2022 TELL Step Up Challenge

carparks in the dark

It’s been a year since my first walk for TELL‘s ‘Step Up’ challenge, and I was actually looking forward to another walk around Shonan. TELL is a great organisation which provides a call line and other support for those who need help in Japan. They focus on mental health in non Japanese languages, but also do work in Japanese too. As an NPO to fund this, they look for donations and sponsored events like the Step Up challenge.

This year they’ve developed the premise, as last year, under tighter COVID restrictions, the outdoor step idea worked well and it’s always based on the same (fairly tragic) premise – steps corresponding to the number of people who took their own lives in Japan the previous year, which would mean 21,007 for this year. This year they also added to the idea in that you can do pretty much anything to mark that number – writing a story, swimming, whatever is good for you. The event runs from September to October 10th, but it’s really about the support and getting the message out there.

I went with a slightly remixed version of what I did in 2021 – I went back to Shonan, but elected to walk the portion I enjoyed most – the river down to Enoshima, and then along the beach. There is a caveat though – I had the Friday off work due to an event in the morning; an event I did not think would be requiring much in the way of exercise. Due of this, I left my FitBit at home to charge. Only later when I saw my partner’s walking app saying we’d done 10,000 steps that morning, did I begin to believe that maybe I’d made a bit of a strategic error.

Anyway, flash forwards again, and it was nice to walk from Fujisawa station down to the river in beautiful sunshine, with the odd cloud, but certainly without the heat of the previous year. Also, this year my shoes were well broken in, whereas in 2021 I discovered those were only sort of broken in. It wasn’t an issue on the day, but let’s just say my ankles were unhappy the next day.

So off I went down the river. It’s a nice walk, mostly on asphalt down the path, sometimes on gravel and packed dirt, as it winds down towards the sea through very low-rise residential areas, and the odd municipal building. The river is crossed by multiple small road bridges, and once by the Enoshima Enoden tram system. Last year I’d waited for a while for a tram, but I must have been there during a lull in the schedule. This year as luck would have it, I literally stopped for some water, and along came a tram, so I managed to get a quick photo done.

Enoden on the Bridge
Enoden on the Bridge

I mentioned in last year’s write up that I use the walk as a bit of a photo walk. Last year I brought the ancient Sony RX100 Mk1 we bought used, but this year I brought my small Fujifilm X-T200 but with the 23mm prime lens (probably not the best lens choice for the walk).

The river is always nice to walk along, but as you get closer to Katase Enoshima station the feel, and even the people ambling around changes. Given it was later on a Friday afternoon, there weren’t many tourists, and so was almost all local people doing their thing. I stopped off at the venerable Kua Aina burger place for a sit down, some salad and chicken and a large iced glass of oolon tea. Very nice it was too.

From here though, it was all beach. Last year I’d walked out to Enoshima itself, but today it would just be beach, so refreshed, I set off and started walking. The sun was already lowering in the sky, and that yellowing of the light just seems to relax everyone.

sunset at the beach again
sunset at the beach again

A couple of kilometres down the beach, just after the skate park, I knew it was time to take the shoes off, and let my hairless, yet Hobbit-like flat feet get some air and do some walking, both on the sandy track, and on the beach itself. It’s such a great feeling walking on sand, as you feel all those small muscles and tendons which are usually constrained in your shoes, suddenly stretch and spread out. Then of course they ache for a couple of minutes, but after that, it’s totally fine, honest!

It’s a nice stretch of beach, and on a weekday it’s locals, fishermen, the surfers, and people like me just taking that walk.

Again as a reminder, this was later on in the afternoon, and it was nice to just walk to the west, so not only are you walking into the sunset, you’re also walking towards Mt. Fuji. As it happened, as the last sliver of sun disappeared over the horizon, there was a small crowd all watching it go. It’s quite a cool group, almost primal sensation.

Further up the beach I made the turn into Kaihin Koen, going via the path under the main road, and then out into their dark carpark. This was another nice place to sit and take in some water, and I took a photo of the pay booth at the exit, since in the very dark carpark, it’s this one isle of late.

From there, I only had a couple of thousand steps to do, so I started to walk back towards a station, along one of the main roads, and avoided the temptation to drop in for some ramen.

Overall, it was a good day for me, and to come full circle and remember the reason I was walking: not all people are as fortunate as I was that day, so if you need help, or even if you think you might need help, it’s better to ask, and if it’s awkward to talk to someone you know, give someone a call, and if you’re in Japan, try TELL.