Japanese man travels 4,000 miles to spell ‘marry me’ on Google Earth

He broke the world record for GPS art.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Takahashi's proposal.jpg
Takahashi's proposal.

GPS drawing 

Back in 2008, Yasushi 'Yassan' Takahashi wanted to find an original way to propose to his girlfriend. So he went on a journey that took him 4000 miles (7,163 kilometers) over a period of six months, according to a video posted on Google in 2019.

He did this to create the world’s biggest GPS art. The event also garnered him a Guinness World Book Record. 

The art was the words MARRY ME with a heart with an arrow in it at the very end. 

In order to write this message in GPS, Takahashi traveled from the island of Hokkaido in the northern part of Japan to the shores of Kagoshima in the southern tip of the country.

The adventure saw him quit his job and begin his six-month journey on his 31st birthday.

Before his GPS trip, Takahashi had never left Tokyo. This art allowed him to explore all kinds of new areas while sleeping in his car at night for shelter.

Japanese man travels 4,000 miles to spell ‘marry me’ on Google Earth
Another of Takahashi's art

He braved all kinds of weather conditions for the sake of love. And did his girlfriend say yes? Of course she did!

Today, Takahashi has produced more than 1,000 GPS art pieces stretching over 100,000 kilometers in 24 countries.

What is GPS art?

GPS art is when you use an app to track your movements during specific routes to create an image on Google maps or Strava (a fitness tracking app).

You turn on the GPS tracker while you are heading to specific locations and have it follow you. When you do not want your movements tracked (as it does not suit the drawing you are trying to make) you turn it off. When done, you upload it online and you have a piece of art.

Japanese man travels 4,000 miles to spell ‘marry me’ on Google Earth
A mouse created by Takahashi.

GPS art doesn’t happen by accident. You can’t simply take off on a route. You have to plan it beforehand diligently and carefully. As such, it is really a precise art.

Michael Wallace, or WallyGPX, is one of the more famous Strava artists online. He has undertaken more than 700 pieces across his city. Using GPS tracking, he has even produced a map of the world and a scene from the game Donkey Kong,

“I like to consider what I do is more like being a human etch-a-sketch,” he told The Guardian in January 2021. “While I’m out there pedalling around the city, I’m sort of creating this imaginary digital spray paint behind me.”

Although Wallace seems to use a bike while Takahashi mostly walked, there are many ways to create GPS art, even through cars. The key is to have an original idea you would like to see spelled out on the streets of a region.

The best thing is that it does not take an expert to do this. Anyone can plan out a route and use GPS apps, Google Earth or Strava to create their own unique and perhaps record-breaking design. All it takes is a little imagination and a lot of dedication.