All eyes are on Japan at the moment, as the Rugby World Cup kicks up a gear and gets into full swing. Some fans have had to stay at home to watch the games, while others have travelled there to immerse themselves in the spirit of the tournament. One 11-year-old girl has beat everyone however, as she is cycling from Tokyo to Osaka to keep up with the games.
Mariya Budd was at her grandparents home in Auckland last year with her father, Stephen. The family began watching a programme on Discovery Channel about the old Tokyo to Kyoto walking road the Nakasendō, and the conversation quickly turned to the logistics of actually doing it. After that initial idea was sparked, the father and daughter spoke at length about the idea, and eventually made a plan – to cycle another route – from Tokyo Tower to Osaka (near to where Mariya’s grandmother lives) during the Rugby World Cup to follow Stephen’s cousin Dean Budd, who just so happens to be on the Italian squad.
“I was born in Japan so it was a great place for an adventure for me and to help with my Japanese. I go to school in Japan for one month every year, and my school in Australia was OK with me taking an extra few weeks after the Australian school holidays to do this,” Mariya told Lonely Planet. It took Mariya and Stephen awhile to figure out the itinerary, as they wanted to avoid long cycling days and too many hills. They used Google Maps to set a route.
Currently in Toyota, Mariya said that her favourite part of the journey so far was the Mishima Sky Walk, a 400-metre-long pedestrian bridge in Shizuoka Prefecture that offers views of Mount Fuji. “There was an 8.5 kilometre-long ride up a hill to get there, with massive pumpkins along the way. There was so many fun things to do like zip-lining, rock-climbing, a dinosaur park and an animal park as well and the actual sky walk.”
Stephen and Mariya have managed to make it to some of the games, meeting up to wish their cousin Dean good luck in a face-off that Italy won against Canada. They even got to call in to the Italian training camp to see how the team is preparing for the next stages.
Mariya trained hard for the experience, going on 100-kilometre-long day rides in the school holidays and 60-kilometre-long cycles during the weekends. So far she says it has been a fantastic experience, and even has advice for other prospective cyclists. “Pack your bags then pull half the stuff out, you won’t need it and there are convenient stores and shops open late everywhere in Japan. Get a bike mount for your phone and use the google maps walking option. We started on the car option but got caught out a few times when there were roads that didn’t allow bikes. The only thing I wish was that we had more time in each place to explore, but Dad wants to come back next year and do it in a camper van so the whole family can enjoy!”
Mariya’s adventures can be followed on her official website.