Akiko Mera: Oxfam Trailwalker

, 2010/04/22

What’s the farthest you’ve ever walked? To the bus stop? To work maybe? Imagine you begin walking at 9:00 AM one morning. Noon passes, dusk falls, and you’re still walking. Midnight approaches, you’re still walking. Fast forward to a freezing dawn, a weary noon, and an exhausted evening. Your inexorable trudge has carried you a distance of 100km, with over 4000m of climbing in total, without a wink of sleep.

Unimaginable? Not so for the 720 people who will be competing in the Oxfam Trailwalker 2010 on April 23rd-25th. Now in its fourth year, the grueling hiking course begins in Odawara, snakes through the rugged foothills of Mt Fuji around Hakone, and then ends near the shores of Lake Yamanako in Yamanashi prefecture.

“It has to be tough; it attracts people who like challenges,” says Akiko Mera, Oxfam Japan‘s Executive Director. She isn’t too shy of them herself; she hiked hundreds of kilometers around the area before deciding on the current course. When asked why the last twenty kilometers include the most punishing and relentless ascent of the whole course, she laughs; “Well, if you’ve made it that far, you may as well carry on… and there’s the views of Mount Fuji as a treat right at the end!”

Mera sees Trailwalker as a combination of two challenges; the physical and the fundraising. Many participants apparently find the toughness of the hike, not to mention the required training, make them more appreciative of what they took for granted before. “After walking that far and going home to your hot shower or your home, you do think about how lucky you are.” Furthermore, it encourages them to think about those who will benefit from the fundraising, who are not so fortunate. “We want people to get into the spirit of the event,” Mera explains. “You have to come up with creative solutions- we’ve had participants organize concerts or flea markets to raise the money.” To date, ¥33,210,164 has been raised, but as fundraising will be continued until July, that could rise considerably.

Oxfam is a British charity that has hundreds of projects worldwide, many involved in water, sanitation, and health. The money raised through the Japanese Trailwalker will mostly go towards projects in the DRC (Domestic Republic of Congo) and India. However, with the characteristic respect for local communities that runs throughout their projects, Oxfam will also be using some of the proceeds for awareness building exercises in Japanese schools, as well as maintaining good relations with the local communities that live around the course. The participants are invited to visit local festivals in Hakone and Odawara later in the year, in order to see the areas when when they aren’t so concerned about getting to the finishing line.

Incredibly, the majority of participants- 80%- do actually complete the whole 100km. The record time is just 15 hours, completed by fell runners who felt that merely walking 100km was not challenging enough. Some of them have never even seen the course, having come from abroad for a hardcore “holiday.” While others have done the Trailwalker elsewhere, such as Hong Kong, which draws an incredible 1000 teams, or 4000 people, every year.

Mera, however, is quietly proud of the route she helped to devise, pointing out that Hong Kong’s is nearly all paved, and not as varied. It is true that the Hakone area boasts some stunning scenery, that can almost melt the pain of cramps, blisters and fatigue- but I’m sure the walkers will never be so glad to see the majestic crest of Fuji through the mist as they will be at the end.

For more infomation on how to suport the Oxfam Trailwalker please click here.

The following map is a survey of points along the Trailwalker course near Mount Fuji.



A Gallery dedicated to featuring art, photography, illu […]

Talking with Trees | PAPERSKY #62 Tokyo Tree Trek

This issue is dedicated to Tokyo’s unsung hero the tree […]


These ‘Sandal Socks’ bring function and design together […]

A flood of green, light blue, and smoky brown | Asagao 3

Tokyo’s rivers used to flood almost every year an […]

Flowers after a great fire | Asagao 2

There was nothing left after the March 1945 firebombing […]

The seeds of obsession | Asagao 1 Tokyo Morning Glory

Every year In Iriya, downtown Tokyo, the Japanese Asaga […]

Saburo Hatakeyama: Keep your back to the outside

“My name is Shonosuke Kimura, but the name I was […]

Yasushi Nishimura: Binding a tradition together everyday with string

It’s just after lunchtime on a hot day during Tok […]

Hiroko Ichige: Bento boxes, green tea, sweets and Sumo.

Six in the morning in the old part of Tokyo. The Septem […]

Life Cycles, a Tokyo bike story

If you lock your bike in the wrong place for too long i […]


BNE: The BNE Water Organization

After fifteen years as a street artist, American-roots […]

Toshiko Tomita

Toshihiko Tomita: Keirin Ambassador

“Those were the golden years of Keirin you know, you co […]

Ryue Nishizawa

Ryue Nishizawa: Travel from Places to Spaces

Architect Ryue Nishizawa (b. 1966) has become one of th […]

Hitoshi Kawabuchi

Buchi: Skateboard File VII

Hirotoshi Kawabuchi is a young amateur skater living in […]

Motoyuki Shibata

Motoyuki Shibata: All Stories About Travel

I met Motoyuki Shibata several years ago in New York Ci […]


Otaki (T-19): Skateboard File VI

“The idea for T-19 was always in my head. What I saw wh […]

Elein Fleiss

Elein Fleiss: Change Again

There comes a magazine that changes all the rules. In 1 […]

Chiori Yamamoto

Chiori Yamamoto: Japanese Soul Food

Gatemo Tabum is the neighborhood joint we all wish we l […]

Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama: Perspective Reach

The second in a new series taking a closer look at Japa […]

Daisuke Tanaka

Daisuke Tanaka: Skateboard File V

Skateboarding needs art as much as it needs skaters. On […]

Senn Ozawa

Senn Ozawa: Skateboard File IV

The current issue of Sb, The 2010 Photo Annual, bears a […]


Hitozuki: 15 Years in Paint

The first day of painting was the coldest but instead o […]

Yuri Shibuya

Yuri Shibuya: Perspective Reach

The first in a new series taking a closer look at Japan […]

Tomoko Yamane

Tomoko Yamane: Bento in Berlin

Tomoko Yamane thoughtfully recalls growing up cooking w […]


Deshi: Skateboard File III

“I grew up in nature- my house was surrounded by it, I […]

Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders: Photography of Place

“All my films start with places- cities, deserts. But t […]

Koji Asada

Koji Asada (Lesque): Skateboard File II

For Koji Asada and the Lesque (les-ke) team, skateboard […]

Haruomi Hosono

Haruomi Hosono: Planet of sound

Haruomi Hosono’s early discography contains the band Ha […]

Taro Hirano

Taro Hirano: Skateboard File I

Taro Hirano is better known as the photo editor of skat […]

Shinobu Machida

Shinobu Machida: The Myojin Sento

The final of our three-part series on The Japanese Sent […]

Katsuhiro Kawazu

Katsuhiro Kawazu: Antiques in Nezu

There are many hidden treasures tucked away in the slee […]

Hiroshi Miura

Hiroshi Miura: Wood Philosophy

Japan has an overwhelming tradition of carpentry. It’s […]

Kiyoto Maruyama

Kiyoto Maruyama: Holy Mountain Painting

The second of our three-part series on The Japanese Sen […]


Yoyo: Kitchen Revolution

“I started cooking when I started VEGE Shokudo” – said […]

Yuichiro Miura

Yuichiro Miura: Climbing Everest at 70

“I want to stand atop Mt. Everest when I am 70 years ol […]

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono: Journeywoman

Yoko Ono’s public persona is one part mercurial, two pa […]

Brit Matt Rogers

Brit Matt Rogers: Keirin Dreams

Their colored helmets are a blur as they spin around th […]

Yuji Hirayama

Hirayama Yuji: Professional Free Climber

I first tried rock climbing when I was fifteen- I was o […]

Matohu: How Pottery Becomes Clothes

Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi, the design duo […]

Shusetsu Tachibana

Shusetsu Tachibana: The Last Sansuke

With wrinkled and nimble hands Shusetsu Tachibana washe […]

Akiko Mera
  • Advert Slides

  • world & japan maps



  • Papersky Mobile

  • soundtrack


  • enalloid

  • URD Craftsman Series


  • Lee Riders


  • green label relaxing Green Travel


  • Tour de Nippon


  • luca-mon


  • Hike & Bike

  • globe walker OLD JAPANESE HIGHWAY

  • cyclemaps



  • Tour column

    tourcolumn banner_03