Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 10 : Sep 2006  > Features >  Survival Journey


Survival Journey
By Koichi Takatani

For three years I have been walking the Earth and planting trees—and it all started with a chance meeting.

I had been living the life of a typical Japanese “salaryman” for the better part of six years and, upon turning 30, I began to wonder if my idea of “common sense” meshed with the collective “common sense” of the world around me.

When I say “common sense,” I refer to what most people consider the necessary amount of knowledge, comprehension and decisiveness to deal with the world around them. The collective attitudes of people in different locales can be thought of as “global common sense,” which is what I was looking to discover when I gave in to my wanderlust and set out with no particular destination in mind.

It is often said “you only get one ride on this merry-go-round called life,” and so, I finally made the decision to start my journey in the land where I was born—America—but that was just the beginning.

My travels over the next three years took me to India, Nepal, Zambia, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and South Africa. Three years passed in a heartbeat.

My former life as a “salaryman” revolved around maximizing efficiency and profit - a reflection of my surroundings at the time. However, when my surroundings changed, I found my new life and interests revolving around the different people, cultures and environments I encountered during my trip.

During my time in South Africa, I had the opportunity to meet Paul Coleman who has spent 16 years walking more than 45,000 km. through 39 countries planting trees. His current trip from his motherland, England, to China will see him plant one tree for each of the million victims of wars in the 20th century.

I was blessed to have had the opportunity to spend a year with him planting trees throughout Zimbabwe and Zambia. If you include his time spent sailing a boat, Paul has spent more than 30 years globe-trotting.

His message to all has remained, “Let’s stop killing; let us start surviving.”

I felt a deep connection to his message. Were I to take the liberty to put this in my own words, it might come out more simply as, “Let’s stop the killing and give life to Mother Earth by planting trees.” The message begs for the day to quickly come when all people will maintain a “global common sense.” These thoughts were with me for every step and every tree.

I traveled from destination to destination with my life in a backpack and no tent. I spent nights under the eaves of school roofs, in temples and out in the open; blessed by the gracious offers of locals for a place to lay my head. As the trip continued, my pack lightened and all that remained was the ever-present thought, “Walk the Earth, plant trees.”

As I began to realize the importance of a day’s meals and a night’s rest for my “survival,” I also recognized the importance of planting trees for the Earth’s “survival.” Perhaps this journey was, in fact, the ultimate “survival journey.” With that thought in mind, my travels now find me walking from Hokkaido to Tokyo, once again planting trees along the way.

(In July, 2006, Koichi embarked on the Earth Day Friendship Walk along Hokkaido’s Cape Soya, and he anticipates planting many trees and reaching his destination, Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, in time for the Earth Day festivities in April 2007. Outdoor Japan will publish his travel diary during the journey.)