Japanese journo puts AO horror on global stage

Published: 26/02/2009 05:00



Journalist Hajime Kitamura (left), his wife (right) with some Vietnamese friends who have helped them raise money for charity.

He may be living in Australia now, but Japanese Hajime Kitamura can’t stay away from Viet Nam for long.

The retired journalist and his wife make several visits to Viet Nam every year, to raise money for disabled and poor kids and collect documents that will help them in their mission to bring justice to Agent Orange (AO) victims in Viet Nam.

Hajime first came to the Viet Nam in 1991, and was appointed chief of Japan’s Asahi Television bureau in Ha Noi in 1994. Since then he has been a high-profile figure in bringing the plight of post-war Viet Nam to a global audience and helping raise money for the country’s poor people.

One of the journalist’s most celebrated acts of philanthropy is the fund he set up ten years ago in his homeland to help Agent Orange Victims and children in need in Viet Nam. So far the charity, Shizuoka, has raised around US$300,000.

Action man

Hajime Kitamura was born in 1941 in Osaka, Japan. After graduating from Kikon University in 1964, he got a job working for Asahi Television. He first came to Viet Nam in 1991 to work on a documentary film in Lang Son Province describing the life of ordinary Vietnamese people after the war.

Hajime’s work led him to research and meet those affected by one of the most poignant legacies of the war – birth defects caused by the defoliant Agent Orange, a herbicide that was sprayed over stretches of jungle by US troops during the war. The journalist was so moved by the hardships faced by AO victims, he appealed to friends and family at home in Japan to donate money to help them.

Since 1995, the Shizuoka fund has sent a representative to Viet Nam every year to donate money to Vietnamese children.

During the trips, the Shizuoka delegation visit homes for disabled and orphaned children in Ha Noi, Thanh Hoa, Bac Giang, Thai Binh and Phu Tho Provinces. Hajime’s charity encourages people to donate wheelchairs, hearing-aids and computers to help kids at these centres. He has also invited Japanese music therapists to treat disabled children. His work even extended to supporting Vietnamese AO victims with their lawsuits against the US chemical companies that produced the herbicide.

Hajime left Viet Nam in 1997 to work for Asahi Television’s bureau in Sydney, Australia. He retired in 2001, but kept working as a freelance journalist.

Although he was no longer based in the Southeast Asian country, he still had close ties with Viet Nam.

Hajime and his wife returned to Viet Nam last August and immediately headed off to orphanages and centres for poor kids in Bac Giang, Thai Binh, Ninh Binh Provinces, and Huu Nghi (Friendship) Village in Ha Noi.

The couple visited and helped local families in these provinces buy breeding pigs to beef up their farms. They also raised money to help poor kids get a university education, says Le Duc Thanh, an officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Whenever he leaves Viet Nam, Hujime asks me to keep helping him rally funds for the charity,” Thanh says.

War stories

Hajime has published two books on Viet Nam, including the US’ Chemical Warfare Crime: Testimonies of Agent Orange Victims in Viet Nam published in 2005 in Tokyo. He plans to release a third book on the Viet Nam war by the end of this year.

Hajime was also very moved by the diaries of doctor Dang Thuy Tram, who was killed during the American War. Tram’s diary was saved by a US soldier and eventually published in 2005 in Vietnamese and 2007 in English.

Hajime insisted Thanh buy him the book then asked a Vietnamese student in Japan to translate it into Japanese so the journalist could sell it in his homeland. His efforts eventually paid off.

“I’m pleased Japanese people have the chance to hear Tram’s story,” he says.

Although he currently lives in Australia, Thanh says his friend Hujime is looking into ways to stay longer in Viet Nam.

“All the people Hajime has helped hope he will be able to fulfil his dream and come and live here,” Thanh says.


Provide by Vietnam Travel

Japanese journo puts AO horror on global stage - Profiles - In depth |  vietnam travel company

You can see more

enews & updates

Sign up to receive breaking news as well as receive other site updates!

Ads by Adonline