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Man travels by wheelchair through Japan, propelled by the kindness of strangers

Chunichi Shimbun

Tokyo resident Yusuke Terada, who has trouble walking due to cerebral palsy, recently launched a project called Helpush, where he travels throughout Japan with the assistance of strangers who help push his wheelchair.

More than 200 people have helped him out since he started the project in April with the slogan: “People who push my wheelchair are the (project) leaders.”

Terada, a 27-year-old office worker, launched the project with his university classmates in the hope of creating “a society where people readily help one another.”

He plans to travel using public transport and hitchhiking whenever he can take leave from work and aims to visit all 47 prefectures by 2019.

Terada had already visited eight prefectures, including Nagano, Fukui, Gifu and Shizuoka, before he arrived in Aichi, where he visited his hometown of Nagoya on July 9.

As a teenager, Terada aspired to become a baseball player. But this remained a distant dream, as he underwent an extensive rehabilitation program which left him riddled with pain.

In his second year of university, he became depressed and decided he needed a change. He began using the wheelchair that he had previously shied away from.

To his surprise, life in a wheelchair expanded his scope of activities and social life, and he began to make many new friends.

“It changed my life. I realized that once a stranger becomes a friend, it’s easier to ask that person to help me a bit,” Terada said. He thought that if he got to know more people, they would save him from difficulties on train stations and other locations.

That was when he decided to travel across Japan and expand the community where people naturally help each other.

In his travels, he approaches people regardless of gender and age and asks them to push his wheelchair.

He has received many likes and comments on Twitter and Instagram (@helpush_story) for his travel posts.

Even in times when he has had difficulty in reaching a destination and could not find anybody to help him immediately, some people on social media who learned of his project would rush to his aid, he said. While appreciating such close human connections, Terada said he also reciprocates by making his helpful new friends feel good about their acts.

In his latest tour, he left Tokyo on July 4 for Shizuoka and hitchhiked from Hamamatsu to Nagoya. In addition to getting a ride from a couple and a family, he also received help from a woman in a wheelchair who came with her mother to give him a ride after seeing his online posts.

Terada plans to visit his high school alma mater in Aichi and attended other events before returning to Tokyo.

For his next trip, he plans to visit Tohoku in August.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 10.