Walking / 歩く (Longevity Series Part 4)


According to a study by Stanford University, the daily average steps taken by Japanese people is the second highest in the world trailing slightly behind the Chinese. In part, this helps explain why they look quite fit despite relatively large consumption of sugar. I’m not sure how many of you have tried to cook Japanese cuisine, but mirin (sweet sake) and granulated sugar are used plentifully along with soy sauce, miso, and salt. Why do Japanese walk more steps than people in other nations? The first reason that comes to my mind is the existence of the highly praised public transportation system; which may seem counterintuitive. Buses, subways, street cars and trains will take you practically everywhere in Japan. But when you use public transportation, the steps per day increases since you must walk to the station, between the stations, and repeat that for the return trip. It’s like living in Manhattan, but better as far as cleanliness, punctuality, and frequency are concerned.

Japan, commute, commuters, Tokyo, trains
Commuters in Tokyo

Another reason contributing to a walking lifestyle is due to the type of terrain. Since 70% of the land is mountainous, no matter where you are, mountains are highly accessible. Even from downtown Tokyo, a 30 minute train ride would take you to an area where you can hike in the woods. Often schools have field trips to the local trails, and hiking is one of most popular activities among the elderly. You will find many hiking goods stores where you can find all sorts of camping equipment and the latest trail walking fashions.

Hikers, Japan, Mountain, trails

A third and last reason might be shopping habits. I’m not sure if a statistic is available on grocery shopping frequency, but from what I have observed, Japanese people go grocery shopping more often than the people in the US since they tend not to buy in volume for the purpose of stocking up. Storage space is limited, and refrigerators are small. There are plenty of small local stores available within walking distance that offer fresh food. In recent years, more American style stores such as Costco have been built in suburbs where you can drive, park and shop, but I believe traditional shopping habits persist despite the emergence of mega stores. So, these factors are my explanation of why Japanese people’s walking activity is ranked high. I’d like to hear other potential reasons from you. The last article in the series will take a dive into how seaweed affects longevity.


A: 今週末(こんしゅうまつ)、一緒(いっしょ)に奥多摩(おくたま)で山登り(やまのぼり)をしませんか。

B: いいですね。 でも、難(むずか)しい山登りなら止(や)めておきます。最近(さいきん)、膝(ひざ)の調子(ちょうし)が少(すこ)し悪(わる)いんです。

A: 全然(ぜんぜん)難しくありませんよ。先月(せんげつ)も登(のぼ)ったんですが、山(やま)の中腹(ちゅうふく)まで車(くるま)で行(い)けて、そこから約(やく)1時間半の登山(とざん)で山頂(さんちょう)に着(つ)けます。 山頂からの景色(けしき)最高(さいこう)ですよ。 

B: そうですか。それなら、是非(ぜひ)。 

A: お弁当(べんとう)を忘(わす)れずに持(も)って来(き)てください。山頂で食(た)べますから。それから、水(みず)も忘れないように

B: わかりました。天気(てんき)がいいといいんですが。 楽(たの)しみにしています


歩く(あるく) v. to walk

今週末 n. a weekend. List other words 末 can be attached.

奥多摩 A suburban town north of downtown Tokyo. A popular weekend get-away spot for Tokyoites.

しませんか  Why don’t you do “ます-form verb +ませんか” creates invitation form. i.e.: 行きませんか、食べませんか、飲みませんか、来ませんか

難しい イadj. difficult

なら p. if-conditional Here, “if it is a difficult climb….”

止めておきます て-form verb + おきます. Expresses speaker’s action in advance of consequent result. Here, “I rather not to go” (so I won’t get into trouble=consequent result).

全然〜ない not at all. Negative frequency expression.

先月 n. last month

中腹 n. middle point of a mountain. More accurate counting expression as to mountain climbing uses a number + a counting noun合目(goume). i.e. 3合目、5合目

行ける able to go. The able form of 行く. Find another able form in the dialogue.

約  about, around. Followed by a quantity expression. i.e. 約一週間、約半分

山頂 n. summit of a mountain

景色 n. scenery

最高 n. the best

是非 adv. By all means, I’d love to

忘れずに without forgetting ずに =ないで  ないform verb +ずに i.e. 行かずに、持たずに  more formal thanないで

持って来て to bring てfrom of 持って来る Compare with 持っていく

忘れないように  Don’t forget to bring water as well. “してください。” is omitted in the sentence. ようにする is to express an action to achieve an optimal result. Here, speaker is suggesting bringing water (so you won’t get thirsty – optimal result).

といいんですが “I wish/hope….”. Here, “I hope it will be sunny.”

楽しみにしています。 I look forward to it.