National Long Trail Forum, Japan

Dec 2016


Jenny and I were invited to attend a hiking event in Tottori, Japan. We had never been to Japan before, but always wanted to go. So we thought this might be a good opportunity, especially as the hosts were offering to pay most of our expenses.

With the agreement made, two men traveled to Arizona for a preliminary meeting. Naoto flew all the way from Tokyo, just to meet us! And Katsu flew from Vancouver.

Naoto presenting us with a framed selection of Be-Pal patches, with Katsu photographing.

Be-Pal is a Japanese magazine, and loosely translated it means "Friend of Nature."

Naoto also presented us with personal letter written by Ryuji Ohsawa, Editor in Chief BE-PAL Magazine, November 1, 2016:

"My Dear Climbing Hero, Ray Jardine,
Thank you so much for accepting our invitation to BE-PAL/Tottori event.
I, Editor in Chief of BE-PAL, was once a rock climber. Though I was a lower level climber compared to you, your invention device, Friends, saved my life on many occasions. I must express my appreciation for this great invention.
By the way, long trail hiking of Japan is just the beginning as a style. People who experienced long trail hiking in U.S. brought back this style to the trails in Japan and it's good to see the number of these hikers increasing. However, this movement needs to have a philosophy to become a part of our lifestyle. I hope you can guide us in finding this philosophy to fit the Japanese style.
Also I hope you can enjoy some of the trails and the nature of San-In.
I look forward to seeing you soon."

Then the December Issue (Nov. 10th) of Be-Pal featured these promotional articles:

Long Trail Forum

God of the hikers, Ray Jardine, who opened the door to everyone for long trail hiking, is coming to Japan for the first time to join the 13th Long Trail Forum in Tottori.
The Long Trail's legend, Ray Jardine, is joining the Long Trail forum in Tottori! Don't miss this opportunity to hear the story from the real legend.
Ray Jardine: Pioneer of light weight hiking who set the standard for the trail culture of the world.

Then a month later, Jenny and I flew to Japan.

What transpired was eight days of resplendent hiking, meeting friendly people, and enjoying lavish Japanese dishes.

We fell in love with the Japanese people. Not many spoke English, so it was nice to have a translator, (Katsu) but even those times without him we felt fine. The people are super polite, and we never felt threatened or looked down upon, even in the heart of Tokyo.

And as for the event itself, we expected to be part of the event, but it turned out that the event seemed to center around us. We were not expecting that!

Naoto on the left, and Katsu on the right. In the center is their boss, Ryuji Ohsawa, Editor in Chief of BE-PAL Magazine. During the ensuing week, these three became almost like brothers to us.

Katsu was the only one of three who spoke English. He was hired as a translator, and became our ever-present right-hand man.

Naoto was the event's organizer, tasked to make sure everything went smoothly. In the ensuing week he was always busy, and never seemed to have a minute to spare.

The 15K hike was one of several hiking events that weekend. The organizers limited the 15K hike to 40 participants. This event was sold out.

Five of these guys had driven twelve hours to attend this event.

On stage, these people are very well known to the Japanese. That's Katsu whispering in my ear, translating what Ryuji is saying. At one point he said "Without Ray Jardine, I wouldn't be here. His climbing invention saved my life. I was climbing a cliff and fell off, and every one of my protection anchors pulled out, except for one - a Friend. I was left hanging by that single Friend."

"Loon" and Tomoya talking about some of my adventures. Loon had hiked the AT, and speaks English. Tomoya is a well known hiker; running a big store in Tokyo selling ultralight hiking gear.

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