Japanese walker passes through Terrace, B.C. on unique journey

Norio Sasaki is not only walking to South America, he's pulling a cart

Norio Sasaki is not only walking to South America

NORIO Sasaki is not the kind of tourist you meet every day.

From Japan, Sasaki passed through Terrace this week on foot, pulling a wheeled cart containing supplies.

He’s just a few months into a journey that began in the community of Deadhorse in northern Alaska on July 4 and will end three years and 20,000 kilometres from now in Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina.

“Bicycling is too easy. I want to walk,” he said in broken English Tuesday, as he sat warming up in Cafenara with Fred Seiler who picked him up 20 kilometres west of Terrace on Hwy16 and gave him a ride to town.

Sasaki walks up to 10 hours and 60 kilometres a day (shorter now due to limited daylight) and camps in his tent on roadsides.

His cart, called a “riaka,” contains camping supplies, food, clothing and other items.

At age 38, Sasaki has saved since graduation from school and uses profits from an investment – no sponsors – and cuts cost in every way possible.

For breakfast he eats Japanese miso soup, rice and tuna with mayonnaise, and for lunch he has nut bars and cookies on the road. Dinners are mostly Ichiban noodles with dry veggies and sesame and occasionally he has some meat.

He has basic camping supplies – a one-burner camping stove, food, water, a first aid kit, camera and bear spray, which he has used once already.

Sasaki has survival skills from past navy and lifeguarding experience, and has done past trips in Japan, where he survived -30 temperatures in the northern part of Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan.

The hardest part of his journey so far was facing heavy rains and a blizzard on the Dempster Highway between Dawson City and Inuvik in August.

Sasaki said no one passed by and the highway was not paved so heavy rains turned it to mud. His cart got stuck constantly, and when the rain finally passed he was facing hard blowing snow.

He was traveling 60 kilometres a day before that, but that stretch took him 23 days at about 30 kilometres a day.

Sasaki says he is training himself through the journey and harsh conditions “to be strong and to never surrender.”

His purpose is mixed, with the journey about living his life to the fullest, challenging and training himself and inspiring others. He communicates this to people he meets through a laminated sheet which he carries with him to supplement his broken English.

“No scenery is as moving as one you earned upon hours and hours of hard walking,” says his purpose statement.

Sasaki spent eight years in the Japanese navy, helped in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami in Japan, and has done lifeguarding.

His ultimate goal is to be ready to help others and this journey is part of that.

“To protect and care for others, I need to be strong both physically and mentally. Strength gives me confidence in rescuing people.”

He also wants to inspire people to believe in themselves and show what people can do if they train and prepare and work hard.

He says he appreciates the help from all kinds of people, and by sharing those stories and keeping a smile on his face, he wants to spread peace on the earth.

Sasaki has other walking adventures in mind – the Arctic Circle in the winter, the Sahara Desert and the Amazon rainforest.

As for a career, he said his dream job would be to work in Canada as an outdoor guide.