Tue, May 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Japanese ‘writes’ messages by running

SHOWING APPRECIATION:Naoki Shimizu said he first had the idea of using GPS to write out messages while running in Kobe, where his path left letter-like shapes on a map

By Cheng Ming-hsiang and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Chinese characters for “Hualien, hang in there” are superimposed over a map of the city on a screen grab from a smartphone map taken on Sunday.

Photo: Cheng Ming-hsiang, Taipei Times

Japanese runner Naoki Shimizu caught the attention of Taipei residents after mapping out the Chinese characters for “Japan loves Taiwan” using GPS while running in the city.

Shimizu, 31, on Sunday said that he was deeply moved by the help provided by Taiwanese in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northeastern Japan.

He said he was saddened by the news of the earthquake that struck Hualien on Feb. 6, killing 17 people and injuring hundreds.

To show his support for the city, Shimizu mapped out the Chinese characters for “Hualien, hang in there” by running on the city’s streets, he said.

Shimizu said that he came up with the idea of writing messages using GPS while he was running near a Shinto shrine in his hometown of Kobe during the New Year’s holiday three years ago.

Shimizu had turned on his smartphone’s GPS while running and discovered that his route left traces on the map that looked like letters, he said.

Although the 2011 earthquake happened so long ago, the help from Taiwan is still fresh in the minds of many Japanese, he said, adding that he decided to visit Taiwan and express his appreciation.

Once he found a triangular section formed by the intersection of Taipei’s Leli Road and Keelung Road, he knew he could trace out the shape of a heart and would be able to write out his message, he said.

While mapping out the message, he struggled to stay on track and not get distracted by the scenery, Shimizu said.

“One wrong turn and I would have ended up ‘writing’ the characters incorrectly, and would have to restart the process,” he said, adding that the process took him one-and-a-half hours, during which he covered 16km.

The next day Shimizu traveled to Hualien, where he wrote his message of encouragement to the city’s residents.

He said he hopes more Japanese would visit Hualien to enjoy its beautiful scenery and help it recover.

Shimizu is an elementary-school teacher and said he frequently travels around Japan during breaks.

He once ran 200km through several Japanese towns that were affected by the 2011 earthquake, Shimizu said, adding that only elderly people who had refused to move remained in the area.

Such scenes reminded Japanese the importance of cherishing interpersonal relationships and helping others, he said.

Shimizu said he hoped to see Taiwan-Japan relations grow stronger, and added that he would do whatever he could to share his knowledge of Taiwan with other Japanese.

After returning home, Shimizu plans to run in different parts of Japan with the aim of tracing characters on the maps of all of the nation’s 47 counties and municipalities before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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