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Japan 2010

So, the story starts awhile back, at an Outdoor Retailer show. Takashi Fukuchi, who represents Evernew in the U.S., asked Glen about coming to Japan to share a talk on ultralight techniques and philosophy. There were many planning sessions with Takashi and  Tsuchiya Tomo, owner of Hiker’s Depot in Japan. Evernew agreed to sponsor the event, and plans were formed to include a hike. The many logistics of where to hike, how many people could go on the hike, and who should be included had to be worked out. Eventually, the plan coalesced into a 4-day hike in the Chichibu mountains, followed by Glen giving two sessions of the presentation (an afternoon and evening session, since the venue could only seat 50 people).

The Backpacking
The trip in the Chichibu mountains was a fun time. With the common bond of interest in ultralight backpacking, I felt like I had a bunch of new instant friends. True, I couldn’t understand what they were saying most of the time, but it didn’t seem to matter. It was obvious from the cheerful banter that they were having fun, so I was having fun just being one of the gang. Most all of the Japanese I met actually knew a fair amount of English, but as you can expect, it was hard for them to use, so unless they were talking directly to me, they were talking in Japanese. Gear-wise it was difficult to pack for an unfamiliar situation when I was thousands of miles away. I didn’t have the luxury of making last-minute choices at the trailhead, I had to bring everything with me from home. Still, I wanted to make a good impression on my hosts, and certainly didn’t want to have the heaviest pack there! So here’s what I ended up with:
Glen’s Gear (ounces)
Glen’s Gear (grams)

What I took worked. The first night got to 41 deg F, but felt like 30. If I had known, I would have been tempted to take my heavier bag, but I was fine with my light bag. There were people with a lot less! I might have taken my MLD eVent mitten shells if I had know how much rain we were going to get. In my mind it was going to just be a few showers, and not so cold. It ended up being solid rain all day, in the 40’s. Other than that, everything worked pretty well. Because of the shelters, and cutting the trip short a day, my cuben Wedge did not get a real test in the rain, but I would have been fine if we had camped the last night instead of packing it in. The scenery was beautiful. The trails looked like they got a lot of use, and sections of them were quite rough, on a par with some sections of the Appalachian Trail that I’ve hiked. There was a lot of planning on the fly, much consulting of maps and discussion. It seemed like there was often a half hour of looking at maps and animated discussion in Japanese, which would then be summarized to me in one sentence in English. Tomo did a great job of planning and leading the hike.  I enjoyed the trip, and look forward to returning to Japan for more hiking, hopefully in the Japanese Alps next time.  And I hope that some of my new Japanese friends come to visit me in the U.S. and do some hiking!

The Presentations
Tomo did a huge amount of work in Japan figuring everything out. The only thing that remained eventually was figuring out the presentation itself.  Glen has a number of presentations, geared to different audiences and different lengths, but he wanted to do something completely new. From early sketches and musings, a presentation on the Ultralight Cycle emerged. Based on the premise that lightening your pack involves gear and techniques, the presentation gave examples of how first, expectations have to be adjusted, then gear choices made to lighten loads, then techniques learned to further reduce weight. Once a massive powerpoint slide show was prepared, Takashi interpreted the entire show into Japanese, for easier comprehension by the audience.

So the first part of the presentations was a “meet and greet”.  People drifted in, chatted among themselves and with Glen.  During this time there was a slide show on the projector of 280 slides from Glen’s various trips.  Then there was an introduction by Tomo.  Glen presented the Ultralight Cycle using the powerpoint slides.  After discussing each slide, Takashi would translate.  Glen had a printout in English to keep track of where he was.  After the powerpoint presentation, there was a raffle of prizes, and a period of questions and answers.  There were plenty of photo ops both before and after the presentation.  It seemed to be well-received.  From discussions at the ‘after-party’, it seemed like the visit may have served as a catalyst for bringing together all the ultralight experts in Japan to collaborate on a website that would further the exposure and growth of ultralight in Japan.