By Emily Schmitt Counts ’11
WHILE HIS WIFE SPENT THE FINAL WEEKS of her first pregnancy enjoying time with her parents, Shigeru Ota ’07 embarked on the longest walk of his life—a 110-mile trek into the heart of Tokyo.
From his hometown of Tomi City, Nagano, Japan, to Tokyo, the journey—on Ota’s bucket list for years—provided him time to reflect on his life and the changes that would come with a newborn son.
The historic route, called the Nakasendo, connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto and is one of five official routes established during the early years of the Edo period in Japan, which spanned from 1603 to 1863. Despite little training, Ota walked the 110-mile stretch of the Nakasendo over four days, traveling up to 30 miles each day.
“I had hard muscle pains from the second day and a large blister on my foot,” he said.
Although his body wanted to give up, his mental focus kept him moving forward. He wanted his experience to be a life lesson for his son, too.
“If my family will have difficulties, we will be able to overcome them by walking together,” he said. “I wanted to be able to tell my son that for the future.”
As the miles ticked by, Ota’s mind wandered to his college memories, including the hours spent in Wartburg accounting classes, his experiences as an orientation leader, and the strides he made in speaking and writing English. He proudly recalled the day he received the St. Elizabeth Award honoring his volunteer service.
“I am very appreciative of Wartburg,” he said. “Wartburg gave me international experiences and told me doing (my) best causes good results. The experience gave me confidence.”
As the trek continued over the inland road, Ota reflected on how his Wartburg experience prepared him for his career. After graduation, Ota returned to his hometown. Today, he supervises a team of accountants at Mimaki Engineering.
“While walking to Tokyo, I was thinking all life events seem to be unrelated, but the events are connected and make my way of life, like all roads lead to Rome,” he said.
It was then his thoughts turned to the upcoming birth of his son and the memories that were yet to be made. Ota arrived in Tokyo on May 5, 2015, with aching muscles, blistered feet, and a clear mind. He was ready to become a father and teach his child that one can reach any goal by putting one foot in front of the other.
He welcomed his son, Kento, into the world June 1.
“The birth of my son is the happiest event for my life,” Ota said. “When I was attending the birth, I thought my wife was feeling more painful than my 110-mile journey. Therefore, I am thinking I have to treasure my wife and my son.”