On 22 February, three university students participating in the internship program of Nichigo Press interviewed Uni, 23, who is currently traveling across Australia on a kick scooter. Uni left Melbourne Airport on 24 January and is continuing his journey to Cairns Airport, which has been covered by many local media. This interview was also the first attempt for the three interns.
Text・Photograph / Shinsei Suzuki, Kana Morishige, Gakuto Yamauchi
Born in Tokyo. After graduating from high school, he worked as a carpenter but retired and became a part-timer, while his desire to change himself grew stronger.
In 2021, he travelled around Japan on a kick scooter without a cent, and in 2022, he did a lap of Japan by car to greet those who supported him (becoming a jack-of-all-trades along the way). Currently, he is taking on the challenge to travel across Australia by a kick scooter. (Instagram: @uni.kick)
– What made you decide to travel across Australia?
It all started with a desire to change myself. I have always struggled with talking to people and lacked self-confidence. I went on a lap of Japan a year ago because I wanted to broaden my perspective and gain more self-confidence. To further my personal growth, I decided to go on this trip. I chose Australia as a destination because it is a large nation and I wanted to visit a country I had never been to before.
– Why did you choose to travel on a kick scooter?
I wanted to run on my own two feet and was interested in doing something that no one has ever done before . I came up with the idea of kick scooter by coincidence and was convinced that it would definitely be interesting and fun.
– You seem to have quite few belongings, but what did you bring from Japan?
I have a guitar, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, several spare portable chargers, and a water bottle attached to the front of my kickboard. I also own a small drone and operate it myself while taking pictures and videos. I carry a solar panel and use sunlight to charge my phone during the day, and I just have a set of underwear for my clothing. I keep my luggage to a minimum.
– How have you worked your way around finding a place to sleep and eat?
Before, I had to sleep outside , but after an article was published in The Guardian Newspaper, I was often contacted by people who were willing to accept me for a homestay. Now, the homestay and outside camp ratio is about 50/50. When I am home-stayed, the host provides food for me, but when I have to stay outside , I just eat bread.
– You wear unique clothes. Do you have any particular reason for that?
There are a lot of emotions attached to this outfit. It was gifted to me by an old man who I met while traveling around Japan, and he used to call me everyday to support me during the trip. I wear this outfit because I really wanted to travel with him, but he has passed away. I chose the kasa (bamboo hat) so that it would match my outfit.
– Why did you decide to make such a tough journey?
I thought that the way to change myself should not be easy, but rather difficult and challenging. Because I felt that if I wanted to try something, doing the same thing as others was not enough. I also wanted to encounter a lot of people. If I use a car, motorcycle, or other vehicles that travel fast, I would have fewer opportunities to meet new people. That’s why I travel by kick scooter, even if it is a tough road.
– How do you keep yourself motivated in your journey?
I keep myself motivated by going back to the basics. The beginning of a trip is when I feel the most passion, so I try to go back to that feeling I had when I first started the trip, with desire to grow myself. I think there are times when everyone feels like quitting or looks for reasons to quit, but I believe that is not the real me. The “real me” must have the feelings I had when I first wanted to do it, and if I think back on those feelings, I will feel like running again.
– When you came to Australia, did you feel any differences from Japan?
I realized how vast Australia is, as there isn’t a single convenience store from town to town. Also, Australian people are very friendly. I was exposed to the warmth and kindness of the people of Japan through my lap of Japan, but I also felt that here in Australia. I often feel that people’s kindness are the same even in different countries. Overall, I think Australia is a very wonderful country.
– What was the most memorable episode that you have had in Australia at this point?
My first homestay. First of all, I did not expect to have the opportunity to homestay on this trip. Because I am dressed uniquely, and I don’t speak English. When I was approached in the town of Seymour and invited to stay with a local family, I wanted to say a proper goodbye, but I could only say “Remember forever” and a heartfelt “Thank you” as the words I wanted to say couldn’t come out in English. Even so, my feelings seemed to have reached them, and the three of us cried as we said goodbye. It was a moment where I felt a true connection between our hearts that transcended the language barrier.
– You have been posting about your trip on social media. Has your follower count increased?
Instagram is my main account, but I haven’t put much effort into it. After coming to Australia, I started posting a little more, and my followers have increased to about 10,000. I also post on TikTok, but it has not increased much, and I currently have about 18,000 followers. I also use Twitter as a sub account.
I appreciate the articles about me that were published in the Guardian Newspaper and the New York Times, so I think that had a big impact on me. Recently, I was also featured in 9News, so I was very grateful for that. If I become more recognized, people will be less suspicious of me when I am traveling .
– Lastly, if you had to describe this trip in one word, what would it be?
Probably “kindness”. Before I started traveling, I imagined only dangerous things such as getting injured or becoming involved in some kind of trouble. In reality, I was touched by the warmth of people so much that I wondered why they treated me so kindly. Someone approached me when I was sitting at a park, and when I returned his greeting, he came back an hour later and said, “I was worried about you and came to see if you were okay”. Another person stopped the car to ask me “Are you Ok?” when I was looking at a map on the road. Through this trip, I felt the “kindness” of people very strongly.
– Thank you so much for your time today, it was nice meeting you.