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February 28, 2011

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Japanese expat inspired by Confucius teachings

ON Fujio Watari's desk sits the book "The Analects of Confucius." The creases of its pages show that Watari has read it many times.

His passion for China's most celebrated scholar and social philosopher is one reason why Watari resides not far from the Jiading Confucius Temple.

"I love to take a stroll around the temple after work," the Japanese native said. "It completely relaxes my body and mind."

Watari, 52, was born in Fukuoka and graduated in commerce from Meiji University in 1981. But it was not until 2008, when he started work in Jiading District as director of the Shanghai Irie Environmental Technology Co, that the teachings of Confucius became a shining beacon in his life.

While still studying at university, Watari was introduced to the culture and history of China.

"My mentor recommended two books that I should read: 'A History of China' and 'The Analects of Confucius'," Watari recalled. "It took me three years to read the two books and many more years before I could experience China with my own eyes."

Watari said he had heard of Jiading when he was still in Japan.

"There was a show on Japanese TV about the unique bamboo-carving heritage of Jiading," he said. "Before I arrived in China, I had mistakenly thought that Jiading was an ancient town of some sort, surrounded by groves of bamboo."

The 10 or so cameras of different types sitting around his home reveal that Watari also has a passion for photography.

"I love Shanghai," he said. "I love this land and its people. With my camera, I record all these beautiful impressions."

He chuckles when remembering that a friend of his in Japan warned him about the unsafe food and the poor environmental conditions that would greet him when he went to live in China.

That wasn't the case. Watari said he arrived to find little difference between China and Japan except for language.

His collection of photos includes exquisite shots of Xintiandi, the Bund, the Confucius Temple and the Huilongtan Park.

"I take my camera everywhere," he said. "But my photos are not for public showing. I will compile them into a booklet as gifts for my relatives and friends in Japan. They can get to know the real China through my eyes."

Close friends of Watari said he has a big heart where volunteerism is concerned.

Watari said his desire to help others was motivated by the famous words in "The Analects of Confucius": "Seeing good things, try to pursue, being afraid of missing doing them. Seeing evil things, try to avoid, as avoiding putting your hand into the boiling water."

After settling in Jiading, Watari contacted a charity group called Friends. In 2008, he helped make handicrafts, such as origami cranes and necklaces, which were sold to raise about 310,000 yuan (US$47,106) to build a Project Hope school for 150 poor children in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

"Children in Shanghai do not need to worry about having to drop out of school," he said. "But in less developed regions of the country, a child usually takes 10 years to complete a six-year primary school curriculum because poverty forces him/her to work to help the family survive. I want to help children like that."


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