KOBE – In July 2008, company employee Yasushi Takahashi decided to ask his girlfriend of eight years to marry him and was determined to make it “the world’s biggest proposal.” So he quit his job and went off on a six-month journey across Japan — on foot and by car, ferry and bicycle.
After 7,160-km of travel that took him through 40 prefectures, Takahashi’s unique marriage proposal was finally ready: the Global Positioning System records of his journey spelled out the phrase “Marry Me” across the Japanese archipelago, covering Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. In Hokkaido, meanwhile, he traced the shape of a heart speared by an arrow.
Fortunately, she said yes. “It was a big surprise,” she was quoted by Takahashi as saying. “I felt the greatest love in the world.”
And as a bonus, Takahashi received his own surprise a few years later — the Guinness World Record for the largest GPS drawing by an individual.
When the couple went to London for their honeymoon in June 2010, Takahashi, who goes by the name Yassan for his artworks, looked trekked the shape of a gigantic heart in the British capital as a sign of dedication to his bride.
Among his more recent GPS drawing projects, Takahashi completed last July a yearlong, 676-km journey on foot and by bicycle along the coastline of Chiba Prefecture, and its border with other prefectures to “draw” a full-scale “Chiba kun,” a mascot whose profile is shaped like the prefecture.
In picking the routes, he gives priority to perfecting the appearance of the GPS drawing, and often has to trek mountain paths that are inaccessible by car. In some cases, he jogs over 40 km a day.
“I used to be the type who is more into academics and arts, but now I have turned into the sporting kind,” the Tokyo University of the Arts graduate quipped. He has traveled about 20,000 km in total for GPS drawing projects over the past 6½ years.
To maintain his physical strength and stamina, Takahashi exercises every day.
Last fall, he was selected as one of three international models to appear in a promotional campaign for a major global brand for outdoor gear to illustrate how walking can lead to extraordinary experiences.
He gained instant attention from the world’s media and was contacted by TV stations from Spain to South Korea after the campaign’s video of his unique marriage proposal expedition was posted online.
Takahashi aspires to become like Ino Tadataka (1745-1818), the Japanese surveyor and cartographer known for completing the first map covering the whole of Japan during the Edo Period.
“I want to walk the coastlines and map the Japanese archipelago just like Tadataka did, and then compare it with the Ino Maps,” Takahashi said, noting that 2018 will mark the 200th year after Tadaka’s death.
“I want to experience in person the magnitude of Tadataka’s greatness,” he said.