Shigeru AoiRepresentative Director of A-TOM Co. Ltd.

Cutting the chain of “daily life” with an ax called, “travelling” is the very moment in which one feels truly liberated …it is indeed, the perfect medicine, and, in an addictive sense, “a drug”.

I like the moment in which I can liberate my instinct and confront something with all my soul.

I like travelling. A third of my year is spent travelling. To be exact, most of the travelling is on business, but, whenever I have time between work hours, I spend my time walking around the city. In the past ten years, the travel to Cuba has been the most impressive. As you know, Cuba is a socialist country, which means that however much one works, the salary is the same, and for better or for worse, there is no competition. Also, food is under the ration system. One day, as I was strolling in the streets of Havana, I became friends with a Cuban. He invited me to his home, and showed me his refrigerator, which gave me quite a shock! Though I understood that it was before his food distribution day, all there was in the refrigerator was an egg. I asked him, “What would happen if there wasn’t any distribution today?” He answered, “No worries!” and just smiled back. He added, “Someone will surely help us”, and suggested, “Shall we have lunch together?”which in their culture is a typical way of saying, “Treat me to some lunch.”

Depending on a person’s preference, there sure must be things like cigarettes or alcoholic drinks that a person is addicted to, so much as to think, “I cannot live without it!” In my case, I do not have such addiction; however, if I were to think of one, it would be travelling. I like travelling without plans, something that would allow me to travel in a free spirit. Why do I like travelling that much? This is because whenever I travel, I am able to encounter on surprising experiences, way beyond my imagination. In India, I got in a quarrel with the local people a lot, and ended up raising my voice quite often-an attitude that is very rare for me! In Estonia, I couldn’t read the letters on the bus to understand where I was going, so, I got quite lost. In Penang, the car suddenly stopped after a few hours’ drive, and I was at my wit’s end. I must say that I live in desperation when I am travelling. I have to use my instincts in the maximum capacity, and try my best to face and solve issues that come up surprisingly. How I enjoy those unexpected moments!

In the past, critics have mentioned that young people nowadays have “no desire, no dream, no motivation” for anything. Moreover, they went as far as to say, “The most serious crisis in our Japanese society is that the young people have lost the power to decide and to imagine towards their lives.” Indeed, I don’t meet young Japanese that much during my travels. It is not often that we see young Japanese that dream out into the world to make an extra leap in their personal development. However, amidst such reality, I question myself, “Are the young people truly without any desire, dream or motivation?”I just feel that in a world where you can get anything you wish for, it is difficult for one to initiate within him/herself a burning desire for something, or dream or become motivated for something.

Recalling my past when I was young, I too, had no particular desire for anything. In my childhood, indeed, I admired professional baseball players, and I was deeply devoted to practicing playing baseball. On the other hand, I could not stop being a “model child”. I could read the air, just like a chameleon. In order to answer to expectations directed to me, a personal dream or desire was in the way. The moment I decided not to continue being a “model child” and decided to follow my will was when I got injured from my hobby of baseball. I could hardly stand up nor walk, and had to spend a year at home. This was a time when I thought about death for the very first time as well. The injury was nothing serious as far as death, but, I felt for the very first time, “Human beings can, surprisingly, be short lived.”
Since then, I have been thinking of my life’s“homework”. Isn’t there a mission for each one of us, something that we are born with? Do human beings repeat life and death to accomplish their missions? I thought of what my life’s“homework” would be. Having pondered on this, I came to a conclusion that this was, in my case, to pass on the DNA of my grandfather to the next generation.

Up until now, I have lived in a very blessed environment, having a prominent grandfather and father, and also being blessed economically as well. It is true that people have mentioned to me that they envied me for my blessed environment. I have no wish to hide this fact, because I acknowledge that I have been supplied with everything more than necessary, and have been protected. However, even if that was the case, I feel that I have been given “choices”, but with no “right to choose”. No, in fact, I have never been told by my parents to inherit anything from them. Nevertheless, since childhood, I have been carrying the pressure of the great things left by my grandfather, and have continued to feel the burden that cannot be simply expressed by words. In order to get away from such pressure, I had devoted myself to playing baseball, and perhaps, may have practiced desperately to become a better player than the others. However, from my baseball injury, which led me to the reality, “Human beings die all too soon and all too easily”, I have become to question myself of my way of living. I reached my hands to a book that compiled my grandfather’s life, and through reading this again, I decided to challenge seriously to pass on what he left in this world to the next generation, and to develop it further. If this was indeed, my life’s“homework”, then, to avoid it would mean to throw away my life as well. My life would be meaningless if I could not even clear away one assignment. I may not be able to start a new business, but, I could, perhaps, develop a business and pass it on to the next generation in my own way.

Looking back to my past, I feel that the reason why I cannot stop travelling is because when I travel, I can become free from all the things that I carry on my shoulders- my grandfather’s great achievements, fame, my position as the third generation of the prominent family etc. Perhaps, I am usually wearing many layers of armor and carrying with me a sword- meaning that I may be unconsciously armed to the teeth. However, when I travel, I am able to take these off, and become completely unprotected. Just as I do not know anybody in the place I travel, nobody would recognize me either. As a person with“no name”, I feel joy in the gravity-free state that would allow me to challenge new things with all my power.
As my travel approaches to an end, and the plane becomes nearer and nearer to the grounds of Tokyo, my expression returns to my usual one. The afterimage of my running around on the unknown grounds unarmed becomes far and far away, and layer after layer, my armors of the“A-TOM Representative”is put on me. After that, I walk toward my usual battlefield. Actually, I do not know yet, who I am battling with, or for what purpose I am fighting for, ever since the experience of thinking about death in that occasion of when I got injured from playing baseball. However, what I know for sure is that ever since then, I have been burning even more with the desire to travel.