Photos recall Kazuya Ito / Yearlong nationwide tour set to wind up with Tokyo exhibition

December 8, 2009 (THE DAILY YOMIURI): A traveling photo exhibition depicting the activities of Kazuya Ito, an aid worker who was active in Afghanistan, will wind up with a weeklong event in Tokyo opening Thursday.

The "Afghan ni Midori no Daichi o" (To a Green Land in Afghanistan) exhibition began its tour in Ito's hometown of Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, last November and has visited more than 30 locations nationwide from Hokkaido to Okinawa Prefecture.

Ito's father, Masayuki, 62, and mother, Junko, 57, have visited each staging of the exhibition so far.

"The nationwide tour has enabled many people to understand why Kazuya went to Afghanistan," Masayuki said. "I hope to make the Tokyo staging [of the exhibition] a particular milestone."

The touring exhibition has been organized by Peshawar-kai, the Fukuoka-based nongovernmental organization to which Ito belonged.

Ito once said he joined the NGO to help create an "environment in which the children of Afghanistan won't need to worry about being without food in the future."

He went to Afghanistan in 2003 and worked to help develop agriculture in ways such as digging irrigation channels and improving the growing of crops.

On display at the exhibition are about 60 photographs depicting his activities. Many of the photographs show children posing for the foreign visitor's camera, including one of a smiling girl picking flowers in a canola field. About 25,000 people have attended the exhibitions across the nation. Many of them left messages such as "I've learned about the situation in Afghanistan," or "I realized there are strong-willed young people like Ito out there."

"I didn't expect such a response," said Atsushi Hirao, 60, head of the Peshawar-kai's secretariat.

Explaining why he wanted to visit all the exhibition sites, Masayuki said he felt he could not allow the success of the photo exhibition to depend entirely on his son.

Masayuki said he thanked his son after each visit and told him he would come back again.

"I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has supported us," Masayuki said ahead of the final exhibition.

The free exhibition will be held at the fifth-floor event space of the Mont-bell store in Shibuya Ward. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Dec. 16, with doors closing at 5 p.m. on the final day.