A Toast to Our Alumni :
A former member of Exploration Club:
Chasing the unknown as the expedition writer
Mr. Hideyuki Takano

photo by Kiyoshi Mori
Hideyuki Takano was born in 1966 in Tokyo. He is a graduate of French Literature Major at the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I at Waseda University. He is a former member of the Exploration Club. After graduation Hideyuki Takano worked as a lecturer at Chiang Mai University before becoming into a freelance writer. His works include Genjyu MBEMBE wo oe (Chasing the legendary beast MBEMBE), Kyoryu Amazon wo sakanobore (Back to the great Amazon), The shore beyond good and evil: A report from inside Burma's opium kingdom, Waseda sanjyo seisyunki (My young days at WASEDA), and Asia shinbun yatai mura (The village of Asia news stand). URL: http://www.aisa.ne.jp/takano/

Sometimes it may appear that we live life simply reacting to events that occur around us, but in fact we are constantly making small decisions that have a huge impact on the way our life unfolds. Today we are taking a look at the intriguing freelance lifestyle of Hideyuki Takano, an expedition writer. The changing point of Hideyuki Takano's life was when he set off to chase legendary monsters in Africa, but even before this point he had a background in the talent hothouse of the half-century old Exploration Club of Waseda. Even among the high-caliber members of that club, Hideyuki Takano stood out, debuting as a writer while still a student. Since then, he has traveled all over the world as a freelance writer. This article seems to gain insight into his life, a life without being tied to an organization.

Hideyuki Takano describes himself as, “dreaming of ‘Kawaguchi Hiroshi Exploration Team’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ since I was a child”. Thus when he arrived at Waseda he immediately joined the Exploration Club because he thought that this was a way in which he could explore the world of unknown. Unfortunately, the main activities of the Exploration Club at that time were climbing mountains and searching inside caves, and thus he did not have a chance to try out his anticipated adventures for a while longer. However, over time his desire to experience a 'real adventure' grew stronger and stronger, leading eventually to the development of the biggest project since the establishment of Exploration Club, the search for the legendary monster Mokele-mbembe in the forests of Congo in Africa. However, Hideyuki Takano never imagined that this trip would change his life forever.

While preparing for his trip to the Congo Takano endured many hardships. However, it was during this time that he found his calling as a writer. One of the first problems he encountered when arranging his trip to the Congo was that at that time (in 1988), Japan did not have diplomatic relations with Congo, and thus it was impossible to obtain a visa. Information in general was also very limited, and so the only way to set up the expedition was to visit Congo in person. Takano approached the problem by choosing to write to every person he could think of. First, he obtained a recommendation from the President at that time. Then he received support from sponsors for equipment such as cameras. Finally, when the research permit was issued, the 11-strong Congo expedition leaded by Takano was formed.

Once at the capital of the Congo it took three days by plane, truck and canoe to reach the research center at Boha Village. From Boha, it would take a 60km walk through the jungle to reach the legendary habitat of Mbembe, Lake Tele. "The research period was 40 days, longer than the foreign research teams. We spent nearly 24 hours a day on searching for Mbembe", Mr. Takano says. Life in jungle during this time was very difficult. Some members of the team were stricken with malaria and there was a shortage of food. Everyone in the party was unbelievably weak. Finally, when the team couldn't find Mbembe during that time, they returned home. However, as the exploration was reported in detail by a journalist upon their return, who was a former member of Exploration Club, Mr. Takano was given the chance to write his first book, which he titled “Genjyu MBEMBE wo oe” (Chasing the legendary beast MBEMBE). "As I was just a student at that time, I really didn't know how to write a book. So, I tried to write like speaking to a friend. I'm still surprised at how well it received", he says. Upon reading his first book the publisher immediately asked him to write another book on the Amazon. Suddenly, Takano found himself with two published books while still a student. This marks the beginning of the life of Hideyuki Takano as an expedition writer.

Hideyuki Takano spent seven years at university, and since then has been acting as a freelance writer. When he was in his sixth year at university he heard that someone in Thailand was looking to employ a Japanese lecturer. However, in order to obtain that job, he first needed to graduate. This spurred him to finally obtain his university credits. After working as a lecturer at Chiang Mai for a year, Takano became a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has undertaken a range of overseas trips, including sneaking into the guerilla enclave that trades opium in Myanmar and searching through most of the forests in South-East Asia. Lately, he has embarked on a trip to hunt for unknown monsters in Turkey. "It seems to me that it's the extension of my school life right now. However, working as a freelance is never an easy job. Although you have the freedom to decide everything by yourself, you could never stop covering if you want to earn a living", Mr. Takano says. He argues that in his type of work, his life belongs to himself. And even if you become employed by an organization like a corporation, he points out that life still depends on your own efforts and decisions. At the end of the day, it's the ability that matters, not luck. “If you think in this way, you should be able to get along with any kind of job. If you really understand what you should do right now, there is nothing that you can't overcome". This is the message from our alumni, who has spent his life in the tough world of freelance.

Copyright (C) 2006 Student Affairs Division, WASEDA University. All rights reserved.
First drafted 2006 November 2.