Tajima Shinji is a author and chairman of the ICLC (International Center for Literacy and Culture ), Tokyo. He is also a creator of literacy and educational materials in Asia.
Tajima Shinji was born in Hiroshima, Japan. In 1973 he graduated from the Waseda University in Tokyo and he continued his research the educational philosophy in Germany and India. From 1977 to 1997 he worked at the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) on a number of literacy and book development programmes, as the Director in Asia and Pacific region. And after ACCU he worked at the Prime Minister’s Literacy Commission(PMLC), Islamabad as an JICA advisor for establishing Non-Formal education for three years(1997-2000)
International Center for Literacy and Culture (ICLC), was established by Tajima and friends in Tokyo in 1997, for the promotion of literacy and culture in the world. ICLC is a multi-national non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) comprised mainly of volunteers.
The objectives of ICLC are to (1) promote harmony and solidarity among people in the world through joint works on literacy and culture; (2) encourage marginalized/disadvantaged people, especially children and women through transferring information and innovative skills and knowledes; and (3) share and exchange views and techniques with various organizations within countries and all over the world for the joint works.
Tajima has attracted international attention as an creative author. His books have been translated into 28 languages and published in 18 countries in Asia. Three main publications were published from the Oxford University Press. Tajima’s works combine educational value with reading pleasure. "Learning should be fun, reading should be entertaining. This stimulates the imagination and a good education is a function of a well-developed imagination."
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142 page Full colour
142 page Full colour
1996年「Gaudi's Ocean」 Illustrated by A. Ramachandran Gold prize of APPA
Dinosaur of the Desert 20th Cultural Publishing Prize of Koudansha
10 Wood Cutter Special Recommendation Prize as Cultural Property
One of the main themes in his stories is the careless way we treat our planet. Human characteristics such as greed for power and environmental irresponsibility are exposed by the animal protagonists. For example, the giant sea turtle in 'Gaudi’s Ocean' (1993), who manages to escape back to the ocean after spending 40 years imprisoned in an aquarium and realizes with horror that its habitat, once so beautiful, is now severely polluted and that its inhabitants have contracted diseases following an underwater nuclear experiment. The turtle and other animals work together to try to save the ocean.
Although Tajima’s books are mainly intended for young people, they remind readers of all ages that creative implementation of nature conservation and social responsibility with imagination are essential for the survival of humankind. The twelve stories in 'Cloud Tales' (1999) take readers on a journey through several centuries and countries including India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Germany, Japan and Papua New Guinea. His short story 'The Lonely Fox' (1988) has been adapted for the stage. Tajima received the 20th Kodansha Prize for Publishing Culture for 'The Dinosaur of the Desert' (1989), the Award for the Social development and contribution.
International Center for Literacy and Culture (ICLC), was established in Tokyo in 1997, for the promotion of literacy and culture in the world. ICLC is a multi-national non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) comprised mainly of volunteers. More specifically, it is a network of members of ICLC in the world.
The ICLC has been growing worldwide mainly in Asia-most notably Japan, China, Korea, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand as well as in the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Europe.ICLC has been promoting cooperative projects and activities internationally in various areas, including investigation, research,training, production, and evaluation in educational, cultural and environmental settings, based on needs and problems of each country.
In the 21st century, one of the most important concerns will be to establish and foster deep communication among cultures, and develop values to promote more humanistic and tolerant societies. Beyond reading, writing and arithmetic skills, a variety of ways for communication such as oral traditions, artistic skills, computer skills are required. The focus of ICLC is the promotion of "human literacy" and peace.
Tajima's Crying for all creatures through the environmental issues
The Story of a Great Sea Turtle - Gaudi's Ocean
This was reported by Yomiuri Evening News
In 1973 Tajima came upon a turtle in a Tokyo aquarium that inspired him to write the book "Gaudi's Ocean - The Story of a Great Sea Turtle." Tajima watched the turtle, which appeared to be sick, and in a rare and intimate moment of eye contact it seemed to make a plea for its freedom. The writer's first instinct was to aid the turtle's escape, but recalling events such as the Minamata mercury poisoning incident that disabled a number of residents around the bay in Kumamotoken, Tajima began considering the ethics of freeing the turtle in such a hazardous environment.
Tajima has since 1977 been involved in a number of literacy and book development projects in Asia and the Pacific. He has worked as the director at the Asian/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO(ACCU),Tokyo, for over twenty years. Tajima is a creative writer of international repute and has authored a number of books for people of all ages. Some of his short stories have been produced on CD-ROM and have also been animated for television broadcasting. and dramatized in Japan, India and Korea. He has received a number of awards, including the Kodansha Prize for Publishing Culture (1989)and others.
In the story, Gaudi, a giant sea turtle that lives in an aquarium on the 100th floor of a skyscraper, dreams of returning to his ocean home of 40 years ago. But when he finally manages to escape, Gaudi finds the sea is lifeless and poisoned by dumped waste and fall-out from nuclear tests. While searching for a pristine ocean, Gaudi meets and marries Lotti, a female turtle weakened by exposure to nuclear testing. Determined to restore Lotti's health, Gaudi embarks on a noble quest to find the "tree of life" that possesses a nectar capable of healing all sickness. But before he finds the tree, Gaudi finds another nuclear testing site.
"A gigantic change is taking place and we do not even realize it. But nature will not expose the change, we must find it ourselves …. Through the eyes of the turtle," said Tajima, who has been involved in developing literacy materials for people in the Asia-Pacific region since 1977.
"Everything is connected to water. And everything we do to the water will come back to haunt us," Tajima said, adding that he has seen growing pollution throughout his Asian travels.
Rivers and oceans have been polluted by chemicals used in agriculture, and the poisoned water eventually began affecting the health of the people eating the produce cultivated by countries striving to feed their economies, he said.The book has since been published in 27 languages in Asia and Pacific.
Born in Miyoshi, Hiroshima-ken, 70 kilometers northeast of Hiroshima toward the Chugoku mountain range, Tajima said he has been drawn to the ocean as a source of all life. Although he is not from Hiroshima city, the target of the first atomic bombing, he became aware of nuclear dangers as a fourth-grade student in 1954 after seeing a movie about the Daigo Fukuryu Maru incident, in which a Japanese fishing boat was exposed to fall out from a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Island. All 23 crew members fell ill or died from the fallout.
Nuclear testing, a devastated environment and cruelty to animals inspired Tajima to express his sorrow at what we have done to the planet, and as a means to provide the next generation with a greater understanding of their present and future.
It took him 20 years to complete the story, said Tajima, who also authored "The Legend of Planet Surprise", a collection of five short stories published in 1988. "Planet Surprise" has been published in more than 20 languages, including Thai, Indonesian Hindi and Urdu.
He said he had initially intended his "Gaudi's Ocean" to end with Gaudi dying, regretting ever having left the aquarium. But he changed his mind and wrote an ending that could offer some promise of hope. Now his story ends with Lotti's clutch of eggs hatching and the baby turtles scampering toward the sea in search of the tree of life.
"Everybody has a tree of life. It is hope we all keep in our hearts", Tajima said.
(by Yomiuri Evening News)
Crying from Afghanistn
Under a Clear Blue Sky
written by Tajima Shinji
Cloud rolled in from somewhere and began to speak.
‘A few years ago I was floating lazily in the sky above Afghanistan. Mountains jutted up from the plains there below me, and squeezed in between two of them was a tiny schoolhouse with a small playground.
In the corner of the playground a small figure was kneeling. It was a boy of about ten years of age, and as I dropped down lower to find out what he might be doing, I could see and hear that he was praying. Yes, and he was facing to the southwest, in the direction of Mecca.
‘ “Oh, God, please hear my prayer! Let the fighting end soon, let my two brothers come home from the war right away, dear God. This village has been burdened with fighting since long I was born, so I do not even know what peace is. Father was killed in battle months before I was born, and Mother has died of sickness. Sister is so very tired because she has to take care of us. Most of the boys here in our village have taken guns and gone off to fight, but I really don’t like fighting at all. I don’t want to kill anybody. No, I just want to grow up to become a soccer player.’
‘The lad went on praying earnestly, even as the sounds of gunfire from another village just over the mountain broke the stillness of the air.’”
Cloud paused, maybe to briefly enjoy the silence in the sky.‘A few minutes later, the boy finished his prayer and stood up, just as five boys of about the same age came out of the schoolhouse. One of them was carrying a brown ball that had long since lost its whiteness through being kicked all around the schoolyard. The boys shouted joyfully as they ran out into the middle of the playground and began to play soccer under the clear blue sky of the warm spring day.
‘A few minutes later, the ball went flying over their heads and out of the schoolyard, rolling across a path and into a bare field. The boy who before had been praying now chased the ball, running like the wind until Suddenly— ‘kaBOOM!’ He went flying up into the air amid the smoke and dust of an explosion, and then fell to lie silent and motionless on the ground. He had stepped on a land mine buried just under the ground surface in the field.‘The other boys rushed over, shouting out his name — “Amir, Amir! Oh, Amir, say something!” but young Amir was unconscious. His friends picked him up and carried him a few hundred yards to the small hospital in the village.
‘I moved along overhead with them, whispering a prayer of my own for the unfortunate boy who had shared his prayer with me. One of the boys ran to bring Amir’s sister, and he was still lying silent on an old and simple bed when she arrived. She called his name, cried and prayed until he finally opened his eyes.
‘ “Oh, praise God! Amir, you have come back to us! You were unconscious for hours. We have all been so worried, and even now your uncles are on their way here to see about you.”
‘Amir looked up at the faces surrounding the bed- — his sister, friends Tariq, Shahid, Faqir, Jacob — and then suddenly winced and groaned as he felt a sharp pain above his knee in his right leg. He reached down to touch his leg. “Aiiii! My leg! What, oh, where is my leg? Sister, my right leg! My leg! Oh, no, no!”
‘Even though he could recall nothing about what had happened that day, the boy knew. Three of his young friends had lost legs in land mine explosions.
‘ “Oh, Sister, Where is my leg?! Ahhhh, no more soccer?! Waaaaahhhhhhhhhh...!’ ” Poor Amir cried and cried, loudly, and with big tears rolling down his cheeks. He just could not stop, and nobody would try to stop him from crying his heart out.’
‘I can not truly understand, how could anyone know the immense sadness that poor Amir felt. Only a child who has lost a leg, who has lost the freedom to run and jump, could know the pain of such a loss. What was strong and beautiful is suddenly gone — what a tragedy! No matter how vividly one may imagine the joy of running, jumping or dancing, the true experience is impossible without two legs to do it with.
‘For a few days, I kept an eye on Amir through a window in that small hospital. He would sometimes look out and up at me with eyes full of what was in his heart.
‘In my travels throughout the world, I have seen so many children suffering like Amir was — children with dull expressions of hopelessness on their faces, in Kashmir, Cambodia, Palestine, Africa, . . . .
‘ “Oh, Sister, I can do nothing!’ sobbed Amir. “No soccer with my friends, no work in the village, no more walking to school by myself . . . Am I to grow up to become a beggar, like that one-legged man who always sits by the road in town? That I could not bear — no, I would rather die.”
‘Amir was so depressed night and day by the thought of living without his right leg that he decided to end his life by jumping from his second-floor hospital room. He dragged himself over to the window, and dropped down to land with a thud on the street below. It was his own dear sister who rushed to cradle him in her arms. She had been on her way to visit him in the hospital.
‘ “Amir, oh, Amir!” Sister was sobbing, her tears falling on his face. “What a crazy thing you have done! Why, there are many people who have lost a leg but still go on living and enjoying life.”
‘Although he had injured his back in the fall, Amir survived. He was carried back to his room, where he rested until he was discharged from the hospital a month later. However, he was not at all like the bright and cheerful Amir of the days before his accident and suicide attempt. He seemed unable to concentrate on anything, and never felt like talking to anyone at all.’
Cloud took a break from the narrative to roll into another shape in the sky, then continued.
‘Although I was carried along in the sky by the wind to many interesting places, I would often think of Amir, and wonder how he was doing. Some six months later, I returned to that valley in Afghanistan. I was pleasantly surprised to find Amir in a much improved state of body and mind. It seems that he had heard from a radio program about a training course in computers in a nearby town, and asked his sister to help him apply for enrollment. Although his uncle had mumbled about wasting money on trying to train a one-legged boy to do anything, his sister was determined to give him the opportunity.
‘ “Adults are responsible for the loss of children’s legs. Would they also take away their opportunities for education? Who will show Amir the way to his future?” Sister spoke earnestly about such things to people in the village, and eventually Amir was permitted to enroll in the computer course in the town.
‘Amir was very enthusiastic about his studies, and seemed to have a special talent for working with computers. Before long, he — Amir, the one-legged boy — had surpassed even the older students to become the top student in the class. The teacher always encouraged him, and also gave him lessons in the English language.
‘One day Amir’s sister heard a familiar voice that seemed to leap with confidence and joy. It was Amir, sounding just like he had before his accident.
‘ “Oh, Sister! Guess what! I am now talking with friends from all over the world! Yes, with my computer and the Internet I can communicate with friends in different countries. I have learned that there are countless people like me who have lost one or both of their legs by land mines. Why, every year some 24,000 people throughout the world are killed or maimed by those awful land mines, all because of war.
‘ “I have decided to do my best to help make a world where people do not make war. Already I have sent e-mail messages, and have received replies from young people in many countries. They all talk about growing up to be adults who would never start wars. Like my teacher has said, person-to-person communication is most important. Whatever the problem may be, people can put their minds and hearts together and avoid fighting. Sister, I will fight only to do away with land mines and war!”
Cloud’s voice now also was joyful. ‘Children like Amir with understanding and determination will grow up to be adults that help make this world a planet of peace.’
With that, Cloud floated merrily away and out of sight, maybe back to have another look at Afghanistan.