Japan Long Trail Associaton

The Japan Long Trail Association is a consortium of 25 trails working to establish and promote the long trail culture and "travel on foot" tourism in Japan.

Background
In the current Japanese lifestyle, the public interest in nature and health orientation has increased. This increase originated from the walking for health boom in the 90's and has expanded into the walking tourism movement. Because 70% of the country is covered by mountains, Japan is actually an amazing country in which to enjoy spectacular nature and culture heritage throughout all four seasons.
After the rapid economic growth from WWII and the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, people realized it was important to appreciate the beauty of nature and to maintain local history and tradition. A slower pace of life and peaceful outdoor activities such as hiking in the countryside have definitely gained popularity. Under these circumstances, the concept of long trail walking comes into the spotlight.


History of Long Trail in Japan
The roots of the long trail in Japan started as pilgrimages as long as 1200 years ago; for instance, The Shikoku Pilgrimage *1 , The Ise Grand Shrine Pilgrimage *2 and Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range *3 which are well-known worldwide.
The travel dairy "Oku no hosomichi" by the famous 17th century haiku poet Basho Matsuo still inspires many people to follow in his footsteps and trace his journey.
Mountaineering has been popular since the 19th century due to the influence of western alpinism. However, in last 10 years, moderate hiking without a high skill level and heavy gear attracts more people. Instead of climbing up to a peak, rambling on a long trail has grown in popularity.

*1 A multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples on the island of Shikoku. → Wikipedia site
*2 The important Shinto shrine complex in the city of Ise. → Isejingu site
*3 The UNESCO world heritage site on Kii Peninsula were based on their historical and modern importance in religious pilgrimages. → UNESCO site


History of Japan Long Trail Association
In 2008, the first modern style long trail, the Shin-etsu Trail, was opened at Nagano, and since then several trails have been established all over Japan. Following the current situation, Japan Long Trail Association was founded in 2011 with help from organizations such as MEXT *4, MOE *5, Forestry Agency and Japan Tourism Agency.
To date, from the north in Hokkaido to the south in Kyushu, 18 trail' management groups have become members of the association to enhance development and maintenance of trails and to strengthen the profile of trail walking culture.
Each trail has a unique character - roaming farmland and broad leaf tree forests, walking on a ridge way and moors in the mountainous area, going around a volcanic mountain, visiting sacred places of traditional mountain worship etc. Those trails not only respond to the recreational needs but also contribute to growing tourism for the region.
Looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the association and Japan Tourism Agency are working together to promote trail hiking as a part of Japanese sport tourism, and focusing on communication with overseas visitors to provide trail information for their visits.

*4 Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
*5 Ministry of Environment


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