'Japanese Inuit' warns of climate change danger
BY TSUYOSHI TAKEDA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
As the fields of ice surrounding his home rapidly become thinner, Ikuo Oshima knows firsthand that the effects of global warming are not a problem of the distant future, but a present danger.
It was the vast fields of the Arctic ice where Oshima, 61, managed to feed and raise five children, hunting walruses and seals and riding his dogsled. And that self-sustainable life has allowed him to become a member of the Inuit indigenous community in Siorapaluk, Greenland, the northernmost inhabited settlement on the planet.
"I have only to thank the frozen sea for providing me with its bounty," Oshima said.
Oshima, a former member of the Nihon University alpinist club, first visited the area when he was 25, to prepare for an expedition in the Arctic region.
There he learned to handle a dogsled and hunt, living with the world-renowned explorer and alpinist Naomi Uemura (1941-1984), who was preparing to reach the North Pole.
Eventually Oshima married a local woman, acquired a taste for eating raw meat, and was accepted into the community. For more than 30 years, he has made Siorapaluk his home.
In the beginning, he struggled at successfully hunting animals, but his determination "not to let my family starve to death" won over the hearts of others, and the "Japanese Inuit" eventually became a community elder.
Younger Inuit gather at his home to learn to build sleds and tan hides. His dexterity at creating seal skin whips used in dogsledding has won him a reputation, and he receives about 100 orders from all over Greenland.
"Elders before me taught me how to use traps and the gun. I am happy to be able to return that favor today," Oshima said.
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