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Cycling Japanese reach S.L.

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For a family that doesn't typically ride their bikes that often, Osamu Sekiguchi and his sons have pedaled a lot of miles this summer.

Sekiguchi and his sons Yuji, 12, and Koji, 10, of Tokyo have been bicycling across the United States since June 7. Osamu Sekiguchi's wife, Takako, is here, too — but she opted to drive the motor home. They arrived at Salt Lake City's This Is The Place Monument on Friday at about 4 p.m.

"It's kind of hard for us," Osamu Sekiguchi said. He said he and his family never spent much time on their bikes back home.

But when Osamu Sekiguchi and his family followed the Mormon Trail from Omaha, Neb., to Salt Lake City three years ago, he decided they would come back one day — this time traveling from coast to coast.

Osamu Sekiguchi said his sons were young when last they trekked across American prairies and mountain ranges, and he wanted to be sure they would remember the things they saw. So they have returned.

This time, Osamu Sekiguchi, a writer and convert to the LDS Church, is writing a book about his experiences. He said he wasn't sure when he would be able to return to the United States, but when he talked to a Tokyo publisher who expressed interest in a book about the trip, Osamu Sekiguchi knew he could do it. The San Francisco mountain bike company Specialized, the RayBan sunglasses company and various other businesses also expressed interest in helping the Sekiguchis huff and puff from sea to shining sea.

Osamu Sekiguchi's book will focus on family and teaching children, he said.

"In Japan it's very crowded in the Tokyo area," he said. "We couldn't find any spaces to play for children." But in the United States, he said, they have been able to find many open spaces.

In an e-mail to the Deseret News, Osamu Sekiguchi said the lack of open space in Japan, and especially in Tokyo, has led to problems that he hopes an experience on America's open roads will prevent his children from facing.

Because Japanese children have a hard time finding outdoor recreation, "they spend a lot of time in front of TV or playing computer games," Osamu Sekiguchi wrote.

"We are concerned about the deterioration of family life in Japan," he wrote. "We have to raise a family, not just children. The parents should grow, too."

And grow is just what he hopes his family will do on the road.

The Sekiguchis departed New York City June 7, Osamu Sekiguchi said. Averaging 60 miles a day, the family usually stays overnight in state or national parks so the children can experience nature. Twice a week they stay in motels so Osamu Sekiguchi can send information and photographs from his laptop computer to schools in Japan and his Web site, www.ejanet.com/2000/.

In addition to showing his children America's wide-open spaces, Osamu Sekiguchi said the trip allows for family bonding time. He said that despite the many sunburns and tired muscles they have experienced, when they hit a stretch of flat road and they can talk, it makes it all worth it.

Takako Sekiguchi is the one who made her family into cross country pedestrians the first time. Osamu Sekiguchi said a public relations representative from the LDS Church called him, asking for help in finding a Japanese family to join the 1997 trek along the Mormon Trail.

But Osamu Sekiguchi said Japanese families are busy with work and could hardly afford to miss three months of pay, so he had to call back and tell the public relations man he was unable to find anyone. The representative asked Osamu Sekiguchi if he would do it.

"I said, 'No, I'm not interested in that,' " Osamu Sekiguchi said. "But my wife wanted to do that one." Her sister was a pioneer in the northern part of Japan, so he figures Takako Sekiguchi was hit by the "pioneer spirit."

The Sekiguchis will be in Salt Lake City through Monday and hope to see the Days of '47 parade and other Pioneer Day festivities. Osamu Sekiguchi also wants to see the LDS Church's new film "The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd" in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and find the missionary who baptized him.

They plan to arrive in San Francisco Aug. 12, but because of the deserts and mountains between Provo and the coast, specifically the Sierra Nevada range, Osamu Sekiguchi said he is worried they may not make it there by then.


E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com