ON Feb 18, Tetsuo Fujii, a civil engineer from Osaka, took an emotional trip down memory lane to Batang Ai.
It was arranged by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) for him to visit the hydro electric dam there.
Fujii, now 80 years old, played a key role in the construction of the Batang Ai dam. In 1981, he headed the team that built the diversion tunnel as the project manager of Okamura Corporation, the contractor for the first phase of the dam construction.
It was the beginning of his love affair with the Land of Hornbills that lasts until today.
After finishing the tunnel diversion, Fujii stayed on as the general manager of the joint venture company — Okamura and Maeda — in charge of phase two of the project.
He left Sarawak in 1987 after completing the dam to take up other contracts in Japan but his heart remains in the land that has become as much home to him as the place where he was born.
The challenges of his next job as project manager for the construction of the 38km bridge from Honshu to Shikoku Island kept him away from Sarawak.
Re-establishing links with Sarawak in later years
Later, after landing a job as civil works manager with the Kobe City Council, he managed to find time to return to Sarawak. Thereafter, he made regular visits – even after his retirement.
On several occasions, he visited Batang Ai privately just see how the dam, which he helped to build, had fared over the years but never had a chance for a comprehensive visit and to be briefed by SEB officers.
On his way to power station last Tuesday (Feb 18), Fujii recognised several landmarks along the road. He was very impressed with the progress of the towns and villages along the road, especially the modern longhouses.
He also remembers the big tapang tree by the roadside after passing through Serian town.
“That was the tree we always looked out for to and from Batang Ai because it told us we were leaving Kuching or were near the city.”
He also remembers he and his Japanese colleagues called Bukit Bengunan,about half way to Batang Ai, the Weeping Hill as it was there that they started to miss the good times they had in Kuching during their break.
Upon arriving at the power station, Fujii was briefed by the station manager Encharang Ngtingih on the operation and condition of the dam.
He was gratified to learn that the structure of the dam was still in very good condition and some parts of the walls and panels were still in their original paint.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Trip down memory lane to Batang Ai.