Nov 15, 2010


If I am to make a list of Great Experiences in Japan, the 35 km walk I did yesterday will certainly be on it. Here goes the story....

My family & I had done 10 km walk in Kakogawa 2-Day march three times, but every time, the increasing number of kindergartners walking the same 10km made us feel 'nervous'! Further, the 40 km guys would arrive at destination the same time when we would arrive there completing 10 km -at around 4 pm. True, the long distance guys start 3 hrs earlier, but that with a 3-hr early start they could cover 4 times what we did was astonishing .... the idea of doing the longest course thus crept into my mind.

I started at 7:30.The 10km and 35 km walkers were of strikingly different, and you see the difference the moment you are in there -the 35 k guys walked pretty, pretty fast, as if they would miss a flight otherwise! It was 'brisk walk' all along, like in a walking race. I didn't see anybody stop by to have a drink -they drank as they kept walking. They were in no way like the 10k families & kids who would leisurely walk. I strived hard not to lag behind (i.e., 'too much behind') the 60+ ladies & men who were walking effortlessly, but at a good speed. There were many elementary & middle schoolers. The trail was fully at the outskirts of Kakogawa; it went along the riverside, got on top of Gongen dam, and at times went uphill on mountains giving a 'mountain hike' feeling. The scenery was pretty good; and the weather was pleasant.

Unlike the 10km trail, more number of food stalls (5 to 6) were on the path, some offering free drinks, zenzai (omochi in red-bean soup) and udon. I wondered had they offered chapathy & korma, that would have attracted IITians (No; we might be arguing 'chapathy was hard' and 'korma from that shop was salty' etc). Frankly, I noticed that all the walkers accepted the free supplies with thanks, and many made it a point to go to the counter and said "oishikatta". As we walked through roads that had paddy fields & plantations at both the sides, there were abnormally more number of scare-crows built in attractive colors and shapes and they all held a flag/cloth that had some writing on it. Do they expect the Japanese birds to read the text (and decide if they can find something to eat somewhere else) or what?? No, they are all greetings to the walkers. When I was taking picture of the scare-crows, a walker befriended me and asked how many km I walked the previous day. When I said I was doing only the 2nd day, he was surprised, and painstakingly tried to convince me that it was a 2-day walk, and one should do both days!

At the start point they give you a package that has a A4 size cloth-like sheet which walkers pin to their back-bag, writing their name and the distance walked /walking on the 1st/2nd day. The package also has a badge. Apart from the A4 sheet, many have pinned the badges they collected in previous years -some 10-12 in number. By looking at the A4 sheet, I found that there was no single person that did the walk just one day; and there was no single person doing 35 km having done anything less than 40km the previous day. In other words, all the 35 km guys were in fact 40 + 35 km guys! (except the sole Indian).

Deepika kept calling me 2-3 times as I was walking. I promptly attended her call, fearing that otherwise she would make an SOS to Kumar :-) (that’s precisely what she did when I didn't pick the phone the other day at 11 pm, as I was on a long call with my mom, being my birthday. She woke Kumar up, and this guy promptly pressed my doorbell at 11 pm. Fearing an emergency I opened the door even holding the receiver in one hand.... . Kumar had lost his sleep, but the sad story didn't just end with that; the next day early morning 6 am, she called him again to say "Sorry, I was very nervous yesterday....". Later that day Kumar was seen checking with his friends how to cancel & terminate the NTT landline permanently! :-)

At about 2 pm I reached the point where the 35km trail merged with that of 10 km. Again, saw the families and kindergartners happily & leisurely walking 10 km. The 35 km guys found them no match to their speed, and overtook them at every opportunity. I arrived at the start point at 3 pm, well ahead of a number of 10km walkers. It had taken 7 hrs and 30 minutes (which included a 20 min lunch break and a couple of coffee breaks each 5 min) of brisk walk to cover 35 km.

Deepika was excited about this walk, more so as it took just 7 hours. She said, apparently with a bright & cheerful face (முகம் மலர்ந்து) she would have joined me had only she been here in Japan. "If you had joined me I would not have done it in 7 hrs" said I. மலர் வாடியது :-)

After the walk I was taking rest and watching the stage performance arranged with mega TV screen in front of the city hall. 10 km, 20 km and 35 km guys were still returning one by one. I felt great that I did much ahead of many 10 km guys. "பரவாயில்லையே, நமக்குக் கூட கொஞ்சம் stamina இருக்குது போல!" என்று கொஞ்சம் கர்வத்துடன் தான் உட்கார்ந்திருந்தேன். Jap girls were dancing on the stage. Soon the announcer interviewed a young girl on the stage, who answered mostly in single-words.

"Hana-chan kyo wa nan kiro arukimashita ka?" (How many KM did you walk today?)
"20 kiro"(20 km)

"kino mo aruitan desu ka? (Did you walk yesterday too?)
"so. kino 40 kiro"(Yes. I did 40 km yestereday)

"tomodachi to issho ni?" (With your friends?)
"pappa to mama to isshoni arukimashita" (With my mom & dad)

"sugoi ne! shindoku naindesu ka?"(Great! Are you not tired?)
"shindokatta" (It was tiring)

"shindo katta...?! ha, ha! demo gambattane! rai nen mo arukimasu ka?"(Tired?? anyway, you did a great job! Will you walk next year also?)
After a pause "Un" (Yes)

"Oh, sugoi... Hana-chan, ima nan-sai desu ka?" (Great! Hana, how old are you now?)
"rokku sai desu"(I'm six years old)

என் கர்வம் அழிந்தது!