(Please click here to read part one of The New Journey For Enson Inoue, detailing Inoue’s walking pilgrimage across the length of Japan to raise awareness for victims of the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. Today, in Part Two, we meet the two longtime friends of Inoue who are joining him on his more than 1500 mile long walk.)

Roman Dela Cruz left his home in Guam to begin the pilgrimage with Inoue last month. One might expect the founder of clothing brand Fokai to sound exhausted after a 45 day trek of over 500 miles, but he’s not — like Inoue, he’s too energetic and excited for what’s to come. He’s focused on the mission for Japan: what he calls “a lifetime experience.”

Inoue and Dela Cruz’s lives have been connected for many years. It was in 1999 when Inoue first visited Guam, accompanying one of his students to a MMA bout for the Superbrawl promotion. The two met at the arena, and became fast friends who would visit and support one another in years to come. Inoue’s Purebred network of martial arts academies would eventually establish a base in Guam, and Dela Cruz’s Fokai would open a retail shop in Japan.

Dela Cruz describes a deep sense of obligation to the people of Japan, and also refers to the pilgrimage as a matter of great personal growth.

“It’s been magical,” he says. “I’m happy if I can have some service to the people of Japan. This has been about my 50th trip to Japan and Japan has been very good to me. I think is my opportunity to do some good for Japan.”

Asked about the toil of day after day walking, Dela Cruz echoes his clothing line’s familiar slogan, or, what he calls the creed: exhaust the body, proceed the mind, cultivate the spirit. “The breaking down of the body actually becomes a good thing,” he says. “You work your way through it, and you wake up – mentally and spiritually.”

“What better way to experience Japan but in slow motion?” he asks. “We’re sleeping in a new place every day. It’s one hundred surprises a day.”

Fowler, Inoue, and Dela Cruz pose for a picture on the way to Kyoto.

Joining Inoue and Dela Cruz is Michael Fowler, a highly decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor originally from Virginia, now based in Hawaii.

Fowler has been friends with Inoue and Dela Cruz for years. In fact, Fowler once served as head instructor at the academy Inoue established in Guam.

Fowler eventually founded an academy of his own, in the North Shore area of Oahu — where his children’s classes became a community fixture.

An ideal of service seems to be motivating him here as well.

“If I can be of any service and draw more attention to this cause,” Fowler says, “that’s something I’m really thankful that I’m able to do.”

Like Dela Cruz, Fowler seems to find his own benefit to the long walk as well. As personal problems developed in Fowler’s life, he joined Inoue and Dela Cruz earlier this month.

“It was the first time in my life I felt… scrambled,” Fowler recalls. “I didn’t know what to do. I was in communication with Enson at the time. I asked, where he was going to be Thursday, and he said Tokyo. The flight from Honolulu into Haneda in Tokyo was scheduled perfectly. It was meant to be.”

“On the North Shore,” he continues, “I’m not going to saying I’m a big deal, but you could say I’m kind of high-profile. I felt like I was in a fishbowl: everyone’s looking at me. I had to get out of there and get my thoughts straight.  What better way to get myself together than to help with this walk?”

Fowler had taken many trips to Japan, but was always situated in Enson’s home base in the Tokyo area.

“Tokyo is cool,” he says, “but it’s very on-the-go and very busy. It was more about fun and having a good time. This is a grind. I definitely appreciate Japan a lot more, seeing the country. Granted my family has no history of being samurai! But, I respect that tradition a lot.”

“If you do Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they say you have to go to Brazil,” he continues. “I feel you have to go to Japan too, to experience the martial arts tradition. The samurai tradition.”

Like Inoue, Fowler seems awed by the reaction to the pilgrimage. “People are cheering you on, just for walking. It’s powerful for sure. Very positive response from people we don’t know. That’s really the goal, to let people know, people are still suffering there.”

What’s clear speaking to the three, is their sense of brotherhood as well as their love for Japan. Maybe it’s the spirit that Inoue was said to have brought back to Japan guiding them, too: Yamato Damashii.

Dela Cruz sums it up: “It’s been a long prayer for Japan, it’s an examination of the creed, and it’s a study in Yamato Damashii. That’s what this is.”

(Photography is courtesy Enson Inoue’s Facebook page. You can follow his trek there or at his blog.)