A footpath boom in Japan

posted on February 21, 2016

Ambling along footpaths, a type of walkway that originated in Britain to enjoy scenery and old townscapes in rural areas, is becoming more popular in the Kyushu region of Japan.

Typically, footpaths have been created by local residents, who welcome other people to walk them.

Footpaths are believed to have originated in Britain in the 19th century when ordinary citizens demanded and won the right to walk across aristocrats' land. In Japan, footpaths started about 20 years ago in such places as Machida, western Tokyo, and Hokkaido. Currently, there are more than 400 footpath courses in about 50 areas.

Taking the lead in footpaths to commune with nature is Misato, a town in a mountainous area of Kumamoto Prefecture with a population of about 10,000. The town has 15 courses ranging from four to eight kilometers in length.

The scenery along the courses include tiered paddy fields, a stone bridge and a satoyama village forest. It takes two or three hours to complete each course.

The courses generally have mild slopes and are not taxing, and many people from other areas can be seen walking the courses at their own pace.

"Visitors enjoy the local scenery, which retains its original characteristics, while local residents rediscover the charms of their regions (through the visitors)," said Kosei Hamada, head of the secretariat of Misato Footpath Association, a private organization of local residents.

Hamada, who serves as chairman of a nonprofit organization for revitalizing the town, learned from an outdoor magazine about five years ago that strolling along footpaths had become a popular activity in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Furthermore, the cost is minimal because the scenery already exists.

As Misato lacked attractive sightseeing spots like Aso, also in Kumamoto Prefecture, Hamada decided footpaths were the way to go.

Hamada first approached administrative entities, local commerce and industry groups and ordinary people to gain their support and understanding. He then devised courses and created maps indicating spots of interest, toilets and parking lots. He also set up signs along roads and paths.

In April 2013, Hamada established the footpath association. He trained guides and organized a tour in which participants were served with homemade local dishes.

The number of people who participated in events or hiked along the footpaths with a guide stood at 761 in fiscal 2013, but this figure nearly doubled to 1,362 in fiscal 2014. And because a number of people walked by themselves or in their own groups, the figure was much larger, Hamada said.

source by amestrib
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