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Okinawan walking all of Japan

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-04-12

Masanobu Ashimine is someone that is on a mission, and he is taking it to the streets - literally. The forty eight year old former body builder is planning to walk around Japan in several long distance walks over a three year period. He started last year in October, with a 500 kilometer walk over 13 days around the western coast of Kyushu. His journey began in the city of Fukuoka and ended in Nagasaki's Peace Memorial Park. He was joined by others, who walked with him for short distances, and by one resident of Fukuoka, who completed 250 kilometers with him.

The rugged looking Ashimine is now back in his native island of Okinawa planning the next leg of his walking trip, which will take place in May. It will be a hard 1,000 kilometers over a 30 day period, starting in Tokyo and ending in Fukuoka. The very high spirited gentleman explained that the idea to walk around all of Japan didn't occur to him until he reached the goal of his first walk in Kyushu. "When I arrived in Nagasaki, I was approached by many television crews and newspaper reporters. They were all saying how tired I must be, and how I probably never wanted to walk again. I simply answered by saying that I was going to walk 1,000 kilometers in Honshu the following year!" His statement turned into a personal challenge to walk around the entire country. In October he will return to Kyushu and walk 400 kilometers around the east coast, and next year he is planning to walk 2,500 kilometers up the east coast of Honshu.

You may be wondering what the purpose to all this walking may be, and Ashimine will tell you that it is both a personal challenge and a desire to bring with him to the rest of Japan a message from Okinawa. "Recently, there has been many incidents all over the country, which are problems with society. I want to bring a more positive message with me around Japan while walking," said Ashimine.

The long distance walker began walking years ago as part of his training for weight lifting. "Walking with speed is a good and safe way to improve training. It is low impact on the knees and is not as strenuous," explained Ashimine. It was in a hospital however, that he first got the idea to do a long distance walk. "I was laid up in a bed after an operation, and I had a lot of time to think. I thought about life, and what I could do," said Ashimine. It was walking that Ashimine realized he should challenge himself with. He also began to walk for different reasons. It was no longer simply a part of his everyday body building routine, but became a deep passion.

Ashimine feels that people have become too materialistic and also too dependent on the luxuries that make our lives easier. "Long walking hurts. It's hard, but it clears your mind and heart. The challenge and the pain puts you in touch with yourself, and the nature around becomes part of you," explained Ashimine. He feels that many people can benefit by sports walking, and he wishes for many more people to join him. In order to get more people interested in sports walking he started the Sorts Walking Association last year in January.

Currently, his association and other sports walking enthusiasts are planning a "pick up trash walk" around several areas in Okinawa on April 19. Naha, Urasoe, Ginowan, Okinawa City, and Itoman are some of the places already scheduled to participate. Individuals will begin at 9:00 am, walk for about 5 to 10 kilometers around their own neighborhood areas, and collect garbage along the way. The event was planned by Ashimine, after a long distance walk he and 30 other people attempted from Cape Hedo in northern Okinawa all the way to Naha. "Everyone really enjoyed the walk, especially through the nature of Yambaru, but quite a few people mentioned that all the trash along the way was very sad and disappointing," explained Ashimine about how he got the idea for the upcoming walk. "The three main reasons for this walk are to try and change people's values about trash and pollution in the environment, exercise for good health, and to help promote Okinawa as a beautiful island," he said.

Although Ashimine does not have a company sponsor yet, he is looking for personal sponsors to help cover the cost of his long distance walks and walking events. He is selling T-shirts for 2,500, which not only allows individuals to become sponsors, but will give 10 lucky people the chance to go to Tokyo together with Ashimine on a walking trip, if enough T-shirts are sold. Each T-shirt purchased will give you one entry into a drawing for the all expense paid trip.

If you are interested in joining the "clean up walk", participating in any of his upcoming long distance walks, or becoming a sponsor, you can find out more information by calling 867-6228. Only Japanese is spoken.

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