LONDON--In 1969, Akira Shimazaki left Tochigi Prefecture to study political science in the United Kingdom: He is still there.
Forty-three years have passed and Shimazaki, now 71, finds himself something of a local celebrity. In May, he was elected to the town council of Cardigan in western Wales.
Shimazaki, a familiar figure around town, is affectionately known as "Jack Bara Caws" by neighbors. Bara Caws means bread and cheese in Welsh.
When the phrase is used in greetings, it implies, "I'm fine, thank you."
Shimazaki from the outset felt at one in the community and was attracted by a sense of sharing among neighbors.
The second floor of a cafe Shimazaki opened in 1973 became a venue for activists of the Party of Wales that was pushing for independence from government control in London.
Many of those activists were young, and they expressed their discontent by rewriting road signs in English into Welsh.
"Like most Japanese, I favor stories in which the main characters defeat those in a stronger position to help those in a weaker position," said Shimazaki.
He gradually became friendly with the activists, and even joined them singing in Welsh.
Shimazaki took British nationality and landed a job as a Japanese language teacher.
Activists who were drawn to Shimazaki's sense of public service convinced him to run in the town council election as a candidate from the Party of Wales. He accepted, and won the second largest number of votes.
These days, all signs are written in both English and Welsh. While it may look as if the rights of the Welsh have improved, Shimazaki is not so sure.
"I feel that the Welsh depend on Britain for everything and have lost their self-confidence," he said.
As a member of the town council, Shimazaki has more on his mind than independence for Wales.
The coastal town's population is about 4,000, and unemployment is a serious problem.
"Our town is proud of its dairy products. I want Japanese companies to build factories here," he said.
Shimazaki's public pledge is to return the goodwill that has been extended to him over the years in his second hometown, Cardigan.
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