Sharing and Caring Event

The “Sharing and Caring” event was hosted at a week long event at the Hikarie Gallery space on the 8F Aiima from August 6-12th.

Sharing with people during the bad times and caring during the good times.

The idea is that the NPOs in Tokyo who are focused on the same population both as a volunteer base as well as the beneficiaries can help host and event for the week with a daily showcase of the work they have done. For instance, with the orphan population in Japan.

We set up the gallery space with artwork and information about the NPOs and homes we support.

Press Release:YouMeWe NPO Succeeds in GlobalGiving's Accelerator, Becomes Recognized Partner of GlobalGiving

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YouMeWe NPO Succeeds in GlobalGiving's Accelerator, Becomes Recognized Partner of GlobalGiving

(July 6, 2018) YouMeWe NPO announced today that they have graduated from the GlobalGiving Accelerator program, gaining entry into the GlobalGiving marketplace and becoming a recognized partner of GlobalGiving. As part of the Accelerator, YouMeWe NPO successfully raised $5,520 from 63 unique individual donors to support their project, "Digital Citizens."

"We're thrilled to have YouMeWe NPO as part of our community. YouMeWe NPO has met our rigorous vetting standards for trust and community support, and we're committed to providing tools, training, and support as they learn, grow and become more effective," said Mari Kuraishi, President and Co-Founder of GlobalGiving. "GlobalGiving donors value the opportunity to support nonprofits like YouMeWe NPO, knowing that they'll get regular updates about how their donations are put to work."

"Starting with career assessment tests for the future, we have several programs where the children living in group homes in Japan can choose to sign up & pursue the skills we are helping them with. 1) NightZooKeeper English training which is a game and online 2) Helping connect children with elderly to teach them ICT Skills (how to Skype, how to use a smart phone and order online as career training 3) Train them to be Japanese language instructors for the future and 4) Robotics courses & coding.", said Michael Clemons, project leader at YouMeWe NPO. "Visit our project, 'Digital Citizens' to learn how even $10 can make a difference: We're $4,480 away from our overall goal of $10,000."

About YouMeWe NPO
OUR MISSION.Our primary mission is to help children growing up in institutionalized homes prepare for life outside the home once they reach the age of 18. We offer support programs that increase a child's opportunity to become a productive and financially independent young adult in their community. This means helping kids develop and hone critical skills such as language, writing, digital literacy, etc., and ultimately increase confidence levels that can lead to new opportunities and choices in the future. Providing tutoring support, internship opportunities, as well as guidance on university/technical school options will offer children another critical layer of support as they start to make plans for their future. Developed skill sets, solid communication abilities, and a thorough understanding of their options will help set kids on the right path towards successful independence. This is no easy task for any child, but it can prove especially challenging for kids without continual 1:1 attention. It is our hope that by providing educational and mentoring-based support, we will be improving their overall chances.

About GlobalGiving
GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. GlobalGiving makes it possible for local organizations to access the funding, tools, training, and support they need to become more effective and make the world a better place. Any registered nonprofit is welcome to apply for the GlobalGiving Accelerator Program:

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I wanted to share a personal story and why we do what we do.

I was the product of a teenage pregnancy. My parents were just out of high school.

For numerous reasons I never met my biological father so while I was not technically an orphan, I always wondered.

I had a name and a name of his sister. That is all. In those days, we just had the phone book. So I went through the phone book and never could find anyone.

My mother, when she became sick the first time, turned to creating her legacy of genealogy the analogue way of tracking the family tree and sending photocopied newsletters to all of the relatives on a monthly basis.

Once I moved to Japan, we relied on fax machines and then eventually the “internet” to keep in touch.

When the internet came along, I realized I could continue to look for my aunt with the unique name and so did searches, paid for info, looked all over the country but never was quite successful.

Years went passed. My mother unfortunately did not live passed 49 and so me having just turned 50 has been a eye opening experience.

Yet it was in 2007 when I was asked to play Santa in one of the children’s homes in Japan so over the many years tried to do what I could. I was offered to be the director of Living Dreams, as many of you know.

And it was a donor, who had moved on to another company but came up to me at a party and said, “You should contact the Masons. They give $1,000,000 a year away to charity.” I told him my great grandfather had been a mason. Another friend said, “If your great grandfather had been a mason, you should try to be one.”

I went online that night to the now digitized version of our family tree on

I updated the names of my twin daughters and while I was about to close the site, I scrolled over my mother’s name and the data has been improved quite a bit since 2010 when I was on the site last. If fact, it had the marriage records of her marrying my biological father and while I had thought he had passed away by then, he hadn’t.

And by doing those Internet searches way into the night I found that he was remarried an living in Fresno, California and that I had sisters I did not know about.

So, I made a copy of my baby photo and business card and sent it to the address online and received a message from one of my new found sisters via LinkedIN (very modern) meeting one’s siblings on LinkedIn!?!

I have since met almost everyone in the family on that side. I met the aunt who I couldn’t find and found that there are two more.

I have nieces and nephews and very happy to have them in our lives along with my own siblings from birth.

The phone book couldn’t take me to where I wanted to go. My paternal grandparents are buried in the same mausoleum as my great grandfather in Napa…yet our paths never crossed.

If I had never been invited to play Santa, I would never have known there are 30,000 children living in homes in Japan.

I would have never met that donor.

The conversation would never have taken place.

And now my life is quite complete.

Technology and connectivity matters.

That is why we do the work we do with the kids in Japan. 

To connect them to a future or information so that they don’t just rely on a phonebook.

When is the last time you left your phone at home and went without wifi for a day.

Imagine going 18 years...

....or in my case 48 years.

Global Giving Bonus Wednesday


Sharing & Caring 2008 artwork &  photo                by Jårg Geismar

Sharing & Caring 2008 artwork &  photo                by Jårg Geismar

The June Accelerator is off to a great start! We're impressed with this group's energy and enthusiasm. So far, over 200 organizations from more than 50 countries have secured their first donor. Bravo! 

No matter where your organization is on the main leaderboardnext week is going to be a game changer. Why? Because the Accelerator Bonus Day is Wednesday, June 20th

Bonus Day is an exhilarating opportunity to get ahead; to use matching funds and cash prizes to leverage additional funding for your vital work. 


When: The Bonus Day will last 24 hours, from 00:00:01 to 23:59:59 EDT on Wednesday, June 20th. 

How can we win matching? The $10,000 Incentive Fund will be proportionally divided between organizations that activate during the day. 

Example: If your organization raises 5% of the total amount raised by all Accelerators on Bonus Day, you will receive 5%, or $500, of the Incentive Fund. 

Too much math? Don't worry! GlobalGiving will run the calculations for you every 3 minutes on the special Bonus Day leaderboard.

How can we win a cash prize? At the end of Bonus Day, the project with the most funds raised will win a $1,000 cash prize; the project with the most one-time donors will win $500; and the project with the most recurring donors on Bonus Day will win $500.  

Important Note: Only online donations up to $5,000 per donor per project will count towards winning Bonus Day prizes. 

Will Bonus Day results count towards the Accelerator goal? Absolutely! The Main Accelerator leaderboard will be capturing all of your donor activity throughout Wednesday Bonus Day. Incentive prizes from GlobalGiving on Bonus Day, however, are considered extra and will not be reflected in your total count towards graduating.  


Please join us in our campaign on Global Giving


“It was in 2007 when I returned to Japan from Australia and was asked by my friend Richard to play Santa at an orphanage in Hiroo that I first learned that there were orphanages in Japan.

At the same time, I learned that my roommate in college who invited me to Japan in 1989 had his first child and happened to have Down’s Syndrome.

These two things were in the back of my mind when I started my new role at Barclays as COO. I quickly started the Lunch Club where we would invite different speakers to the firm for a lunch with the Operations group.

One of the speakers happened to be Taniguchi-san who had also had a child with Down’s Syndrome and decided to start a support group for families who have children with disABILITIES and to this day the Palette Bakery is running in Shibuya. We will be hosting them in next week at our sponsor COLT’s colleague appreciation day; where people buy cookies and attach notes to express their appreciation for support during the year. At Barclays we sold $7,000 in cookies, in one day.

Later in 2008, Amy and Miho (now YouMeWe board members) had approached me about a summer camp idea for orphans living in Japan. Barclays funded the summer camp Designing Artists Academy (DAA) the first two years.

Over the past ten years through Living Dreams and now YouMeWe, we have been building up the network with the homes in Japan.

While in the beginning it was about a top down approach of offering Digital Citizenship training, we stepped back and decided to look at things from a bottom up perspective.

The staff were very concerned about how the children would find jobs after 18 when they leave the home. At the same time we started learning more about the children’s individual stories. This the reason we started the Career Assessment tests so the children can see what their possibilities are based on their aptitude.

This has helped fuel the programs that YouMeWe are focused on.

The children who are not 100% Japanese and had English in the beginning of their lives but slowly losing it as they are now in a pure Japanese environment.

K-san whose father does not live in Japan and his mother died of cancer now lives at St.Francis much like Y-san who lives at St.Joseph’s lead us to reach out to NightZooKeeper and start the English in the Cloud program. The enthusiasm for this course has been initially good but as children with many programs, they need to be paired with dedicated teachers to keep the enthusiasm and participation up.

T-san who lost his grandmother in the tsunami in Sendai in 2011 and came to one of the homes suffering from nightmares and as soon as we gifted the computers and he was able to focus on the infinite of the software programs, the nightmares stopped and he has recently graduated high school and landed a job programming.

The half Filipino or Indonesian or Bangladeshi child, lead us to start labs in the Philippines, Indonesia as well as Malaysia and now the refugee community center in Greece to eventually connect the kids with children from different parts of the world in preparation to help them become Japanese Language instructors should they wish to do so.

A san who build his own computer from parts and is heavily into coding will join a program in August connecting the elderly with youth to learn IchigoJam coding. In a country with more people over 65 per capita and less under 15 per capita we envision “Obaa-chan” in the cloud as a program that can connect the youth with the elderly and lead to a sustainable job teaching ICT skills, how to SKYPE with their family and order taxis and groceries online using that SmartPhone which still perplexes them.

Recently met with a Waseda MBA class to discuss over 100 ideas that were compiled on how to connect them in the future.

A san is also the reason we recently created a Code Club in Japan to embrace his passion for coding and collaborate with volunteers to bring coding to children as part of their inevitable future which will require it.

When I first arrived in Japan 25 years ago, I did not have a computer or a mobile phone. I cannot even imagine the technology that my own children will use because it has not been invented yet nor can I advise them on what job to focus on as 60% of jobs in the next ten years have not been created yet.

Communication, collaboration and looking at the world holistically is the formula for children’s success in the 21st century and we try to offer all in a creative way at YouMeWe.

With donations, we provide computers where necessary for 18 year olds graduating high school and going on to employment or higher education.

We are focused on rolling out a Robotics course to teach the children as young as possible about skills they may find not only useful but more importantly, employable in their future.

Please join us in our campaign on Global Giving to become a partner with them in helping raise the remaining $4,800 USD from 39 unique donors over the next 17 days until the end of June.

Thank you,


Link to our project:

Obaa-chan in the cloud project with Waseda Business School

Cindy, Chee Ming, Michael and Naveen,


Just want to say THANK YOU for giving an wonderful opportunity to our students. 


Most of them have never done "design thinking" exercise, so I believe they learned a lot --- although it was an extremely condensed version.


Hope ideas generated through the exercises gave some insight to Michael.


I am enclosing photos we took. Feel free to use/upload the photos if you want!


Thank you again, for everything!



Hiroshi Kanno


Waseda Business School

(Graduate School of Business and Finance)

Waseda University

Colt Bike Ride Sponsorship



The seven Colt Asia riders will join the other 100+ "Colties" to ride 600km distance over 4 days between Milan and Rome. The funds raised through this site will be donated to a charity, "YouMeWe", that works to empower and enhance the lives of children in Japan.

Please donate generously to help make the difference to the lives of those children.

All donors will receive a letter from YouMeWe on behalf of the children they support to thank them for their donation.

Best regards,

Colt Charity Ride Fund Raising Team

@Colt Asia



Career Assessment / Mentoring


Career Assessment / Mentoring

When children turn 15, we offer career assessment testing so they can recognize their aptitude for certain subject matters, as well as potential developing interests. Test results highlight types of courses they might study in university or technical school, as well as a ranked list of jobs associated with their specific results. We analyze the results and provide guidance on how best to move forward. Would they be interested in an internship opportunity? Do they need counseling on university or technical school options? Or maybe they would like tutoring support in a particular area. The test results set a conversation in motion to help guide children on their future possibilities and the correlating steps that follow these options. Providing kids with several years of preparation and training before they start the job search or university equips them with so much more confidence and experience.

Career Mentoring

Seeking professionals who are willing to be paired with a child (normally 15 years old +) as they look to develop a career path. This includes mapping out a general plan with milestone markers to help them reach their goals. In addition, provide specific training and preparation tools such as interview scenarios, email correspondence etiquette, meeting presentation skills and using software in real-world scenarios (excel spreadsheet, PPT slides, etc.). We require a commitment of a quarterly meeting either at the home or online.  We ask for this commitment to continue until the child reaches the age of 18.

Interested in supporting Career Assessment/Mentoring programs in the future?
We are interested in hearing from companies that are able to offer special internship opportunities to kids who have proven themselves to be dedicated in their academic studies as well as their ability to make a serious commitment towards their future. These internships can help provide real-world experiences that will bring tremendous value to their future career and overall maturity. If you would like to discuss possible internship opportunities, please contact

Press Release:Colt、CSRパートナーYouMeWeの児童養護施設の子どもを サポートするファンドレイジングプロジェクト「IVA C.A.R.E.S.」を支援



2018年4月 30日



サポートするファンドレイジングプロジェクト「IVA C.A.R.E.S.」を支援

ColtグループのAPAC部門として法人向け広帯域ネットワークをグローバルで展開するColt テクノロジーサービス株式会社(本社:東京都港区、代表取締役社長、アジアCCO兼アジア代表:日置健二、以下「Colt」)は、2018年のCSRパートナーであり、児童養護施設で育つ子ども達を支援するNPO団体YouMeWeのファンドレイジングプロジェクト、「IVA C.A.R.E.S.(Curiosity, Action, Reflection, Embracing and Sharing)(以下、Iva C.A.R.E.S.)」を応援していることをお知らせします。イギリス人女性イヴァ・メッキ(Iva Mekki)氏が東海道五十三次に立ち寄りながら東京から京都まで歩きファンドレイジングする「IVA C.A.R.E.S.」は、2018年3月20日に東京をスタートし、4月26日に京都に到着しました。

















YouMeWe(創設者:マイケル・クレモンズ(Michael Clemons))は、、東京を拠点に10年以上にわたり児童養護施設で育つ子どもたちをサポートしているNPO団体です。最重要ミッションは 、児童養護施設で育つ子ども達が施設を離れる18歳になった時に、大学や専門学校へ進学や就職ができて経済的に独立するために十分な能力をもつことをサポートする事です。




Colt について

Coltは、先進的な広帯域ネットワークサービスの提供によって顧客のデジタル・トランスフォーメーションを実現するリーダー企業です。Colt IQ ネットワークは、ヨーロッパ、アジアおよび北米の主要都市にて800以上のデータセンターおよび25,000以上の商用ビル群を接続しており、さらに拡大し続けています。

またColtは、これまでカスタマー・ファーストの理念に基づいてサービスを提供し、大量のデータを扱う企業を中心に、約30ヶ国、200以上の都市に拠点を置くお客様より高い評価を頂いているほか、SDN(Software-Defined Network)とNFV(ネットワーク機能仮想化)分野における革新的かつ先進的な企業としても広く認知されています。






TEL: 03-5404-0640  FAX: 03-5404-7120



Press Release: Colt Supports “IVA C.A.R.E.S.” Fundraising Project for Children in Orphanages with CSR Partner YouMeWe



Colt Supports “IVA C.A.R.E.S.” Fundraising Project for Children in Orphanages with CSR Partner YouMeWe

Tokyo, 30 April 2018 –Colt Technology Services announced that Colt is supporting the IVA C.A.R.E.S. (Curiosity, Action, Reflection, Embracing and Sharing) fundraising project carried out by the NPO YouMeWe, Colt’s 2018 CSR partner which supports children growing up in orphanages. IVA C.A.R.E.S. is conducting fundraising with Iva Mekki of Great Britain. Iva has traveled the historic Tokaido road, stopping at each of the 53 stations along the way. Starting in Tokyo on March 20, 2018, she made the journey to Kyoto on foot, arriving safely on April 26. 

The group of YouMeWe has been operating out of Tokyo for over a decade and recently formed as a NPO. Their most important mission is to support children growing up in orphanages in order to enable them to advance to university or vocational school, gain employment and gain necessary skills to become economically independent when they leave the facilities at the age of 18.

Ms. Mekki, who plans to walk through all 47 prefectures of Japan, sympathized with the YouMeWe mission and decided to use her journey as a fundraiser for the organization. The Project began with Ms. Mekki departing from Tokyo on foot. On her way to Kyoto, she visited orphanages and collected paper cranes from the children with messages about their interests. Posting the details of her journey on her blog as she went, she provided encouragement to the children she met, all while spreading the mission of YouMeWe and calling for donations.

<Paper cranes with the interests of children>

<Paper cranes with the interests of children>





&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&lt;Ms. Iva Mekki&gt;

    <Ms. Iva Mekki>





See the link below for her blog detailing each day of her journey.

YouMeWe website (Japanese)

Iva Mekki’s website (English)


The funds raised in the project will be used to support orphanages between Nihonbashi and Kyoto as well as our Designing Artists Academy Camp (DAA).


About YouMeWe

YouMeWe (Founder: Michael Clemons) is an NPO based in Tokyo that has been supporting children growing up in orphanages for over a decade. Their most important mission is to support children raised in orphanages to enable them to advance to university or vocational school, gain employment and gain necessary skills to become economically independent when they leave the facilities at the age of 18.

YouMeWe primarily provides support through career building programs, digital literacy programs, and communication (language and art) programs. At present, digital skills are essential for modern jobs, but Internet access for children growing up in orphanages is limited compared to other children of the same age. Supporting the acquisition of digital skills will allow these children to have better economic opportunities in the future.

Please see the following link for details on YouMeWe.  

About Colt
Colt aims to be the leader in enabling customers’ digital transformation through agile and on-demand, high bandwidth solutions. The Colt IQ Network connects over 800 data centers across Europe, Asia, and North America’s largest business hubs, with over 25,000 on net buildings and growing.

Colt has built its reputation on putting customers first. Customers include data-intensive organizations spanning over 200 cities in nearly 30 countries. Colt is a recognized innovator and pioneer in Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV). Privately owned, Colt is one of the most financially sound companies in its industry and able to provide the best customer experience at a competitive price. For more information, please visit

Press Contact

Nola Pocock -Director - Global Communications, PR & AR



A very special thanks to Balloon Circus

Connectivity Matters!

From an enquiry email last year to lighting up the faces of dozens and dozens of children at Iwate's Taiyo Gakuen, Sendai Tensien, Fukushima Aiikuen, Shirakawa Gakuen;Tokyo's St.Francis Home, St.Joseph's home, Kiyose Kodomo no ie, Matsubaen; Nagoya's Wakamatsu Ryo and Jiyugakuen.

Crossing oceans, cultures and languages. Laughter and play are the real bridge connecting us all!


Iva C.A.R.E.S. reaches Kyoto at the end of your Walk-a-thon...

Just as technology has brought these antique prints alive like those of the 53 Stations of Tokaido, we wish to bring the curiosity of the children alive using technology.


1+5+16+30+459+600+30,000=Iva C.A.R.E.S.


1 person is all it takes at YouMeWe to make a difference and that person is Iva Mekki. She started on a journey from Nihonbashi to Kyoto because she heard that only 5% of the children living in institutional homes have access to WiFi. She learned that only 16% vs the national average of 60% go on to university. She walked.....for 30 days from Nihonbashi to Kyoto along the 53 stations of Tokaido 459 kilometers spreading the word of  There are over 600 homes in Japan with 30,000 children.

YouMeWe is a NPO to help the children not only gain access to WiFi but once they have access, to take a career assessment test to open up their eyes to the horizon of possibilities in their futures.  We request all children in the homes we have relationships with at 15 years old to take the career assessment test and once completed, we offer English training through and are currently in the process of matching them with mentors in the community who can work with them from 15-18 in order to prepare them for a job after they leave high school.

The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō (東海道五十三次 Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi)  The Tōkaidō road, linking the Shogun's capital, Edo, to the imperial one, Kyoto was the main travel and transport artery of old Japan. It was developed during the Edo Period to further strengthen the shogunate control over the whole country.

The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō (東海道五十三次 Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi)

The Tōkaidō road, linking the Shogun's capital, Edo, to the imperial one, Kyoto was the main travel and transport artery of old Japan. It was developed during the Edo Period to further strengthen the shogunate control over the whole country.


Iva Mekki is started her Iva C.A.R.E.S. (Curiousity, Action, Reflection, Embracing and Sharing) 1 year journey across the 47 Prefectures in March 2018.

Starting from watching NHK documentaries with an elderly friend every morning, Iva's deep curiosity of Japan and its people has been sparked and she has now made it a mission to visit every prefecture of Japan by foot.

Along the way, she stopped by homes and spread the news of YouMeWe NPO and collected origami cranes from children with their own curiosities written on it, so that they may be inspired to explore what deeply interests them too. 

Below are origami cranes and curiosities collected from children in Matsubaen homes in Tokyo.


Her journey started by from the historical Nihonbashi in Tokyo, and followed the Tokaido route to Kyoto, along the famous 53 stations. This trip has brought us to our 10th anniversary of Designing Artists Academy in Summer "The HeART of the city" where we have artists volunteering to teach the children of the homes various art forms over a week and a half.

Our 53 Stations of IOT

In order to scale the DIGITAL CITIZENS program for YouMeWe NPO , we endeavored on a funding campaign along with Iva to raise funds for the orphanages.

With the funds raised we will support the children’s homes between Nihonbashi and Kyoto (or homes in Tokyo and Nagoya) in collaboration with Santa & Friends through the purchase of items or services that they need for the homes, and for our annual DAA Arts Camp.


Day 33,34,35,36 of Iva C.A.R.E.S. Walk-a-thon to Kyoto


Yes, you've already heard. I've made it to Kyoto!!!



But hey, let's do this chronologically shall we? :)



Day 33. I woke up in the monk's house. Slept amazingly. While his wife is preparing breakfast, the monk gives me presents: four keychains for my family, some photos of tokaido ukiyoe, a beautiful thread-cover notebook with a tokaido ukiyoe on it and a few prayers inside,  and power stone bracelet.



How so surprising and extremely kind and thoughtful!!!



There was something extra special about his presents too. It was as if he knew exactly what was right for me. From the notebook to the composition of the stones of the bracelet. In some ways, it was more right than I could have known myself...



We have breakfast with his son, chat, and then at 9, the husband goes to start his prayers and the son drives me to where they picked me up last evening. As we say goodbye and I thank the wife, she says it was her happiness and that I should return. I'm so touched and wished I could communicate how grateful I am!



Tokaido. Back to the tokaido.



Some days are so magical that it seems like one long dream. Today was such a day. I passed by lush forests, large rivers, ancient trees and shrines, watched turtles climb out of a lake and just chill on a pipeline.



Realizing I had crossed into Mie-ken was exciting! Until I heard people talk. They sound so different! An old man asked the usual where/when/whats and then showed me an old house from Meiji period and I had to try really hard to understand his accent!

三重県へちょうど入った事に気がつく! そして人の声が聞こえる。言葉が随分違うように聞こえる!おじいさんがいつものように、何処から来たのか、何時来たのか、何をしているのか、と尋ねた。そして、明治時代からの古い家を見せてくれた。彼の方言を理解しようと私は必死だった!


Before the sun sets, a golden light fills the skies and filters through the tree leaves. Everything looks magical in such light.

日が沈む前に、空が黄金色で満たされ、 木々の間を光が刺す。こんな光の中では、全てが魔法のようだ。


When the sun sets and darkness takes over, it's me, traditional houses, and the stars. I keep walking. Eventually, I find a place to camp but very desperate for a bathroom and none it sight (the agony!) I dash into a restaurant to use theirs.



As soon as I walk it, everyone stops and stares. Not the usual split-second stare, but a i-will-indulge-in-a-good-few-seconds stare. Multiple times. I don't mind staring, I understand I am a strange sight in Japan haha, but as I had to compose just enough civility to make it to the bathroom, it was a bit awkward haha.



Camped at the edge of mountains. Little, rough sleep,  but when stars are shining above you, it doesn't really matter.



Day 34. Lovely walk, beautiful weather, stunning scenery. The scenery here is perhaps the best so far! Steep climbs through thick trees. Hidden stone shrines. Gushing rivers and little water falls. At one point I find myself stuck on a highway with massive trucks zooming past me (scary!) but then I spot a sakura and all is well (they were fading away in Shizuoka!)



I nap in a field of grass and wake up to a man speaking. Right before me on the road is a group of Japanese ppl with a guide. And yes, I can smell it off them...fellow tokaido walkers! I joined them for a short while and had a chat then got back to the route alone.



An old lady shows me around a tokaido musuem (note: while I struggle to understand her accent!) and at last, even though nature is by far by favourite scenery, I am glad to make it to a town with a shopping mall. Food. Laundry. And a massive park to camp in. Exhausted, I fall asleep at 9pm.



I wake up to a horrible feeling in my gut. It's 12:30 am. The park is empty and the lights are all out. I look around, see nothing, hear nothing. But the horrible feeling stays. I continue peering in the darkness and finally see something: in the far distance,  two men are walking towards me.



Without delay, as quietly as I can, I slip my trainers on, leave my backpack but take my small bag with valuables, and walk away, quickly.



I look back. They are still following me. I run up a slope and see a single car parked with its lights on. Perhaps it's their's?  I avoid and look back again and see them again.



I dash for the main road and speed down at a maintainable speed. Finally, I see a girl walking on the road and feel much better. I look behind me again but they aren't there. They hadn't followed. I make it to a konbini,  dear konbini, and get a coffee and call my best friend.



"You know you can't camp anymore, right?"

"Yes, I know"



I stay at the konbini until sunrise (so glad they didn't kick me out) and then go back to get my backpack. My things are scattered everywhere. Was it the two men or a bird? Only reason I question is because my container of kimchi is ripped open haha.

朝日がでるまでコンビニに居座る(店員さんに追い出されなくて良かった)そして、リュックを取りに戻る。荷物はあちこちに散らばっていた。さっきの男の人達かそれとも鳥か? 何故なら、キムチの入れ物が開けられていたからだ、はは。


For some reason, when the incident happened I didn't feel fearful. More focused. Even after the event. But the next day, the fear and anger at myself kicked in...but writing this giving me the creeps again, so enough of that :)



Day 35. I spend the day reading/talking to my friend, not walking. I needed it. And yes, stayed the night in accommodation.



Day 36. Checking my gps, it's only 38km to Kyoto! Ready to walk again, I head off before sunrise. Highways, old houses, fairly new houses but generally a late 80s feel to everything. I'm in Shiga-ken already! At one point I hear a girl speaking and wonder what Asian language she is speaking. It's not Chinese or Korean, but wait, I catch a few Japanese words!






I tune into what everyone else is saying and laugh to myself. Hello, Kansai accent (how are they even speaking Japanese, it sounds too different!!!)

一緒にいる人が言っている言葉にも耳を澄ませて、私は自分にたいして笑ってしまう。関西弁こんにちは(彼らは一体どうやって?本当に同じ日本語なの? 全然違って聞こえるよ!!!)


At one point I sit by a shopping mall eating lunch and an old lady starts to speak to me. I stare at her and understand nothing haha! Goodbye (for now), chatting-up-old-women!



The walk is long, very long. It's the 1st time I've done 38km in a day and it's raining, but Kyoto is in reach. I have to make it. Just seeing it so close on my gps gives me goosebumps.



It's been just over a month, but it's felt like half a year. The nature I have experienced,  the people I have met, the things I have I walk by thinking of all of it, all I feel is immense gratitude. There were ups and downs, there was bordem and ecstacy,  but for all of it, I feel so blessed. Thank you a hundred times, Japan :)



The excitement/gratitude fades as I continue walking and walking (and walking) Amidst swelling and wet feet, blisters return to keep things lively ;) Past lake Biwa, Kyoto is so close but every step feels longer.



Finally, as night falls, I spot a tall building. I check my gps. I'm in Kyoto!!! Still having a few km left before the Tokaido finishes, I rush past highways with music in my ears. As I walk by busy streets, shop fronts, tourists, Michael Jackson's smooth criminal comes on. I must look like a baffoon with my massive grin and little dances as I walk!

ようやく、夜になる。建物を見つける。GPSを見る。 京都だ!!!   東海道の終わりまではまだ2,3キロある。音楽を耳に、大通りを越え急ぐ。混んでいる通りを進むと、お店や観光客。 マイケル・ジャクソンのスムーズ・クリミナルが始まる。私が、大きな笑顔でニヤニヤとして、少し踊りながら歩いたので、多分周りからは、かなり変な人に見えたに違いない。


At 9 am, the tokaido ends on a bridge near Sanjo station. I expected to feel relief or joy, but I didn't. Instead, I felt a simple contentment.



As I stand on the bridge, looking out to the river, a starbucks latte in hand to celebrate, there is a small smile on my lips. I wonder how many people have stood right here, and what thoughts, dreams, hopes they had as they looked on the rippling reflection of lights in the water. As I sip on my drink, I wonder what journey lays ahead of me...where will these forces that I feel so strongly in Japan, forces from people in the past and present and future, from the trees and rivers and soil and stars, from a glint in a person's eye to the way a spider's web shimmers in the setting sun, forces that have stirred something wordless, formless deep inside of me..where will they take me?



I snap a quick photo for this post, and leave for my room in Osaka...



PS. Thank you everyone for joining my journey in spirit, for your support and cheer leading. Thank you Michael for birthing the idea of the Tokaido, for giving me a cause to pursue, and for always being there :) thank you Hide for all your translations which have let many others join the journey, and for your ongoing well-wishing :)



To all of you, I bow.


Day 30, 31 & 32 Of Iva C.A.R.E.S Fund Raiser Has walked for a month...

Tokaido trek



Happy month-on-the-tokaido everyone!



Day 30. Jenny, Bow, Michael, James and and I visit another children's home. This home is taken care of by a monk I believe, who has been doing so for the past 100 years (got to double check!)



The inside was renovated and is now a truly lovely, fully equipped home. There is wood everywhere, the design is simple and spacious. When we intrude (again) on children having dinner, they seem relaxed and at home. It's a great sight :)



Later, thanks to the Balloon circus, everyone's juggling, spinning plates, and then performing (you should check out their skills!) We all had a great time thanks to everyone invovled :))) Good bye Jenny and Bow!




Day 31. My dear Tokaido, we reunite again.



Doing the calculations, my budget won't allow for any exploration/time-taking. Kyoto just some 90 km away, I gotta walk and just walk (another excuse to return to Nagoya!)



I walk until my gps points out that I have to take a ferry to Kuwana, so I take a train instead.



It's hot,  very hot. Yes, I am wearing the lightest clothes I own, and yes, it's not even summer. Yay me!



Past the familiar concrete buildings, traditional wooden ones return until they are all I see. When I read accounts of passing such houses, they often report a sense of "going back in time". I can see what they mean, but I cannot relate to it. To me, these traditional houses simply continue to be. Yes, they are hundreds of years old etc, but like an old tree, it's from our short-lived perspectives that there is any sense of going back in time.



Anyway :)



I spot a shop with an interesting chicken logo haha, and stop for a moment to look at it. An old man standing outside it welcomes me in and turns out to be the owner. It's a little cake shop and after the usual chatter, he rushes away and returns with a glass of cool water and a cold, creamy dessert, saying, "Oishi! Oishi!"



Oishi indeed! We talk, he brings me some cake, we talk some more, and before I leave me gives me a present of garlic crisps. Very nice of him! :D



Traditional houses, sun, gardens and little historic spots, more sun. I stop on a bench by a closed restaurant for some shade/to munch the crisps and an old man approaches. Yes, we talk too :)



He is the owner and inside his Italian restaurant he shows me a picture of mount Fuji. It is stunning. "I drew this with pencil colours," he says. Amazing!!! Around his entire restaurant are more of his drawings - old Italian villages, a bridge in paris, flowers upon flowers.

彼は、ここの御主人でこのイタリアンレストランの中にある富士山の絵を見せてくれた。すごく綺麗な絵だ。“私はこれを色鉛筆で描いたんだよ。”彼は言う。すごい!!! レストランの中には彼が描いた絵がもっと沢山あった。古いイタリアの村、パリの橋、次から次と花の絵。


He showed me a wooden model of this large ship-like thing they use in the traditional festivals and he says it took him 2 years to make. The detail was stunning!!!



His wife joins us and we talk about their travels to Europe etc and he gives me a small drawing as a present!



"Aenai", he tries to tell me before I leave. Not understanding,  he tries to explain it by saying that I am walking the Tokaido and he came here and I think, "ah, maybe he means it was  a lucky encounter!"

“あえない” 彼は私が去る前に何か伝えようとする。何を言おうとしているのか分からない。彼は私が東海道をここまで歩いて来たことを言いながら何か説明しようとする。私は“ああ、多分彼はこれが幸運の出会い”だと説明しようとしているのだろう。


"Aenai," he repeats. I nod, smile. "Hai, aenai!"

“あえない”彼は繰り返す。私は笑顔でうなずき “はい、あえない!”


Later on, I research the word. It means "tragic"...



It's time to learn Japanese...



The heat settles down as the sun sets and walk in the night. When I reach Yokkaichi, I find a park and camp between trees, but that night, I didn't freeze. That night, I had a sleeping mat. And I woke up to a gently rising sun and the singing of birds :)



Day 32. I get going at 5:30 am, but as the hours pass, it becomes roasting!



With 4 hours of rough sleep and an appetite of what I can only presume a wild boar would I have, the walk turns into a trudge. I trudge past a highway until a supermarket comes into sight. Never been happier to see one!



Food, water, charging my phone, a nap in a forest by a graveyard (that's another story!). I deeply wanted to just stay in the shade for the rest of the day, but the rhythm of the Tokaido is to keep moving. And so I kept on moving.



The houses on the route are really beautiful and seem older than the ones I've come across. At one point I pass a blue bridge and see a little gate that seems interesting. Time to explore. Small stone steps take me past trees and towards a large wooden temple surrounded by a garden.



The more I walk around, the more beautiful it is. There a small stone shrines  here and there, large blossoming flowers, a little hidden pond under trees, greeny of different shades and hues. A lady appears and she after the expected chat, she shows me around and tells me that she has lived here with her husband (the shrine's monk) for 40 years.



I meet her husband who gives me oranges and then their son (also a monk) show me the main shrine. It's around 380 years old and it's roof is actually depicted in one of Hiroshige's ukiyoe of the 53 stations of Tokaido!



We have a lovely talk, visit an ancient sakura tree from another of Hiroshige's ukiyoe, and then get going.



For the first time, school children start to say hello to me and a little boy even stops to ask me where I am from! As I past Shono post station around 6 pm, a car stops right by me and guess who comes out?

初めて、学校の子供達がハローと私に言う。小さな男の子が止まって私が何処からきたかと聞いた! 夕方6時頃に庄野宿を越えると、車が横で止まる。誰が出てきたと思う?


The monk's wife! 



She tells me her husband said it was dangerous for me to be camping alone (haha) and that I should stay the night with them! How nice!!!



They show me a book on the 53 stations of Tokaido as dinner is being prepared (cue for wild-boar-appetite). It's so interesting to compare the routes during the Edo period to what it is now, having walked through them.



We dine together and somehow manage to talk about buddism with the help of the dictionary on my phone haha. I had a great time and hope to share this experience better than the short words I have written here :)



But for now, the Tokaido calls...



Day 27,28 & 29 of Iva C.A.R.E.S Fun raising walked all the way to Nagoya...


Tokaido trek: day 27, 28, 29



(Sorry for the later post today! Ask Michael and Tully's coffee about it ;) )

(遅くなってごめんね! マイケルとタリーズ・コーヒーに理由を聞いて。笑)


Here's a theory: the more you struggle to find words for something, the more meaningful it is.



Language is fairly recent in our human history, feelings are not.



As I write these blog posts, there is a great omission of the journey that goes on. What is left? Places, snippets of stories, some photos. It is my hope that even through these, you may glimpse a true shadow. Perhaps one day, when the fire fades and the iron cools, there will be marks left in the ashes.



Anyway :) Day 28! I don't even remember what happened on that day! (Maybe I should go back to writing a blog every 2 days haha)

とにかく、笑。第28日目! その日に何が起きたか覚えてもいない!(これでは、私はまた二日おきにブログを書くようにしなければならないかもしれない。はは。)


I remember day 29. Music in my ears, I took a train to Chiryu station, where I had left off the day before yesterday, at midday. Now in Aichi prefecture, leaving the mountains of Shizuoka, cement buildings, highways and the few traditional houses are framed by skies alone. Clear skies! The weather has been so lovely.



I walk, observe, walk. Sometimes twittering birds stop me in my tracks, or a beautiful garden. Later on, an ancient tree. Its bark is cracked and peeling. Its branches stretched in all directions. I sit beside it in silence for an hour, then stand up to leave...




Before I realize it, the skies darken and I grab lunch/dinner at a konbini and continue.



Begin, a walk in the night.



It doesn't matter that the route is next to highways for the most part. It's not what's seen that's interesting, it's what's hinted at: a dark plane that unveils itself as a river when a train passes, the shadow of trees, patterns on pavements and iron bridges, the glaring, blaring lights of cars, a single neon sign lighting an empty road, a pair of shoes left outside a sleeping house, a wide, field of grass.



At the beginning of my walk, a month ago, I was blind to these details. I took in everything on its surface. But as I've walked the Tokaido, instead of getting bored when passing similar-looking  buildings and roads, I've found a whole new world revealing itself. As I've walked the Tokaido, layers of my environment have been peeled away.



Here's a little photo-tour of my night walk on the way to Fujikawa (note: you won't be able to see much!)  以下が、藤沢までの夜の徒歩の写真ツアーです。(メモ:沢山は見えないよ!)

  1. A road 道路



2. Flowers by a road 道端の花々



3. The inside of a church (it was locked, so photo taken through the window pane)




4. A faceless man  顔のない人



5.  A castle, a river, a man  お城、川、人



6. A lone light 一つだけの明かり



7. A lake 湖




Day 29! Nagoya! Today I meet Michael (founder of YouMeWe) and the balloon circus and visit a children's home



I leave my couchsurfing host, who has been very kind, and head with my beloved backpack to meet everyone.



There's a smile on my face just writing about this! We had so much fun!



We began by joining three children for a dinner of fried noodles (No, they didn't expect 5 foreigners to come bursting in. Yes, they were caught with chop-sticks half-raised in surprise).



The event begins with an introduction to all the children and a presentation on Expedition Nihon. Then the fun begins: Jenny and Bow show us how to spin plates, use flower sticks, juggle, and other circus tricks. When it's time us to give it a go, all the children (and adults) go wild! We had so much fun!!!



There were a few girls who loved twirling these ribbons around, so I joined their group for the most part ;)



The event ended with a performance (love how you can see who is naturally inclined to what!) and then they all made origami cranes and wrote down their own curiosities for my project!



Thank you to all the staff of the home for having us, and thank you James and Michael for setting up such a wonderful event, and bows to Jenny and Bow for their circus show!



Beaming, tired, our day ended with a stacked plate of famous Nagoya chicken wings (by far the best wings I've ever had, yum).



Day 24, 25 & 26 Of Iva C.A.R.E.S. Fund Raiser


Tokaido trek: day 24, 25, 26



Wow, it's nearly been a month!



It feels like half a year has past



It also feels like only a week or two



How is that possible???



(Time leans against a metal railing and draws in deeply from the cigar between its lips. "It just is," it answers, disappearing behind a wreath of smoke).

(時間は、金属製の手すりに寄りかかり、唇の間から巻きタバコを深く吸い込む。“ただそれだけ” と時間は答え、煙の輪の中に去る。)


So three day, how were these three days?



Before I go onto that, let me talk a detour for moment...



Walking this past nearly-a-month has acquainted to something called CHOAS.



(Upon hearing it's name, Chaos stumbles from its seat and half-runs-half-falls onto the stage. A wider grin takes over its already beaming face, "HIYA, GUYS!")



Physically getting used to doing long-walks



Mentally getting used to doing long-walks



Daily change of environment



Dealing with extreme highs and lows (when it's dark/I'm tired/don't know where I'm staying the night, I feel seriously lonely! haha)

とっても楽しいことや楽しく無い事もやりくりしてきた 。(暗くなると・疲れて眠い・夜どこに泊まれるか分からない、かなり孤独!笑)


While this is all part of the journey, and I am only grateful for it, there's something that keeps screaming out to me: a need to write.

全ては旅の一部であるが、有り難いことに、いつも私を追い立ててくれるものがある: 書かなければならないということだ。


I'm used to waking up in the morning, drinking green tea by a desk, and writing for 4 hours, but it's not only this habit that keeps tugging at me. It's the inspiration that this walk has built up (and heck has it been building up!) It's a wave that's been rising and rising and now, full of energy, it needs to come crashing down.



And I think that's it: the creative energy needs to be dispelled.



And for that, I need routine.



I've tried fitting writing into the chaos (Chaos jumps up and waves frantically, but before it can open its mouth to speak, gets hushed by the others) but alas, it hasn't been working.



So here's an announcement, dear readers: once I reach Kyoto, the end of the Tokaido route, I intend on staying put in one new prefecture for probably a month. Sure, I'll be explore-walking but AFTER 4 hours of writing, 2 hours of Japanese (I really want to talk to people/read Japanese works!!!), and some part-time English teaching to refresh funds.

そこで、ここで発表です。読者の皆さん:私が京都へ着いてこの東海道五十三次を終わらせたら、私は一箇所で多分一ヶ月間滞在するつもりです。もちろん、近くを歩きまわるでしょうが、しかし必ず4時間の執筆の後、それから2時間の日本語の勉強の後(私は日本語で人と話したり、日本語の本を読みたい!!!)、そして少しアルバイトで英語を教えて資金の調達 。


So that's that. I'm very excited to start, and it's given a new vigour to my walk.



...oh, back to the walk! (Walk stays holding its face between its hands and staring beyond-boredom, too beyond-boredom to even blink, mutters, "Yeah.")

おっと、また徒歩に戻らなきゃ!(徒歩は、顔に手を当てて暇をもて余して、あまりにも暇でまばたきもせずにしている。徒歩はつぶやく、“はい” )


Countdown! Countdown to Nagoya! Two days and over 80 km left!!!



Day 24 was a I-don't-care-if-the-world-backflips-on-its-backside-I'm-not-walking day.



Day 25 was a omg-I-have-to-catch-up-on-the-walk day. It was blazing hot during the day time, so I only started at 6:30 pm and power-walked till near midnight (only in Japan and I beat my km record!)

第25日目は、“しまったー。とにかく歩いて遅れを取り戻さなきゃ” という日。日中は、めちゃくちゃ暑かった。だから夕方6時半になってようやく歩き出して、ひたすら全開歩きで夜中まで歩いた(日本だからできる。私の自身最高距離記録だ!)


I began at Nagoya (my couchsurfing host is there, so I'm tracing the Tokaido backwards to Iwata haha!) and moving away from bright street lights I found myself on darker, smaller roads. There was barely anyone else around and while it was admittedly a wee creepy at times, it was mostly very interesting.



A place transforms at night time.



Take away people and sunlight, and you're left with the odd street light, shades of darkness, the silence of night. Even when the wind rustles, the trees seem more quiet than usual.



Everything feels different too. The giant bridges and highways feel bigger, wider. The rivers and trees feel deeper. And the houses oddly feel like something from nature rather than something man-made.



I passed a large shrine with tall stones, flags, a bridge, and a narrow river, and for a moment there was something a bit eerie about it. I could see the outlines of the forms, but most of them were shrouded in complete darkness.



There's a mystery, an intrigue to the dark, and I think that's what made everything so interesting.



There was a section where only large traditional houses filled the streets and these giant buildings with large wooden doors that seemed like old storage places. There were a row of trees that were covered in fairy lights which reminded me of Christmas (my favourite time of year!) Sometimes I'd hear some laughter and talking and then pass a lone Japanese pub with a small group of people.



When the Tokaido passed through brightly-lit streets, they seem like something out of a movie rather than normal life in Japan. Past a highway and a vast, rippling river, I hear the creaking of a train. I want to walk more but I can't miss the last train back. Next time :)



Day 26. A that's-it-I'm-planning-some-routine day.

第26日目。“もうこれまでだ、しっかりと毎日のパターンを計画する” 日。


Did some research, planning. Caught up on sleep, stayed in bed and read and then had a delicious Austrian dinner with a polish couple and our Couchsurfing host, and are later joined by two enthusiastic Italian ladies. We exchange travel stories (especially the crazy ones) and have a good time. Before I go to sleep, it dawns on my how much I'm going to have to walk tomorrow and the day after to make Nagoya...



(Walk stands up, its beyond-boredom stare gone. A little smile creeps in the corner of its lips and before it leaves the stage, it says to the lingering audience, "See you.")








(PS. Sorry about lack of photos! It was too dark for any proper ones)



Day 21, 22 & 23 of Iva C.A.R.E.S. Fund Raiser


Tokaido trek: day 21, 22, 23

東海道五十三次 徒歩:第21,22,23日目


When people ask about my walk, they make me aware of one particular thing: the disappearance of time.



It melts away. One day feels like many days, a week feels like a month.



"Did that really just happen yesterday?" My mind asks.



Yes, yes it did.



And as time disappears, a sum of experience is all that's left...



...In a supermarket near Shimada, on old lady peaks at me eating raw broccoli. She comments, shocked, and I invite her to try some. She picks a piece, "Oishi! hajimete!" she buys me coffee, we talk about her life of living alone for 30 years and her hobby of piano (when I say I'd love to hear her she shakes her head smiling,  "hazukashi'!") For over half an hour, we forget that my Japanese is rubbish and the silence that naturally comes between conversation. For over half an hour, we connect.

島田の側のスーパーマーケットで、私が生のブロッコリーを食べているのをあるお婆さんが覗く。彼女はびっくりだと言い、私は試してみてと言う。彼女は1つ取り上げて、“おいしい。はじめて!” 彼女がコーヒーを買ってくれる。彼女が30年間独りで暮らしている事やピアノの趣味について話した。(私が、是非聴きたいと言うと、彼女は首を振って、“恥ずかしい!”と言った。)一時間半以上話し、私の日本語が拙い事を忘れ沈黙の瞬間が自然に少しずつ出てくる。一時間以上、二人で何繋がった時間を過ごした。


Eventually,  she bows to leave but I open my arms to hug her. She hesitates for a moment,  then hugs me. We both depart smiling to ourselves...



...the sun sets and the sky shifts into darker shades until a deep blue sky hangs above the cobbled road entrance to the old Tokaido road in Kanaya.



To enter or not to enter?



I've only walked for ten miles today, I have to make Nagoya on 16th April, but soon it will be pitch black and that experience in Hakone has let me know that such a set up is unideal haha.



But who cares? I was silly then.

しかし、そんなの誰がきにするか? 私はあの時頭がちょっとおかしかっただけだ。


"Don't repeat your mistakes!" My brain pings.

“同じ過ちを繰り返すな!” 私の頭は知らせる。


I sit on the side of a stone platform and think it through. The sky turns navy. I decide to wake up early tomorrow and walk then. Sitting, enjoying the moment, stars come out. "You are all specks in time that will soon disappear. In the vastness of space, you are nothing."


And yet, here we are.



In dilence, I watch the stars. The sky turns black. I sit take train to my room in Kakegawa. Good night, everyone...



...6:20 am. Old Tokaido road. Tall trees, cobbled roads, steep mountains and rows and rows of tea bushes, birds twittering everywhere. I spot a large bird that looks like a chicken but is too elegant for one. It flies away as I approach and crouches, hiding in grass.  Should I let it know how much its bright red face stands out more in the grass? I turn away, pretending not to see it, laughing to myself...

6:20am, 東海道旧道。高い木々、石畳の道、急勾配の山々、そして幾重、幾重ものお茶畑、鳥があちこちでさえずいている。私は、にわとりに似た大きな鳥を見つけた。しかし鶏にしては綺麗過ぎる。近づいてしゃがむと飛んで逃げて、草に隠れる。草に隠れると、より赤い顔が目立つことを教えるべきだろうか? 私は、そっぽを向いて、その鳥が隠れて見えなくなった振りをして、笑った。


..10 hours of walking, feet complaining and stomach rumbling, I arrive at Iwata. blue flags with a football logo line the streets. They look so lovely in this humble town, but imagine the pressure the players must feel whenever there's a match!



A lot of the time, during this walk, there is often nothing more to say then, "Yeah, so I just walked through plain, identical looking houses and roads."



Boring? Sure. But when time disappears, it just becomes part of the rhythm of an experience. The silence in between the music.



I finish a 30 km walk (about time!) and arrive at a train station to go to my couchsurfing host. A massive Iwata football logo covers a station wall (hah!) Gambette!!! ...