by Jean Fischer
A young Japanese actress has switched audiences. She now acts as a tourist guide in Southern Africa, with a special focus on Namibia, to her former countrymen and women. Chiharu and her tour-operator husband, Mart Rosenberg, are based in Omaruru, from where they organise custom-made guided tours catering exclusively for visitors from Japan.
Their focus on the Japanese market has brought appreciative guests from an island country with a high-density population to Namibia. “They particularly enjoy the solitude of nature spots with a view – those endless vistas for which this country of wide-open spaces is renowned,” says Martin. Popular places are the dunes in the Sossusvlei area, the Spitzkoppe and Spreetshoogte. Namibia’s wildlife especially make for special effects. A top favourite is night game viewing at Okaukuejo, where large groups of elephants can be seen in the dead of night, moving along silently in the moonlight.
Martin’s love for the African bush and wildlife started at a comparatively early age when his father took him on safaris. He studied veterinary medicine, speaks five languages including Spanish and French, and says that his skills as an amateur mechanic serve him well on bush trips.
Chiharu, who was nicknamed Budgie by her brother, Taku, holds a degree in Japanese Theatre Arts and, for some years, was a member of the Yokohama Boat Theatre. She is perfectly at home in the bush and says she appreciates the freedom of far horizons. “I have found that, living so close to nature, I don’t need any other stimulation.”
Their company, You and Africa, established in Namibia in 2002, is registered with the Namibia Tourism Board. Their main marketing tool is a highly effective website in English and Japanese, which includes a mini-magazine featuring African stories, African and wildlife games, a safari guest book, photo album, and brief, pertinent information on their three destinations: Namibia, South Africa and Madagascar.
Catering mainly involves cooking over an open fire, the barbecued meat having three different marinades, and vegetables prepared in the classic African three-legged black pot. Inspired by African cooking, three Japanese visitors took some of these pots back home with them.
Martin and Chiharu were the co-ordinators for a documentary on giraffes in a desert environment by filmmakers from Tokyo. The documentary was shown on prime time on Japanese national television. Filming took place at the Hoanib, Khumib, and Hoarusib rivers, and Martin assisted in designing equipment such as an unusually high boom with a moving arm at ‘giraffe height.’
Martin has designed and built a trailer to suit the operation’s own particular needs. It features a water tank, fridge/freezer, and compartments for spices, cutlery and so on. The top of the trailer is designed to serve as a table. Martin says his most embarrassing moment as a tour operator was the time he forgot to pack the legs for the table!
This article appeared in the Oct/Nov ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.