Syria on a shoestring: Japanese tourist on the frontline of Syria’s war zone
Most people yearn for a break from the stress of daily life when planning their holiday. Sun-soaked sandy beaches or lush mountain ranges are an easy trade for the chaos and noise of the city. But tranquility and relaxation are not for everyone.
Toshifumi Fujimoto’s holiday album is anything but boring. The 45-year-old Japanese truck driver by day has traded sandals and sand for the combat fatigues and chaos of touring the Middle East’s conflict zones.
Photos published on his Facebook page show him posing with masked rebels in Aleppo, Syria, the mutilated corpses of civilian victims, and even shooting an assault rifle himself.
Fujimoto speaks very little English and no Arabic, so an interview he did with the Agence France Presse had to be conducted through Google Translate.
He has no immediate family, save for three daughters whom he hasn’t seen for several years. In the interview with AFP, he says he took out a life insurance policy before heading to Turkey en route to Syria, so that if something happens to me, my girls might collect the insurance money and be able to live comfortably.”
He dresses like a combatant, in camouflage fatigues, but forsakes the heavy armour and helmets members of the press wear because he says he needs to be light on his feet.
“I’m not a target for snipers because I’m a tourist, not like you journalists,” he said. “Besides, I’m not afraid if they shoot at me or that they might kill me. I’m a combination of samurai and kamikaze.”
Before touring the pock-marked streets of northern Syria, Fujimoto visited Yemen during demonstrations at the US Embassy, and Egypt during protests to oust the long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.
It can be lonely on the front line, he says, as “no tour guide wants to go”. He previously went to Syria on a tourist visa in late 2011, but this time had to sneak across the border from neighboring Turkey.
Next stop? Tea with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Do you think Fujimoto is brave for what he is doing? Or does this smack of the worst kind of disaster tourism? Let us know your thoughts below.