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Thomas Maurer, member of the EWGPWD, writes about “Shaping the world”

Friday 27 September 2019

For my sixty-sixth birthday, I have given myself a very special present: the participation at the Tokyo Marathon 2019. It was the last remaining marathon out of the seven "Major Marathons of the World", all of which I completed during my sports career. At the same time, I combined the race with a "farewell trip" to my old home country of Japan. A country in which I lived and worked for several years at the beginning of the 1980s, as a local Chief of Staff of a Swiss company. I planned a trip together with my former wife, a Japanese woman who has been living in Switzerland for many years by now, and our two grown-up sons.

The friendliness and courtesy of the Japanese is unique. You are welcomed with a shy smile everywhere and greeted with a deep bow. No hustle and bustle, no stress, no aggression towards strangers. As a foreigner, you can move around completely safe and carefree. Nobody wants anything from you, you are not looked at in a weird way or even harassed by anyone. There is a serenity, modesty and peace, which would often do us and our Western lifestyle more than just a little good. A culture which opens your eyes and senses to the beautiful, the playful, the detail and the ultimately crucial and decisive things in life.

However, it is not very easy to get in contact with the locals. The reluctance of the Japanese is well-known. People are reserved even among family and friends, which makes social contacts more difficult. Still today, the country is some kind of another planet to me. I have come to know and appreciate many things from Japan and its people.

At the same time, this journey made me realise how small the world is. When I returned to my hometown of Bern, I found a letter in my mailbox written by a former well-known Swiss long-distance runner. He congratulated me on my run in Tokyo. It was an amazing feeling to realise that others can focus on my performance and my adventures, rather than on my illness. To experience, enjoy and help shape this small world and make it a home is the most beautiful and most important challenge I can imagine. 

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