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     Volume 5 Issue 89 | April 7, 2006 |

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A Japanese Lover of Bangladesh

Morshed Ali Khan

When Reverend Funato Yashitaka first arrived in Dhaka from Tokyo in 1980, his friend in Dhaka somehow missed the telegram about his arrival and failed to receive him at the airport. Funato spent the night at ZIA. Next day he hired a scooter for an exorbitant fare to arrive at his friend's address in the city.

For Funato Yashitaka, Executive Director of the Asia Christian Education Fund (ACEF) and the Chairperson of the Japan NGO Centre for International Cooperation, the bitter experience with the scooter driver never faded away, but neither did it deter him from returning to Bangladesh for over fifty times ever since. Since 1980 Funato has relentlessy worked to enhance relationship between the people on the two countries.

A humble man in his seventies, Reverend Yashitaka is now going into retirement in his native country Japan but he vows to work for the rest of his life for the betterment of Bangladesh. At an office of the Basic Development Partner (BDP) in Tongi, an educational NGO he had helped set up in Bangladesh over the last 25 years. yashitaka talked about his lang attachunent to this country. With funds from ACEF, BDP now runs 64 independent primary schools with 11,319 students, employing 284 teachers in five districts of the country.

On the very first day in Bangladesh Funato took a pedal steamer to Barisal to see how a Japanese nurse was working with the local medical care facility there.

"The Japanese nurse was training some midwives but I noticed that none of the trainees could read or write, they were only trying to memorise what was being taught," Funato says.

"At this moment I thought only memorising could give wrong message and these people needed to read and write for a better understanding of the subject," Funato describes how that day he vowed to work for establishing educational facilities in Bangladesh.

Over the last 25 years Funato has returned to Bangladesh at least twice a year, encouraging hundreds of Japanese tourists to discover the 'real' Bangladesh.

Since 1991 Funato has organised two study tours a year to Bangladesh for Japanese educationists and students.

"You know what I think of the people here," he continues with a smile, "they are the most hospitable people on earth."

"In the eighties I found many places in Bangladesh without electreicity or roads, but now the country has come a long way. We need to have hope and vision for the future." Funato says.

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