On His Way to London, ‘Earthwalker’ Stops in Phnom Penh

Yuji Miyata has circled Taiwan on foot, trekked for days through an Okinawan forest and claims he escaped being kidnapped in Hanoi.

The Japanese national’s adventures have all been part of his journey from Korea to London for the 2012 Olympic games, an expedition he’s undertaking largely on foot.

Mr Miyata, an “Earthwalker” participating in the Culture of Peace Project, which is part of the UN-designated Peace Messenger Initiative, arrived in Cambodia on Oct 11. The 28-year-old began his walk from Korea to London in January 2009 and has covered 7,000 km across Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, Vietnam and now Cambodia.

He is advocating peace and environmental stewardship along the way.

“When we do something for the earth, nature will do thousands of more things for us,” he said.

Mr Miyata has planted more than 700 trees in the countries he’s walked across–15 so far around Phnom Penh–and worked in orphanages in Vietnam and Cambodia. He recently wrote a letter to Ban Ki-moon, asking the UN secretary-general to help him plant trees in Phnom Penh during Mr Moon’s visit to Cambodia.

“I didn’t get any response,” he said with a smile.

Mr Miyata began his journey to London after walking to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games with seasoned Earthwalker and British national Paul Coleman, who claims to have hoofed more than 47,000 km across 39 nations. The pair heard China was putting an emphasis on hosting an environmentally friendly Olympic games.

“In China, I saw lots of pollution and destruction, and the Chinese government said they were going to hold a green Olympics, but they didn’t,” Mr Miyata said. “I saw both sides, so I decided to walk to the London Olympics.”

Once there, Mr Miyata said he and Mr Coleman plan to hold a ceremony promoting environmentalism.

Although Mr Miyata has encountered countless acts of goodwill in the countries he has roamed, the journey hasn’t been without hardships. Whilst in Vietnam he fell seriously ill preventing him from getting out of bed.

“I thought ‘Oh, God, I might die,'” he said, adding in his stricken state he considered ending his sojourn.

“I stayed in a village and it was an amazing experience,” he said. “Hundreds of people visited me and brought me food. This time was my turning point.”

In Hanoi, he said several men tried to kidnap him.

“They tried to push me into a van,” he said, adding that he wrestled his way loose and called for police, prompting the would-be kidnappers to flee.

Upon arrival in Cambodia , he said he has encountered nothing but kindness.

“In Cambodia, many people have invited inside their houses,” he said.

From Phnom Penh, Mr Miyata is walking to Thailand and possibly Burma. He said he is skipping countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan and is considering flying to Syria, where he will continue his journey to London.

“For spreading messages, I choose the safer way,” he said.


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