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Man shares bike trips with daughter who couldn't attend school, hopes to inspire others

Shigeo Onda, left, and his daughter Harune pose for a photo during their bicycle trip in Sumoto, Hyogo Prefecture, on Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Shigeo Onda)

TOKYO -- A father who has been taking his daughter on long-distance bicycle trips every summer since she became unable to attend elementary school has shared his experiences, hoping they may encourage parents with children who aren't at school.

Shigeo Onda, 54, and his daughter Harune, now a 20-year-old university student, went to the Kansai region in western Japan on their 12th bicycle trip this year.

"We've experienced kindness from many people during our trips, and they have been good experiences," stated Onda, a worker of a nursing facility in the capital's Itabashi Ward.

Shigeo Onda, right, and his daughter Harune pose for a photo during their bicycle trip in the city of Osaka, on Aug. 6, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Shigeo Onda)

Harune became unable to attend school from the autumn of third grade, after she was subjected to physical abuse by a male student at an elementary school run by Itabashi Ward. Onda felt that the school's response was insincere and did not force his daughter to return.

One day, the two visited a library and found a picture book about a father and daughter traveling on their bikes. When Onda suggested they do something similar, his daughter responded with a nod.

In the summer of 2008, Onda took his daughter to the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast for their first trip. They cycled on a mountain path, roads without street lights at night, and even stayed at a campground. Onda recalls thinking, "There probably won't be a next time," as the route was very harsh for the physical capacity of a primary school girl.

To his surprise, Harune asked him the following year, "Where are we going to cycle this year?" His daughter seemed to be looking forward to the next trip, and so Onda decided to continue the bike tours.

Before each trip, the two first disassemble their bicycles and put them back together at the starting point. One trip takes about a week to 10 days. In the past they endured severe conditions including scorching heat and cycling on a route that was hit directly by a typhoon. Still, the father and daughter met strangers on the way who treated them kindly.

When the pair ran out of water in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, a worker cutting down trees shared his water with them. On another occasion, a person they met in the early morning in the Kyushu region in southwestern Japan informed them about a beach where many baby sea turtles could be seen.

Harune started going to school again after she entered a private combined junior and senior high school. Even after that point, she and her father chose to continue their bike tours.

This year, the two pedaled around the Kansai region between Aug. 4 and 8, in the spare moments Harune had while working on internships and hunting for jobs.

Onda and his daughter started their journey in Nara Prefecture, traveled around to see ancient burial mounds and historic monuments in Osaka Prefecture, and took a ferry from the Hyogo Prefecture city of Akashi to Awaji Island to enjoy the beach there.

"I think that by heading in the same direction, we were able to share a sense of accomplishment," Onda stated. He added, "I wish to tell others that there are alternative options besides just going to school, and spread my experience of overcoming the situation together with my child."

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hino, Tokyo Bureau)

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