Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 22 : May/June 2008  > Columns  >  Nature Trails  >  Happy Trails!


Nature Trails

By Pauline Kitamura

Happy Trails!


If you head up to the mountains in Japan, most of the people you’re likely to see are groups of hikers in their late 40s to 60s. Tozan (hiking) is a very popular activity among this generation and these fit folks, often referred to as chuukonen haikah (literally translates to “middle-aged hiker”), are recognizable by their checkered trekking shirts, large backpacks, sturdy hiking boots and trekking poles.

Lately however, there’s a new wave of younger folks hitting the trails. They carry light backpacks, wear low-cut running shoes and sip water from a tube sticking out of their packs. Instead of walking up and down mountains with heavy packs, they prefer to travel light and fast. In fact, they like to run.

Trail running (pronounced toreiru runningu and called “toreh-run” for short), is an outdoor sport that has recently gained huge popularity in Japan. Grass roots trail running races have grown into major running events attracting hundreds and, for some races, thousands of runners.

Outdoor shops prominently display hydration packs, trail running shoes and breathable (tsuukisei no aru), fast-drying (sokkansei ga takai), light weight (keiryou) clothing perfect for running on the trail. And, on any given weekend, you’ll be more than likely to bump into one of these swift-footed runners blazing the trails.

While running solo is peaceful, trail running is also a lot of fun with a group of friends. You may want to remember a few useful trail phrases to keep the group coordinated. For example, many of Japan’s mountains are steep, and running up them may be challenging. You might suggest walking up by asking, “Nobori wa aruki mashouka?”

If you want to drop the pace a bit, you can say “Sukoshi peh-su wo otosouka?” or, if you want to run faster, “Mousukoshi hayaku hashirou!”

If you can’t keep up, you can suggest to your friend to run ahead and wait for you at the next trail junction. “Saki ni itte. Tsugi no bunki de mattete.

Need a break? “Chotto kyuukei shimashouka?” Or perhaps some lunch when you’ve reached the top. “Choujou ni tsuitara ohiru gohan wo tabemashou”.

One last thing. Japan’s trails are shared with hikers, many who aren’t used to seeing trail runners whizzing by. Be sure to call out a friendly “konnichiwa” way beforehand so you don’t take them by surprise. And, as you pass, a polite thank you, “arigatou gozaimasu,” will keep everyone happy on the trails!