BC Bookworld review

In today’s world, seldom do we hear a tale of someone who walks the talk—literally. That’s why it’s a special delight to discover a book like Walking to Japan. Contrary to what the title suggests, this is far from a guidebook unless it’s a guide to living a life of peace and action. Instead, it chronicles Derek Youngs’ extraordinary life of non-violence, self-realization and adventure, which ended far too soon. By his side, we join the pursuit of a noble path and his metaphorical dream of walking to Japan.

Youngs’ quest for peace was born from his own birth in England during turbulent World War II. After a brush with a more “normal” existence, his life’s passion was discovered during the Great Peace March in 1986 from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. and continued over two decades with other pilgrimages, including a cross-Canada peace walk, a post-Berlin Wall journey across Europe with a pony named Mary, and a later trek on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Perhaps the highlight of his life’s mission was his long-awaited appearance at the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing where he laid 1,000 paper origami cranes on the Sadako memorial statue in Peace Park.

Thousands along his paths enjoyed hearing Youngs’ entertaining stories, sharing his disarming silliness and simple message of peace at public appearances, through extensive media coverage, and via daily encounters. But few realized his more personal struggles.

In Walking to Japan, we uncover his more intimate side; witness a constant barrage of births, illnesses, deaths, doubts and chance encounters that sweep his life. We discover a portrayal of the peacemaker who faced and overcame the many struggles of his own existence and transformation.

Throughout it all, the women in Youngs’ life shaped his growth. His wife Carolyn played an especially vital role in his final years as she transitioned from young protégé to wife to co-author of this heartwarming book after Derek’s untimely passing. Through her tender eyes we glimpse an intimate portrait of a life well-lived, full of humour, humility, love, frailties and forgiveness.

As Youngs once reminisced, “In all my walking and talking about peace, I haven’t stopped nuclear weapons, or the genocide in Rwanda, or the fighting in Gaza. But I have helped friends and strangers. I have made a difference by talking with people, listening to their fears, feeling their pain, and sharing my love and hope. We can all make a difference by working to let go of fear and hatred, by living from the heart.”

Can we hope for anything more?

Brandon Wilson
Lowell Thomas Gold Award-winning author of Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace

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