Bored, lonely Japanese trucker becomes war tourist in Syria

Jan 04, 2013, 07:02 IST | Agencies

Japanese trucker Toshifumi Fujimoto is bored with his humdrum job, a daily run from Osaka to Tokyo or Nagasaki hauling tanker loads of fuel, water or even chocolate.

Yet while the stocky, bearded 45-year-old could spend his free time getting a jolt of adrenaline by bungee-jumping or shark hunting, he puts his life on the line in a most unusual way. He’s become a war tourist.

War junkie: Toshifumi Fujimoto holds his cameras in front of damaged buses in Aleppo. Pic/AFP

Fujimoto’s passion has taken him from the dull routine of the highway to Syria, where as part of his latest adventure in the Middle East’s hot spots he shoots photos and video while dodging bullets.

He was in Yemen last year during demonstrations at the US embassy and in Cairo a year earlier, during the heady days that followed the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Later this year, he plans to hook up with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Armed with two cameras and a video camera, Fujimoto heads for whatever front line he can every morning.

“I always go by myself, because no tour guide wants to go to the front. It’s very exciting, and the adrenaline rush is like no other,” he said. “It’s more dangerous in Syria to be a journalist than a tourist,” he said, describing how “each morning I walk 200 metres to reach the front, and I’m right there on the firing line with soldiers of the Free Syria Army”.

“It fascinates me, and I enjoy it,” he says, as some FSA fighters stop him to have their picture taken with him.

He takes his time getting his shots right, as the rebels he hangs out with shout from both sides of the street: “Run! Run! There are snipers. Run!”

“I’m not a target for snipers because I’m a tourist, not like you journalists,” he told a reporter. “Besides, I’m not afraid if they shoot at me or that they might kill me.

“I’m a combination of samurai and kamikaze.” Fujimoto is divorced and has three daughters, whom he hasn’t seen for five years. So, he’s bought a life insurance policy, and “I pray every day that, if something happens to me, my girls might collect the insurance money and be able to live comfortably”.                

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