A Sports Fanatic’s Traveling Diary: Ashishi Murakami
Ashishi Murakami works only half the year and spends the rest traveling around the globe. He’s been living this nomadic lifestyle for ten years already, and it doesn’t seem he’ll be stopping any time soon. He works three days a week as an independent consultant for a major company, and the rest of the time, he’s a fanatic soccer fan. He travels both domestically and internationally, following matches of both the national soccer team and the local team from his hometown, Hokkaido. He optimizes his travel schedules and keeps everyone updated on what he has experienced in each place he visited.
With the National Stadium for 2020 Tokyo Olympics under construction as a fitting backdrop, we had a chance to chat with Ashishi about his truly intriguing lifestyle.
Tell us a little bit about your traveling way of life…
Last year for example, I went to the UK last March to see Shinji Okazaki playing for Leicester City in Premier League, then I went to the United Arab Emirates for Japan’s World Cup final qualifying game.
In May I stayed in South Korea for 20 days for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and then I was in Russia the following month for a week for FIFA Confederations Cup.
In September I traveled back to Saudi Arabia for Japan’s World Cup final qualifying match for three nights. In November, I was in France and Belgium to see warm-up matches between Japan team members, and actual matches with Brazil and Belgium. That was for one week in Europe.
As for the domestic matches, I had been to 30 of 34 matches of our local Hokkaido team as I am one of their biggest supporters.
The four times I couldn’t make it were the times I was either overseas or attending funerals or weddings. Otherwise, I would have attended all the games.
How do you manage to travel so much both domestically and internationally while juggling work?
I am a freelance consultant working for one client company after another. For several years, I have been sharing the work with another consultant, so that I have to do only 60% of it. In other words, on a weekly basis, I work only three days’ worth on average. We arrange our working schedule to meet this work-sharing ratio on an annual basis, so that both of us can get longer vacations.
Also, I always rent a small apartment in a walking distance from my client’s office to save time.
But how do you afford so many trips?
Fortunately, my work pays better than the average workers’ wage, so I can still afford to travel even though I work less.
Apart from that, I also gain some extra income by writing for magazines and newspapers, and from the paid online community I own, where we share our tips on watching 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
You also write for Yahoo! News Japan online. Tell us about some article that went viral.
Here is the article I wrote when Brazil lost 7-1 to German in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final held in Brazil. (See that article here).
The match was held in Brazil, and I was watching it right there in the stadium. Local fans got too excited and all of a sudden, they started to fight each other. It got really serious, I was scared, but then when Germany scored the 7th goal, something utterly weird happened; a standing ovation both from German supporters and those local Brazilian fans. After that, every time the German team made a good move, “Olé, Olé” chants filled the stadium. The article was about these moments I witnessed.
Millions viewed the page thanks to this article, which eventually paid off my entire travel expenses to Brazil.
Sometimes you post an article only within an hour after the game. How can you manage such speed and quality in posting?
There are times I rush back to a hotel, or just start typing on my smartphone on the way back, which is definitely faster. I might start using voice input, or upload the audio clip itself. Even faster!
What was the most memorable trip so far?
I often try on local, traditional clothes when I am abroad to support our national team. So, when I went to Saudi Arabia last September, I asked a security guard at the stadium to help me wrap a turban around my head.
Someone from there videoed it and tweeted; then it was retweeted thousands of times. The reaction was like, “We are about to fight each other, and yet that guy is so friendly. ”
I used machine translation to express “Thank you for your help” in Arabic and tweeted it in response.
It went viral among Saudis and ended up being viewed by as many as 5 million people. Considering the population of Saudi Arabia is about 20 million, it is tremendous. Thanks to this phenomenon, I got huge number of followers from there all of a sudden! These are the moments that make me realize the joy of traveling and cultural interactions.
What made you pursue this lifestyle?
After watching FIFA Confederations Cup in Germany in 2005, I realized my strong passion for the national team, which led me to quit my previous company so I could watch FIFA World Cup the following year in Germany. That was the biggest life-changing decision I had ever made.
Do you ever feel this lifestyle of yours is somewhat crazy?
I just happened to get to where I am today by pursuing the only things I really care about, so no, I don’t feel that way much.
Of course, there are some negative aspects to this lifestyle, such as I can’t settle down in one place, own or gain too much, nor have a long-term relationship. But personally, I believe life is all about prioritizing. Say you have 100 things you want to do, then you first pick top 20 and do all of them. As long as you can complete that, then the rest of 80% won’t mean much. The same thing goes with the consulting field, where we say, “building strategy and decluttering are the two most important things”.
However, I also understand our interest change as we age, so perhaps I might get enthusiastic in completely new fields in the future. But then again, all I have to do is to change my lifestyle one more time. It might be a marriage or parenting. Who knows? Imagine I start a blog on raising children, and then that goes viral. It sounds so weird it must be fun! So, I might do that.
Be sure to visit Ashishi’s website here.
Follow him on Twitter here.
All Photos by Yosuke Suzuki（Erz）
Written by Akihiro Tajima