- Aug 6, 2015 at 2:26 am #1331395
For the FKT, Speed hiking, mountain running interested – The Trans Japan Alps Race.
Having so much fun following Ralph and Allen going for the FKT I thought it would be nice to share a multi day race that I haven’t seen much about in international media. The Trans Japan Alps Race takes you across Japan from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean – crossing the North, Central, and South Japanese Alps.
There are a lot of very technical sections as you climb and run through the Japan Alps. The race takes you over many of the roughly 3000 meter peaks on your way. Lots of ridges and then valleys to run through. In between the separate Alps the elevation changes are much milder. It is held biannually in August and that is middle of typhoon season so the race is often plagued with typhoons. I have not heard the race has been cancelled, but do know once the cut off times got extended.
Total length of the TJAR is 415Km (260miles).
The total elevation change is 26,662 meters (88000ft).
Course record is set at 5days 5hr 22min by Mochizuki Shougo.
The race is mostly self supported, you carry your own shelter and food and water. There are the traditional huts where you can refill water and get some additional food, but you can't sleep there (though you see them 'rest' there, lying down on the floor).
Most people carry roughly a 20L pack, but you also see people running with something bigger.
Japanese TV NHK made a documentary in 2012, and the images below are from screenshots I took.
I really got inspired by the recent graphs and Spot links and later the reports of the FKT attempts – just thought/hoped this would return the favour to some of you.
Preparations before the start:
Last section when you get out of the Southern Alps is a road marathon to the finish at the Pacific Ocean.
There are only 20 to 30 people every year at the start, but of course a certain amount of people don't make the cut off times (mostly due to fatigue, not being able to mentally focus enough, etc.).This guy made all the cut off times except the last one… People came out and made him a finish line gate anyway.
Aug 6, 2015 at 2:27 am #2219311
uploading is laborious. reserving for more images
edit – nevermind, got it done.Aug 6, 2015 at 4:36 am #2219317
Drop BearBPL Member
Looks like a great trip. How many days do you think it would take you to hike?
There is some good images on the NHK Special hompage.
I can't seem to find the NHK special online :(
Did you get the DVD or watch it on NHKondemand?Aug 6, 2015 at 11:55 pm #2219494
I don't know if it is available abroad, though it should be, but you can get the DVD from Amazon Japan.
About doing the whole traverse – I have looked into it before, but it takes quite a bit more research. Just as a reference, map times for the hike from Tateyama in the Northern Alps, to Yarigatake (still in the Northern Alps) are 6 days. Then you still have to count getting from the Japan Sea to the base of Northern Alps (more than 60Km?), climb other quite technical mountain Tsurugi first, get down from Yari and then you are not even in Central Alps yet. Food would be on bigger issue. I would love to do the Northern Alps Traverse. I've climbed Tateyama and Yari on separate occasions, and made really good times there, that was with quite a bit of food weight.
edit – weird, shortened URL didn't work. Here is a full one
http://www.amazon.co.jp/NHKスペシャル-激走-日本アルプス大縦断-%7Eトランスジャパン・アルプス・レース%7E-DVD/dp/B00ADXMT6M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1438863749&sr=8-2&keywords=TJAR+NHKAug 7, 2015 at 2:25 am #2219503
Just read about a guy that fast packed running and speed hiking with a 15Kg pack through the South Alps and took him 4 days. I think that is a good time, for sure faster than map time. Again, add at least a marathon or 1.5 / 2? to from the mountains to the sea.
A lot of the areas you will not be able to go significantly faster than map time, just because it gets too technical. On the in between sections or valleys you can of course take half off normal map time if not more.Aug 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm #2219806
I really like the idea of multi-day, self supported events- lots of trials and tribulations over multiple days, lots of planning, lots of training, lots of mental focus- all good stuff-thanks for posting!Aug 8, 2015 at 7:01 pm #2219867
Allen CBPL Member
@acurranoLocale: SF Bay Area
Ito, very cool, thanks for posting…only 40 miles longer than the JMT but with 2.5 times the elevation gain…no wonder it takes them 5+ days to finish!Aug 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm #2219880
Adam WhiteBPL Member
@awhite4777Locale: On the switchbacks
Thanks for sharing, Ito.
Looks pretty awesome…heck of a challenge, I'm sure. I'd love to watch the DVD–if anyone in the states finds it, let me know where…
So are there teams? It looks like that in the preparation photo.Aug 9, 2015 at 1:36 am #2219901
Glad it is of interest.
I agree, being self supported, doing long days, is really interesting. Also the lack (or almost lack in this case) of aid stations plays a big role. In the movie you see people standing sleeping, waking up and not knowing where they are, people that can't focus their eyes anymore, falling and loosing trekking poles, not knowing where to go anymore. The simple things like what Allen wrote about mentally do really play a part of course, and over these long treks they can really make or brake the trip just as much as the physical side.
Thanks for giving me a scale reference to the JMT. It seems like a very interesting and challenging trail.
I think with the Trans Japan Alps like you say it is not so much the distance but the climbing, or not even that, but the technicality/exposure of some of the mountains they cross. There are mountains on there that normally people bring helmets for, and that have you hugging the wall and take half a day to climb up and down. Not saying it's so hardcore, but I find even if I can move quite fast, when the trail gets technical you do slow down, a lot. I think most of the participants in this race take 6 or 7 days.
No teams, they all have to wear this white shirt with their number and a reflector in the back. They also carry a GPS tracker and during the race you have life updates on the TJAR website. I don't think they are Spot devices, because those seem to be forbidden in Japan, but something similar.Sep 3, 2015 at 7:02 pm #2224891
Found this interesting body composition study of all finishing participants in the 2014 TJAR. It is in Japanese but the summary is in English: The main purpose of this study was to investigate anthropometry and body composition in 26 male ultramountain runners who participated in Trans Japan Alps Race 2014, a multi-stage ultramountain running race over 415 km to be covered within 5-8 days. The second purpose was to investigate the changes in skinfold thickness during the race. Before the race, all participants were examined in terms of body weight, BMI, skinfold thickness at 8 sites and estimated percentage body fat. In addition, the finishers (n=14) were re-examined in the post-race period. The main findings are summarized below. 1. The participants had a mean (±SD) body weight of 62.3±5.1 kg, a BMI of 21.5±1.4 kg/m2, a sum of 8 skinfold thickness of 57.7±15.5 mm, and an estimated percentage body fat of 12.0±2.4%. There were no significant differences in any parameters between the finishers and the non-finishers. 2. The sum of 8 skinfold thickness in the finishers was significantly reduced by 11.3% after the race (Pre : 55.0±13.6 mm, Post : 48.8±12.1 mm), representing a dramatic response in comparison with a previous study that investigated ultramarathon runners in a 100-km ultramarathon race (0.9%). Full study for those interested here: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jjpehss/advpub/0/advpub_15032/_pdfSep 3, 2015 at 8:46 pm #2224900
did the math- those are some pretty light dudes! I'm sure you saw some of the pics of Scott J at the end of his AT, he lost a ton of weight (and he didn't have much to lose to start!)Sep 4, 2015 at 6:36 pm #2225039
In what way do you mean? I agree they are pretty light but largely because of length I think. I am 184cm and weigh roughly 10Kg more. But I'm in the same BMI and body fat percentage range as their mean fall into. (Just as a ref between sizing, in Japan I am XL in most athletic clothing, a Medium in Patagonia/Arcteryx)Sep 4, 2015 at 6:47 pm #2225043
130-ish lbs is a little light by American standards; my build is not your "typical" runners build- 5'11" 185-ish lbs- more like strong safety build (that's football lingo and not the round kind of football kind) :)Sep 4, 2015 at 7:16 pm #2225046
Haha Yeah 185 might put you into potential sumo category from JP perspective.Sep 5, 2015 at 8:17 am #2225092
when I get up a head of stem coming down a mountain, folks tend to quickly move to the side of the trail :) I ran with a friend (he's since moved to AZ) that was 6'5" and about 250 lbs- he was one you definitely got out of the way for!Sep 5, 2015 at 8:29 am #2225093
Ken T.BPL Member
"when I get up a head of stem coming down a mountain, folks tend to quickly move to the side of the trail " It's that authoritative mustache. Tiny dudes.Sep 5, 2015 at 9:00 am #2225099
"It's that authoritative mustache" Might be the gun.Sep 5, 2015 at 9:50 am #2225104
I hadn't factored those in- could be either one of those as well; "look out Honey- I think it's Doc Holiday running down the trail with gun drawn!" :)Aug 7, 2016 at 6:37 am #3418723
So this is on again!
TJAR 2016, same 415Km course with over 27.000m (≈90.000ft) of gain.
For those interested, you can check some updates here:
and get live GPS tracking here:
Mochizuki (望月 nr.13), who won the race in 2010, 2012 and 2014, leads again, but this time together with another player.Jul 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm #3481333
Jason EBPL Member
Wish I had known about this while I lived there. Did Tateyama to Yari twice and a ton of hikes in the Minami Alps. Never made the Chuo Alps. I think good timing would be challenging depending on how busy the trails are,(Tsurugi is pretty busy always as is Yari) and everything in between the mountains. Still seems cool if I’m ever back there again.
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