Kintaro Walks Japan tells the video-story of Tyler MacNiven’s 2000-mile hike through Japan. Tyler walks Japan from tip to tip, staying with families who offer him a bed, or camping. His 5-month journey is part adventure and coming of age, part exploration of the country of the Ayumi, the girl he has come to love. His prospective father-in-law had made a walking trip in the Americas (the length of the Americas, 19,000 miles!) and served as an inspiration. (His story is told in George Meegan, The Longest Walk).
Expressive and more than a bit of a clown, Tyler becomes a minor media celebrity. He visits schools and old folks homes, and stays with Japanese families he meets. He says, “I didn’t want to just visit Japan; I wanted to become part of Japan.” Because of his open-heartedness, he does seem to come part of the lives of the people he met. As Tyler says, “If you give yourself to the journey, your journey gives itself to you.” Tyler seems to find it easy to open to another culture and to new experiences. He describes an early encounter with friends on the road: “I had never tasted beer, even in college, but I figured since this was my spiritual quest I had better say yes to everything.”
The physical demands of travel are more challenging. At times the prospect of a thousand-something miles ahead is daunting. At four months in, in a period of deep fatigue, he explains why he hasn’t been taking days to rest from walking: “I was afraid if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to take it up again.” He has to persevere through his exhaustion.
Tyler says of the process of walking, “It’s healthy, it’s natural, and it can’t be rushed. If you’re walking at 3 miles per hour, it really gives you time to interact with what’s happening around you. If you’re driving you can just speed by everything without really taking it in. But walking, you can see every turn, you can look at the trees, watch the clouds, feel the winds, see the insects, smell every smell. And, my favorite, you can interact with the people.”
Kintaro’s journey shows how walking can help us open to the richness of what is right in front of us.
About Tyler MacNiven