A man pulls a rickshaw through the corona-devastated Japanese archipelago in 90 days…
There is a man who has been pulling a rickshaw through the corona-devastated Japanese archipelago.
Yuji Suzuki, 31 years old. He is an active rickshaw puller in Asakusa, Tokyo. He has traveled to 11 countries in Asia and Europe while pulling a rickshaw, and is currently on a “journey across the Japanese archipelago,” covering about 3,000 kilometers from Hokkaido to Okinawa in 90 days.
After leaving Asakusa on September 5, Mr. Suzuki crossed over to Hokkaido by ferry from Oarai Port in Ibaraki Prefecture, and left Obihiro City, the starting point of the journey, for Okinawa on September 11. He crossed Hokkaido from Hakodate to Aomori Prefecture, ran along the Japan Sea side of Honshu toward Yamaguchi Prefecture, and then went south through Kyushu to Okinawa Prefecture by ferry. It is scheduled to arrive at the goal point, Koza, Okinawa City, on December 12.
The rickshaw weighs 90 kilograms. The rickshaw weighs 90 kilograms and is loaded with 30 kilograms of luggage, including camping gear, clothes, food, and equipment for video streaming.
I’ve been running at a pace of 40 to 50 kilometers a day for more than two and a half months, so my legs are really tired.
I can’t feel any fatigue from Mr. Suzuki. He decides to stay at a lodging facility only once a week, pitches a tent in a park or a roadside station, and cooks his meals with his own cooking utensils, but he says that he recovers in one night.
There are many tunnels on the Sea of Japan side, and there are many difficult traffic spots. The roads in the Oyashirazu area of Niigata Prefecture are very difficult. The road was along a precipitous coastline, and when we passed through there, there was a triple warning of heavy rain, wind, and waves.
When he realized the potential of foreign countries, “traveling around the world” became his life’s dream.
But why does a rickshaw puller in Asakusa travel with a rickshaw, a tool of his trade?
Mr. Suzuki wanted to be a soccer player until he was a student, but experienced a major setback in his third year of college. Wanting to challenge himself in the land of his dreams before giving up on his dream completely, he took a leave of absence from his university and went to Brazil for two months by himself. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the training of a mid-sized club team and meet the famous Neymar. I have no more regrets. I had made up my mind to quit soccer. I also found something else I wanted to try.
I realized the potential of foreign countries to provide amazing experiences even if I went there suddenly, and I wanted to visit countries other than Brazil. From that moment on, traveling around the world became my dream.
After graduating from university in Osaka, he moved to Tokyo to save money for his round-the-world trip because of the high wages. He was drawn to the rickshaws that passed in front of him in Asakusa, which he happened to visit by chance, and without hesitation took a job as a rickshaw driver.
At first, I thought I would quit the rickshaw business and travel abroad once I had saved up enough money after about three years of work. But then I fell in love with rickshaws. I had a hard time deciding between rickshaws and traveling around the world, and then it hit me that I should pull a rickshaw and travel around the world.
He stopped crossing the American continent in Covid-19. Now I’m standing still…”
In 2016, Mr. Suzuki went to Asia with a rickshaw given to him cheaply by an older colleague, and traveled to seven countries in one year. In Europe, he traveled 2,500 kilometers from Barcelona, Spain to Paris, France and back in about three months, and then traveled 1,000 kilometers from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia in one month.
Then, in September 2019, he began his “Transcontinental U.S. Journey” challenge, running along Route 66, the old U.S. National Highway that has appeared in novels and movies. -The journey went well until December, although he experienced some personal danger, such as nearly freezing to death while camping out in the open in 11 degrees Celsius, and being followed by a homeless man who asked to use his rickshaw.
However, the new coronavirus infection spread while I was back in Japan for 90 days or less, as I can only stay in Japan for tourism purposes. I had to leave the rickshaw at the house of a man I met in Texas and had to suspend my trip across the US.
In the end, I couldn’t return to the U.S. last year, and instead drove about 1,000 kilometers from Oma in Aomori Prefecture to Asakusa in one month. The theme was to cheer up the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
When he is not traveling, Mr. Suzuki devotes himself to working as a rickshaw driver in Asakusa. When he travels overseas, it costs about 800,000 yen to transport a rickshaw there and back. On top of that, I also need to pay for my own travel expenses. I need to make money for my trip while I’m back home.
To save money, I pull a rickshaw almost every day while I’m in Japan. I also work as a YouTuber while traveling, so I sometimes get sponsors, but of course most of the expenses are covered by my own earnings.
However, with the Covid-19 disaster, he can’t even make enough money. But with the Covid-19 disaster, I couldn’t make any money. As the tourists disappeared, Asakusa became a ghost town, and there were almost no jobs.
I told the company I work for that YouTube and TikTok could be used as tools to attract customers, and when they gave me the OK to start live streaming, I started getting appointments and the number of customers increased dramatically. Thanks to that, I’ve been able to work in Asakusa.
Even so, my heart was not satisfied.
Even though I wanted to travel, I couldn’t, so I kept thinking that I wanted to cheer up the city and its people with my own message. I happened to hear the song “Run” by an American band called One Republic, and the lyrics in the chorus, “Run, run, run,” or keep running, hit me.
Like Forrest Gump, the main character in the movie, I want to live a life of running no matter what the circumstances, so I decided to call myself “Gump Suzuki,” but now I’m standing still. I’ve decided to call myself “Gump Suzuki,” but now I’m stuck. I need to keep running, not sitting on the balcony of my room drinking beer every day and asking myself if I’m okay with the way I am. When I heard “Run,” it lit a fire in my heart.
However, I will not be able to resume my journey across America this year. If I couldn’t go abroad, I decided to take this opportunity to tour all over Japan.
Last year, I ran from Oma to Asakusa on the Pacific Ocean side, so I chose the Sea of Japan side as my route. This time, rather than wanting to travel, I wanted to run, so I decided to go across Japan.
I don’t want to run on dark roads at night, but I love drinking beer afterwards! I don’t want to run on dark roads at night, but the beer I drink afterwards is the best!
When you watch the videos of Suzuki’s journey on YouTube as he travels through the Japanese archipelago, you will be moved and surprised by the exciting encounters he has.
This time, strangely enough, I met a lot of people who were traveling. There was a young man of 24 years old who was walking from Hokkaido to Okinawa pushing a supermarket shopping cart loaded with luggage, and another who was walking from Aomori to Okinawa in flip-flops. Shopping carts and flip-flops are a kind of communication tool, and if you travel with a concept in mind, something will definitely happen.
In this respect, rickshaws have the power to draw people together. I’ve already received about 250 bottles of beer because I keep posting about beer on social media (laughs). I’ve already received about 250 bottles of beer because I’m constantly posting about beer on social media (laughs), and there are also people who send me local specialties, saying, ‘Eat this and remember it.
On this trip across Japan, I received an offer of cooperation from the “Enchu Elementary School,” a nationwide cram school for adults run by Mr. Masaryu Abe, an adventurer who is a senior to my wheelman.
The local people are very hospitable, and they are so friendly that you forget about the Covid-19 disaster. I feel like I’m taking the feelings of the people I’ve connected with through Enaka Elementary School on a rickshaw ride across America.
The warmth of the people he has met has energized him to continue his journey across Japan, and he is already approaching the end of his journey.
In fact, this is the tightest schedule I’ve ever had. The rickshaw business is extremely busy during the year-end and New Year holidays, and we have to finish the journey before that time, so we have to run longer distances each day. The pace is also the most demanding.
Mr. Suzuki is enjoying this tough trip to the fullest.
The theme of my trip is ‘JUST FOR FUN’. While I was traveling in the U.S., I had an unusually negative thought and was not sure what I was running for, when I came across this phrase. In the middle of the desert in Arizona, I saw a sign that said “JUST FOR FUN”, and that night, an old man playing guitar on the street suddenly told me “JUST FOR FUN”. My mind suddenly cleared up and I realized that I was traveling for fun.
In the process of traveling, you may encounter accidents and difficulties. In the course of the journey, you may encounter accidents and difficulties, but you just have to have fun.
Going through tunnels is always dangerous, but it becomes interesting when you realize that it is almost a miracle that a rickshaw can run through here. I don’t want to ride through the dark streets at night, but I can get through it when I think about how delicious the beer will be afterwards. When I post pictures of myself enjoying such adversity on my Instagram Stories, I get messages from people who are struggling and suffering. I get messages like, “I thought about dying, but I decided to live,” or “I’ve made up my mind to have surgery. When I think that my story is benefiting someone, I can do my best again.
The crossing of the American continent is scheduled to resume in May next year. However, he does not plan to restart from Texas, the place where he stopped.
I’ll go back to the drawing board and start again from California, and take about six months to get to New York.
I’m sure I’ll still be traveling the world when I’m 50, and I’d like to continue pulling a rickshaw as an active rickshawman when I’m 80, as long as I can. I’m like Forrest Gump. I’m going to run, run, run my whole life.
Why do you want to run so much?
Why do I want to run so badly? “Because if I don’t run, nothing will start. I believe that if you start running, you will meet people and find something. That’s probably why I’m running, to prove it.
Japan’s Gump continues to run in search of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
Yuji Suzuki is a motorcyclist, YouTuber, and TikToker born in Kyoto in 1990. After graduating from university in Osaka, he moved to Tokyo to earn money to travel around the world. In 2013, he encountered rickshaws in Asakusa and started working as a rickshaw driver. Since 2016, he has been traveling around the world, pulling rickshaws to 11 countries in Asia, Europe, and the United States. He is currently suspending his journey across the continent due to the Covid-19 disaster.
Reporting and writing： Sayuri Saito