BEING deaf did not stop Kohei Hakamada from travelling the world in his Suzuki 250cc motorcycle.
The 64-year-old Japanese from Yokohama set out on his world adventure in 2010, passing through 35 countries including Korea, Russia, Central Asia, Middle East, India and Sri Lanka.
Through the Penang Deaf Association interpreter Siti Zubaidah Mohd Lani, Hakamada shared his experiences with the media at the association’s communication centre in George Town recently.
Hakamada, who is also nicknamed the ‘Silent Rider’, said the reason for his adventure was to show the world that even though he was deaf, he could still explore the world.
“It is also an encouragement to the deaf community. Malaysia is the 36th country I’m visiting and I like the warm weather and delicious Malay food.
“I have been in Penang for a month and I have visited the Sekolah Pendidikan Khas Tanjung Bungah. It was nice sharing my experiences with the teachers and students,” he said.
Hakamada, who has two children, worked at a printing company back in Japan before his retirement. He is funding his round-the-world trip through his pension and savings.
This was not Hakamada’s first trip around the world as he had hitchhiked across 70 countries from 1973 to 1977.
Travelling around the world was challenging. In Africa, Hakamada was robbed, losing USD2,900, his visa and credit card. However that has not stopped him from continuing on.
“I also passed by conflict areas such as Syria and Lebanon. These places were very beautiful and I did not see any bombs or fire fights when I was there. However, the war in Syria started after I left the country.
“In Pakistan, there were policemen escorting me everywhere, even when I was sleeping. This was to ensure my safety as the locals might misunderstand and think that I was a spy.
“I was denied entry into Myanmar, which was why I had to take a flight from Sri Lanka to Malaysia,” he said.
Unfortunately, when Hakamada reached Malaysia, his motorcycle was stuck at Port Klang, awaiting clearance from the Customs Department.
“The Malaysian deaf community is very good as it helped me go through the necessary paperwork to get my motorcycle,” he said.
Unfolding his cellophane-taped Michelin World Map, Hakamada pointed out that he would continue on his journey to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Sabah, Sarawak, Indonesia, Australia, South America and North America before returning to Japan between 2018 and 2020.
“I plan to write a book about my experiences when I return home. I believe I’m the first deaf person to complete an around-the-world journey on a motorcycle.
“My advice to everyone, especially the deaf community, is to chase their dreams. Every morning I wake up, I’m focused on chasing my dream,” he said.
Also present were Penang Deaf Association president Chung Kim Cheong and Penang Deaf Sport Association deputy president Muhaammad Khairun Cuganathan.