May 17

Let’s Walking

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Sanpo is Japanese for a ‘walk,’ and it’s a popular pastime here.  From the bureaucratic samurai of the Tokugawa period who would wander among the cherry trees and write poetry, to modern office workers trying to keep fit, walking is still a much appreciated activity in Japan.

Japan is also a land with a rising elderly population.  It has one of the longest life expectancies in the world.  As communities and towns have ever older populations it is also becoming ever more important to promote fitness in populations that will strain public health services ever more if not kept healthy.  One way municipalities can do this is by hosting events such at the one Kumejima Town hosts every January.

The 久米島のんびりウオーク or Kumejima’s Leisure Walk is a two-day yearly event, part of the larger Okinawa Marching league.  Participants come from all over Japan.  As a resident of Kume Island I attended this event first  in 2011.

The first day offered 32km, 16km, and 5km courses and the second day offered 20km, 10km, and 5km courses.  One participant was a 86-year-old who planned on completing the full 32km course!

Both days featured different courses through the island.  Participants entered with a nominal fee, and were provided maps and completion certificates.  Along the way stickers were awarded at checkpoints, and food stations were set up where walkers could rest and eat.

I did the 16km walk on the first day of the event.  Walkers stretched together  and announcements were made.  As with many events there was an MC tapped for the event who extolled everyone to do a good job.  The 32km group did the same about half an hour before, so everyone in the 16km group set off together.

Each group set off to the sound of a taiko drum performance.  All along the way were supportive Japanese Flags with messages urging the participants on.  These helped guide the walkers through the more remote areas.  There were also tea and water stations along the way, with great views and interesting conversations.

One lady I talked to came all the way from Yokohama to participate.  She said it was a great way to see more of Japan, while keeping in shape.  She talked to me because her children live in the states and wanted to know why I was there. ^_^  All in all, it was a great morning/afternoon spent among Kumejima’s beautiful walkways.  Do you want to visit new places and keep in shape?  Let’s Walking!

This post originally appeared on To learn more about Kumejima visit

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