A Living Legend in the Port Town—Keiichi Sugiura
Konnichiwa, this is Haga.
Today, we introduce you a man brightens up Kesennuma, the port town in north Miyagi.
His name is Keiichi Sugiura.
“When you visit Kesennuma, meet Sugiura.” Such words are spreading among travelers in Japan. Keiichi Sugiura, 28, is working on multiple projects including Tomoshibi Project in Kesennuma.
His personality and his sense of existence keep fascinating people.
When he’s high school student, he got almost killed by a motorcycle accident. He points out that he is not what he is today if the accident didn’t happen.
Mr Sugiura reminisced saying that he was panicked and it was really hard. But the experience let him realize that he had one life to live! After that, he started acting to get the best of his life.
Visit many places and meet lots of people. He didn’t want his journey to be normal. He wanted to challenge his own limits, so he decided to try hitchhiking.
Going through the accident, he had nothing to lose and to fear. In his first travel just after he graduated high school, he headed towards Tokyo from his hometown Aichi.
He expected the travel to be tough, but it wasn’t and he was easily able to achieved his goal. He was at a loss, since his challenge ended so soon and he lost his goal. He didn’t just return, but decided to live in Tokyo.
He set a destination, hitchhiked, worked there, and connected with people.
Many people in their 10s or 20s think about saving money, Mr Sugiura said, but he was different. You can save money later in your life. He wanted to create broad range of connection by visiting many places, while still young and active.
He continued to travel all around Japan including Tohoku and Okinawa. Once he was stolen his wallet and unable to return home. Even then, he tried to gain experience with only the clothes he was wearing.
One day he lived like that, an event that changed his life happened.
It’s the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2014.
When the disaster hit Japan, Mr Sugiura was in Kanto region, and ten days later he headed for Fukushima to work as a volunteer.
He thought he had to make a move. Also, he wanted to return the favor he received while traveling Tohoku.
Afterward he moved to Kesennuma to support stricken areas closer.
He wanted to do something fun that makes people smile.
How and where was he able to do such thing in Kesennuma? Mr Sugiura was worried.
In that situation, he was introduced a place by one of his friends. It was a building whose second floor was engulfed by the tsunami. The establishment was close to bars, and though its inside was broken, it had a broad room and was constructed with reinforced concrete.
The first time he saws the building he thought “This is it!” Nothing means that you can build up anything from scratch. Mr Sugiura met its owner in person and was handed over the place.
Even though now he got a place, he’s no profession of interior design and unable to refine the building himself. There’s an opportunity, but he’s not able to do take it.
Again, there came a ray of hope.
One male traveler visited Kesennuma and see Mr Sugira.
“When you visit Kesennuma, meet Sugiura.”
At the time, Mr Sugiura who traveled around Japan by hitchhiking, had already become a living legend among travelers.
Then a miracle happen.
The guy who visited Mr. Sugiura was a qualified architect.
He was surprised by the coincidence, and took him to the building and asked him to design its interior. The architect accepted his request and worked on design of the building while his stay.
Mr Sugiura noted that it’s a connection. If there wasn’t the architect, this place can’t be completed. Also, if Mr Sugiura didn’t travel, this place doesn’t exist today.
Friends of Mr Sugiura who heard about his activity, donated stuff belonged to a school that would be closed.
There were many other supports from people he had met until this place was finished.
The place has become the base of the Tomoshibi Project.
Next to the base is refined as co-working space called co-ba.
“People around me let me live. So, I wanna enliven Kesennuma. I will never be satisfied and keep challenging.” Mr. Sugiura told with eyes full of hope.
With cooperation of many people, he has contributed to recovery that can’t be done alone. People meet and their network expands from Kesennuma.
Why don’t you visit Kesennuma and meet Sugiura!