BACK ON TRACK - A resident of Hiroshima is set to tackle Kokoda

A RESIDENT of Hiroshima will join this year’s Shoalhaven Kokoda Experience.

Masayuki Takagi, or Masa as he is affectionately known, will be living in the Shoalhaven for the next four months as part of the Endeavour Executive Awards.

The Endeavour Executive Awards is a Federal program that provides development opportunities for high achievers in business, industry, education or government from participating countries.

Mr Takagi applied under his profession as an occupational therapist and lecturer at the Prefectural University in Hiroshima.

His stay in the region will be hosted by University of Wollongong’s director of Australasian Occupational Science Centre, Alison Wicks.

“I met Masa when I was lecturing in Japan, and among the many who applied he was the successful applicant for the Endeavour Award,” Ms Wicks said.

Ms Wicks was already committed to the Kokoda trek and encouraged Mr Takagi to join.

Mr Takagi will be the first Japanese resident to have gone on the trek with the company tour group Kokoda Adventure, in the 20 years the group has been operating.

He said from a Japanese perspective Kokoda and the conflict in Papua New Guinea were not well known, with more focus centred on the events at Hiroshima.

“I want to learn about Kokoda and the history of the Second World War, and what happened in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“I think I have a responsibility to understand what happened, what the Japanese did in Kokoda and to tell the truth of the war to the Japanese.

“The trek will also be a chance to build networks in Australia. It’s a big challenge for my English, and my physical and mental function,” he said.

As part of the 20-member team undertaking the trek, Mr Takagi was whisked from the airport on arrival recently straight into a training camp.

“He arrived in Australia last Thursday morning and by Friday he was camping under the stars at HMAS Creswell with the group, and on a 16-kilometre bushwalk on Saturday. No time for jetlag,” Ms Wicks quipped.

“He’s going to be walking in heat, with mud, leeches, tears and injuries, but good companionship,” she said.

The Shoalhaven Kokoda Experience will take place in October.

About 20 young people along with 10 mentors will travel to Papua New Guinea for 10 days to walk the Kokoda Track and visit a high school in Port Moresby.

Mayor Paul Green is taking part and is calling for young people, aged between 16 and 25 to be a part of the adventure.

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