“Jappalachia”: Unlikely Connections Between Japan’s Shinetsu Trail and the Appalachian Trail

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Daniel Botsman
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This thesis explores the relationship between Japan’s Shinetsu Trail and the United States’ Appalachian Trail (AT), two nationally-funded long distance trails established during times of increasing industrialization that transformed people’s relationships to the environment. Though some of these connections may be ‘unlikely’, as the title of this thesis suggests, the relationships between the two trails reveal the multifold purposes and unique aspects of the places they serve. The writing of Katō Noriyoshi (1949-2013), one of founders of the Shinetsu Trail, reveals substantial influence of the Appalachian Trail (AT) on creative and organizational aspects of the trail. Both Katō and MacKaye, the founder of the AT, saw trails as a form of recreation and recuperation, and they each also saw it as a means to generate local and regional economic development in rural regions. The Shinetsu Trail’s incorporation of the AT’s cooperative management system and volunteer trail maintenance methods encouraged local engagement that ensures the trail’s long-term maintenance and care. In addition to the influence of the AT, Japan’s preexisting relationships to the environment factor into the establishment of long trails throughout the country, which reflect a more distinct association with traditional culture than its counterpart in the U.S. Japan’s long trail movement grows out of this combination of introduced elements from the AT and Shinetsu Trail, and introduce new approaches to long trails as well, such as the Michinoku Coastal Trail built after like the 3/11 disaster in the Tōhoku region. The most recent proof of this ongoing influence is a budding international partnership between the AT and the Shinetsu Trail in 2020.