Banaba

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The island of Banaba, also formerly known as Ocean Island, was long considered an unimportant island, neglected by the rest of the world for its isolation. In 1889, a 29-year-old Japanese Buddhist missionary, Çutomu Tòru visited the island, according to legend, after having had a vision in which the Buddha commanded him to go there. At any rate, the natives readily accepted this new faith, seeing Çutomu as the fulfilment of an ancient legend about a future prophet. Çutomu became highly respected on the island, and was soon named High Chief. Çutomu took this position very seriously, and, when he discovered that the island contained valuable phosphate resources, he endeavoured to keep this a secret as long as possible while educating the people on the consequences of this fact. In 1902, Çutomu travelled to Tòquiò (modern-day Edo) to obtain from Emperor Meidji recognition of his position and a guarantee of sovereignty for the island, with Japanese protection. The emperor, believing the island to be a worthless rock, consented, requiring Çutomu to pay 100 per year for this protection. Çutomu returned to his island, and soon afterward announced to the world the discovery of phosphate. Çutomu signed short-term leases with foreign mining companies, and eventually nationalized the mining. Forseeing that the phosphate would eventually end, he set up a trust fund, and looked into expanding Banaba's economy. Çutomu died in 1953 at the ripe old age of 93. The position of High Chief was made an elective position, chosen from among the various chiefs of the island. Çutomu's successors, unfortunately, were not as wise as he, and the money was less wisely invested. After the phosphate ran out, the island's prosperity fell dramatically, but the people are still doing fairly well.

Part of the trust fund is currently going towards rehabilitating the island. Rehabilitation is also being assisted by various charitable organizations and the government of Japan. In addition, Banaba fared much better than *here*, as the mining, being run by the Banabans themselves, was done with more sensitivity to the cultural and ecological conditions of Banaba, e.g., food trees being replanted and all of the profits going to the Banabans, who were able to sell the phosphate at full market value (*here*, it was sold below market price to farmers in Australia and New Zealand). Overall, Banaba fared much better *there* than *here*


TAR flag   Members of the East Asian Federation   TAR flag
Banaba | Japan | Micronesian Confederation | Ralik and Ratak Islands | Henua (observer)
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