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Hiking in Japan (2): Things to know for safe hiking

hiking-in-japan

Japan, the country covered with mountains and forests by nearly 70%, attracts people to the wild places and hikers in Japan has been increasing in number. In fact, foreign tourists, mainly from Asian countries, are visiting Japan for hiking more than ever these days. People who are coming to Japan to enjoy hiking are all welcome. However, hiking accidents are getting more concerned about while the popularity is increasing.

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In Japan, 3000 people annually encounter an accident in the mountains.

Moreover, about 300 of them are dead or missing annually. 78% of those are aged 60 years old or older, and likely lost their life from a physical problem. As for younger people, they tend to get injured due to carelessness from too much optimism.

Hiking accidents most frequently happen in three of the prefectures;
No.1: Nagano Prefecture, the region having the Japan Alps
No.2: Hokkaido Prefecture, has changeable weather with a blizzard of snow
No.3: Tokyo Prefecture.

Hiking accidents are increasing in Tokyo

The picture people commonly have about Tokyo may be the urban landscape with high-rise buildings, but, the west part of Tokyo Prefecture is actually a mountain region, has both small and large mountains, one of which reaches 2000m at the highest. In the area, there are hiking trails within easy access from the central Tokyo. Some people go there just for a day hike without much preparation and get involved in an accident. We should keep in mind that more than 10 people lose their life annually at the mountain site in Tokyo.

The accidents are mostly caused by lacking in physical strength, less preparation, and confusion with the direction.

Hikers who don’t speak Japanese should be more careful about not getting lost. Though you can find sign boards at a fork on walking tracks, they may be written only in Japanese. Non-Japanese-speaking hikers should go hiking in a group with a Japanese speaking guide. Also, it is advised to keep some Japanese phrase samples on hiking such as “I have a heatstroke” or “I am injured” in your smartphone that can be used offline.

Hiking trails at Kiso Komagatake
A starting point on a trail at Kiso Komagatake, Southern Japan Alps

Things that help hikers to avoid accidents in the mountain are;

Hikers are required to submit a Tozantodoke, a hiking registration form

This registration form is called in Japanese Tozantodoke "登山届" or Tozan Keikakusho "登山計画書", or Tozansha Todoke "登山者届". The submission is obligatorily required in some prefectures. In Gifu Prefecture, hikers obligatory need to submit this form, otherwise, they will get fined which will be up to 50000 JPY.

There is no specific format for the registration form. You can create the one by yourself as long as it contains necessary information; Name, Contact address, Gender, Age, Birthday, the hiking plan, and the number of people in the group. You can submit the form by putting it in a box which is usually provided at the starting point of a trail or the nearby train/ropeway station.

A sample of the registration form is downloadable on the website of Japan Mountaineering and Sports Climbing Association.
https://www.jma-sangaku.or.jp/sangaku/?ca=4

Hiking registration form
The hiking registration form and the box to put it in (on the right)

The hiking registration form

Japan's Hiking Insurance

For hiking in high mountains, it is suggested to buy hiking insurance. The insurance will be somewhere between 250 JPY and 500 JPY per day. The insurance valid for one year will be between 2500 JPY and 3000 JPY. Hiking insurance is essential for people who participate in trail running, like HASETSUNE CUP (http://www.hasetsune.com/ ).

If you are a tourist having travel insurance, make sure if hiking accidents are covered by the insurance or not.

Extra Information

The habitat of Japanese mountain leeches or Yamabiru is expanding. At the starting point of a trail located in such a habitat, you will see a board saying in Japanese, “Watch out Mountain Leaches!" At the place near the board, you will also see a bag of salt (or salt water) which is to put on your shoes to keep leeches away. The salt may work for an hour or so, but remember it won’t be last. It is more secure to keep spraying repellent frequently on your shoes and body.

Watch out for bears (Kuma) and Hornets (Suzume-bachi) especially in Spring and Autumn.

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