focuses on scars of war
Yasufumi Murayama first visited Viet Nam 11 years ago.
|In the frame:
Self portrait of Yasufumi Murayama. — File Photo
Yasufumi took this photo in Quang Ngai Province last year. Truong Thi Le
was one of the three members of her family to survive the My Lai
massacre in 1968. When American soldiers arrived, she hid her children
but her daughter was dragged out, raped and killed in front of her.
HCM CITY — It is 11
years since Japanese photojournalist Yasufumi Murayama first visited Viet Nam.
He was on a tour that took him to a photo exhibition at the War Remnants Museum
in HCM City.
Despite meeting a few
unfriendly people and not knowing anything about Viet Nam, he was instantly
attracted to the country.
"I used a handicam
then and did not think of taking photographs about people suffering due to the
"But right afterwards
I wondered why I didn’t take photos about the country and street children or
write about the country."
Now, after 28 visits,
Yasufumi has many friends here and has had many stories about Viet Nam published
in his country.
The 41-year-old has
100,000 photos about the country and its people.
He says a photojournalist
should choose a single country to explore and Viet Nam has been his choice.
"I promised myself that Viet Nam is the only country I will learn about
during the rest of my life."
"I love Viet Nam as
if loving a girl; that’s why I keep coming here. My wife isn’t at all
jealous and … I’ll bring her next month."
Amazingly, despite his 28
visits, he has never been in some major cities likes Ha Noi, Hue and Da Nang
though he has gone almost everywhere else in the country. He prefers to visit
the countryside where there are so many victims of the war and Agent Orange
dioxin, chemicals used by the US forces to defoliate forests during the American
"Maybe the final
place I’ll visit in Viet Nam at the end of my life is Ha Noi. Despite coming
many times, there are many things about the country I don’t know."
To help his compatriots
know more about Viet Nam and its people, Yasufumi has organised so many
exhibitions at home he can’t remember how many. His best estimate is between
100 and 200.
"Many visitors come
to me and say they visited Viet Nam but what they saw in my photos was totally
His explanation? "The
war has not really ended in Viet Nam since so many still suffer its
That is one reason why he
wants to share the images he captures with students from Japan and throughout
"I took the photos to
universities in Japan to show students who don’t know about the wars in Japan
or Viet Nam."
In 2004, he joined a
campaign to support the victims of Agent Orange, collecting 1,000 signatures in
a month. He is nurturing an idea of a similar campaign and getting more
"I used to lead a
life of poverty in my childhood. After coming to Viet Nam and meeting Agent
Orange victims, I feel I am luckier."
In September 2006, he took
a Vietnamese girl to Japan for an operation. Do Thuy Duong, then 18, underwent a
major surgery at the Kyoto University Hospital to fit prosthetic body parts to
replace those damaged by the deadly chemicals.
Revisiting My Lai
The War Remnants Museum on
Monday displayed about 60 photos capturing images of the war and subsequent
changes in the country taken by him and his friend and photojournalist,
Nishimura Yoichi, to commemorate Viet Nam’s War Invalids and Martyrs Day (July
In his third photo
exhibition in Viet Nam, Yasufumi brings stark images from present-day Son My
Village in the central region where the brutal My Lai massacre took place 41
Five hundred and four
unarmed villagers were butchered by US troops in one of the darker chapters of
conflict anywhere in the world.
The exhibition also
showcases the rejuvenation of the country in the last 34 years through images of
the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in HCM City and rubber forests in
neighbouring Tay Ninh Province.
Both areas were pummeled
by American B-52 bombers during the war.
"The thing I like
best is Viet Nam has designated a day to remember martyrs and victims,"
Yasufumi said, adding it is meaningful to organise the exhibition in August.
On August 15 1945, the war
ended in Japan; on August 6 and 9 the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki; in Viet Nam, the US began spraying Agent Orange on August 10.
The exhibition runs for a
month. — VNS