Three rickshaw men from Tokyo will embark on a round-the-world trip on Monday, taking turns pulling a rickshaw over five continents in around three years.
The men - Yuji Suzuki, 26; Ken Hirano, 26; and Keisuke Takahashi, 25 - are all hoping to inform those who do not have a chance to visit Japan about Japanese culture and the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.
Suzuki, who is originally from Kyoto and currently lives in Asakusa, came up with the idea. He graduated from university in 2013 and moved to Tokyo to earn money for his dream of traveling around the world. He began working as a rickshaw man in June 2013 and found the work fun.
He eventually thought of traveling around the world pulling a rickshaw, but thought it would be difficult to keep pulling a rickshaw alone, so he solicited travel companions before Hirano and Takahashi joined the project.
Suzuki initially became interested in travelling abroad when he was in his junior year at Osaka Gakuin University in Suita. During the summer, a series of injuries forced him to give up his long-held dream, which he'd had since he was a primary school student, to become a professional football player. To achieve some closure on his dream, he traveled by himself to Brazil, where he spent about one-and-a-half months playing football on a club team. He said he realised during that time, "There is a broader world outside Japan that I don't know about yet."
The following year, he spent two months traveling across Europe after organising a project to deliver origami cranes folded by people around the world to victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
On the upcoming rickshaw journey, Suzuki's team plans to leave Asakusa at noon Monday and spend about two months traveling to Osaka. On the way to Osaka, the trio plans to visit several places including nursing facilities for elderly people. In Osaka, the team will take a ferry on November 1 to Shanghai, then travel to Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, before arriving in India.
Pulling a rickshaw throughout the journey will allow the team to participate in cultural exchange events and explain Japanese culture at tourist spots along the way.
After traveling to Asian countries for about a year, the team will briefly return to Japan, and then restart their travel in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia.
The cost of transporting a rickshaw by ship is about 2 million yen ($26,351), with the team collecting the money via crowdfunding on the internet. Travel and accommodation fees will be covered by their savings, and they will take tents and sleeping bags with them to save money.
"It'll be a load of work requiring a lot of time and money, but I'm already excited to think about meeting people from all around the world," Suzuki said. "I also want to introduce to the world the appeal of Japanese culture and the fact that the Tokyo Olympics will be held four years from now."