A One-Man Walk For Fair Trade In Japanese Countryside

Xavier Auclert embarks on a solo 750-kilometers journey on foot to promote Fair Trade in the Japanese Countryside on Sunday, 5 September. Wish him luck and safe travel! This is first for Fair Trade.

Wish Xavier Auclert a happy and safe trip on his 750-kilometer journey across Japan's scenic countryside on Sunday, 5 September! This walk is Xavier's personal dedication for Fair Trade.

Embarking on a solo journey on foot, Xavier will promote Fair Trade in Japan by handing out Fair Trade postcards to people along the way. He has prepared postcards in Japanese text to promote Fair Trade in the country, which offers so much market potential for Fair Trade products but still has quite low awareness.

Please send your wishes on his email address xaau[at]live[dot]com. Your words of encouragement mean a lot to him and his cause to promote Fair Trade in Japan. Definitely, Xavier will be happy to hear from you!

The passion
This walk is something the 26-year old business and engineering graduate always wanted to do when he was back in Europe, but his demanding career did not allow him the chance. Relocating to Japan with his wife, however, has offered him the opportunity to pursue this passion. In an email to WFTO, Xavier said: "A long distance walk was something that I had wanted to do for some time. I am not particularly athletic, and I have never done anything similar, so it is probably as much a physical challenge as it is a psychological one. The challenge in itself is probably the prime motivation - wanting to finish something demanding."

Before coming to Japan, Xavier worked as a buyer for two large corporations in Belgium. He is a Fair Trade shopper. He bought Fair Trade products like coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and other household needs back in Europe. In Japan, he realised that it is difficult to buy these products. This motivated him to promote Fair Trade on his journey.

"Moving here, I was happy to discover a few Fair Trade brands (People Tree, for example), but I quickly realized that access to Fair Trade products was much harder than in Europe... especially since I do not live in Tokyo."

First step
Instead of collecting postcards from the places he is visiting, Xavier will give postcards to people he will meet. "I think awareness is quite low here. Also, while thinking about my walk, I was looking for a way to engage with the people I would meet along the way. I want to go further than the usual "what is your name" conversation and since my Japanese is really basic, I need a physical basis for conversations. At the intersection of these two thoughts and with inspiration coming from another long distance walker, I came upon the idea to create cards that I would distribute to the people I meet."

The postcard is designed in bright colours with two short diagrams that show the comparison between conventional trade and Fair Trade. It has his name, duration of the walk and a map of Japan printed on it. What is striking is the comparative diagram. It is informative and simple. It shows the two ways of trading and how these two systems work for producers and consumers.

From Tokyo to Kyoto, the estimated distance is around 750 kilometres, for 50-60 days. He will depart from outside Tokyo on the 5th of September and the destination will be in picturesque Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan located in Shiga Prefecture near the city of Kyoto. "I will be starting 40km outside Tokyo and head out south. The road will first take me to the base of Mt Fuji, which I will circle on its northern and western sides, enjoying the 'Fuji Five Lakes' region. Staying in the mountains and roughly following the direction of the pacific coast line, I will then walk to Nagoya bay, coming within 20km of our home. Still following the coast line from afar, I will then leave Nagoya area and take a straight line to Kyoto, south of Lake Biwa."

Born in France and having grown up in various countries (Canada, USA, France and Germany), the walk is a personal journey for Xavier, to disconnect, explore a new world and prove personal and mental endurance. This is his first step in making a difference.

He will have little contact with family and friends during the trip. However, he is excited to set foot on the trail across the scenic Japanese countryside and promote Fair Trade to the local people. Please say something for Xavier. This is not just an ordinary walk. It is long and arduous and your words will definitely be a reward for him when he reads your email on his return home.

(Note: WFTO learned about Xavier's walk when he asked for a permission to use the WFTO Logo on his postcards. He did not tell us the details of the plan or why he wanted to do it. Out of curiosity, we asked him about the walk and he told us this story. We are touched by Xavier's desire to promote Fair Trade, so we decided to write this article.)

For more information contact:
WFTO Communications info[at]wfto[dot]com

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