There’s something about hiking that brings out the best in people. I’m not sure if it’s because you are surrounded by nature, or if its because you can recognise something similar inside yourself and other hikers, regardless of fitness levels, but people are friendlier on the trail.
Here’s my experiences on Sunday, when I went hiking by myself in Tsukuba. Within a space of four hours I had 3 encounters that had me smiling, and remembering why I love Japan.
Firstly, while resting at a way point, one lady came over to me and offered me some cut nashi pear. It was a really simple exchange, she just came over and said ‘Please’ while offering me the fruit. I said thanks and took it, and then she left. But what a lovely random act of kindness. I am also convinced that fruit tastes better when you are hiking. Nothing like exercise to make healthy foods taste great!
Next, on the way down the mountain I ran into a group of guys from a university. One of the older guys in the group was trying to speak English with me, which happens kinda frequently in Japan, however it didn’t feel like he was trying for the sake of practicing, but more for the sake of conversing with me. He was rather impressed with the time I’d been in Japan, and soon realised my Japanese was better than his English, but then he made the younger boys practice introductions with me. They were all pretty cute (as in action, not physical appearance… mind you, some were cute in both ways….) and they all said ‘Hello’ again when they passed me later.
Finally, when I was close to the end of my hike, a group that passed me earlier as they were going up the mountain over took me coming down (so, Im not very fast… or fit…). These guys were also university students, but they had great english. They walked with me the remaining way (about 15 min) and we had a lovely conversation about nothing in particular. I was particularly impressed that they managed to do the mountain (up and down) in an hour, and wearing sandals…
Of course, in Japan hikers are polite and courteous. Almost everyone you pass will say ‘Konnichi wa!’. People passing you will say either ‘Sumimasen’ or ‘Osaki ni’, excusing themselves or excusing themselves for going first respectively. And then when you let someone move through a narrow way before you do they say their thanks, or excuse themselves again. But its the people who will go out of the way to have a conversation with you ‘just becuase’ that really make me love hiking in Japan.
and for those intrested, I will do a write up on hiking Mt Tsukuba soon!