a journey to Kandahar and a visit to Jalalabad. Some of the diary reads much like a tourist guidebook, describing wedding ceremonies and funeral rites, Afghan customs and consumer prices in Kabul.

In one of the passages, he wrote: ''A farmer goes to the field early in the morning, driving donkeys while playing a cross flute. (The Afghans) are the people who love music very much.''

He also said that the ''Afghan people laid carpets at teahouses and placed Samovars in front at a festival. They also pitched tents just like Japanese teahouses do during the cherry blossom viewing season.''

His self-made Japanese-Persian dictionary has also been found, indicating he studied the language after he arrived in Afghanistan.

The photographs Ozaki took include those of the Bamiyan Buddhas, women in burqas, nomad tents as well as scenes of wheat harvests, cotton fields, and vineyards illustrating Afghan farmers' self-sufficiency.

Ozaki retired from the ministry following his return home and worked in an agricultural experimental station in his native Yamaguchi Prefecture. His wife died in 1990.

According to Maeda, ''There is almost no record of agriculture and nature in Afghanistan in the 1930s because it was before modern technology was introduced into the country.''

''(Ozaki's daily log) may serve as an important clue to the restoration of Afghanistan. Mr. Ozaki mentioned rites that indicated native Islamic worship (and) indicated the traditional culture of Pashtuns. (His diary) is very interesting from the anthropological standpoint,'' Maeda added.

Mitsuji Fukumoto, a director of Peshawar-Kai which is a nongovernmental organization active since 1984 in offering medical treatment to 200,000 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Ozaki's chronicle is a ''very valuable record.''

Fukumoto, who is a representative of a publishing company, also said he is considering publishing photographs Ozaki took while he was in Afghanistan.

In addition to providing medical service, Fukuoka City-based Peshawar-Kai has been digging wells in about 600 places in the war-torn country since 2000.

Farm villages in the country ravaged by years of drought and the chaos resulting from the civil war are on the brink of desertification, he said, adding that the restoration of Afghanistan must come in the form of the resurgence of agricultural society because about 90% of the people are farmers.

''The country must bring water back to the villages,'' he said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 4, 2002
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