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Japanese actress's fund helps renovate school in Nepal

Japanese actress Norika Fujiwara poses for photos in Kathmandu on Dec. 5, 2018. (Kyodo)

KATHMANDU (Kyodo) -- A fund run by Japanese actress Norika Fujiwara has been used to renovate a Nepalese high school, which was handed over earlier this week in a ceremony that she personally attended.

    "It was incredible. I didn't expect to see so many smiles," Fujiwara told reporters late Wednesday in Kathmandu after returning from Jhapa district of eastern Nepal where the ceremony took place.

    Her Smile Please World Children's Fund helped renovate the previously dilapidated Shree Ganesh High School, with five new classrooms and a water facility for its 447 students.

    The actress, 47, who is married to Kabuki actor Kataoka Ainosuke, said she was thanked by the beneficiaries who performed traditional Nepali dances.

    Nepal is the third country, after Afghanistan and Cambodia, where she has helped build schools.

    Her visit to war-torn Afghanistan in 2002, she said, converged the focus of her charity work on one area -- children's education.

    Fujiwara, who won the Miss Japan title in 1992, said her sense of social responsibility was heightened by the hardships brought by the 1995 Kobe earthquake to her hometown in Hyogo Prefecture.

    Her travels abroad exposed her to more deprivations and misfortunes that, she saw, affect children the most.

    "Children there had the desire to study. They couldn't," said the former beauty queen who was clad in a red kaftan dress.

    They led her to reflect on her own privileged childhood in which she never faced problems going to school. "This is why I support schools," she added.

    It is uncommon for Japanese actresses to do charity work, she said, adding, "I want to tell reality of the world to the Japanese society."

    Fujiwara, who is on her first trip to Nepal, hopes to visit Nepal again to see how the students of Shree Ganesh High School are doing.

    Her acting career and her charity work energize her in their own ways, she said, and complement one another.

    "This support isn't only by me. It is also by the Japanese people," she said.

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