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Hooked on Hash

Additionally, those hashers that have found the right track call back to those behind them using the code language, “ON ON”.

When my friend Zoe asked if I wanted to do a hash run with her, I nearly freaked out! I tried to explain that I wasn’t into that sort of thing and that I didn’t think she should take such a risk either. She seemed a bit surprised, and said that she had immediately thought of me when she learned about the upcoming ‘run’. WHAT? WHY ME? Then, she clarified: it has nothing to do with drugs, although you can get high. You can get a runner’s high, and the only ‘hash’ that we would consume would be the great food we would share at the end of the event. Well, when she put it that way, I could see how I definitely fit her profile. She was right. I did want in on this deal. It could just be the fix I’ve been looking for.

Colorful Kyoto

Colorful Kyoto

So, last Sunday afternoon, I joined the Kyoto Hash House Harriers, and made my first hash run — a 10K trail laid out along tree-lined streams, through narrow alleyways and bamboo forests, up and down craggy mountainsides, under bridges and around bends of broad boulevards. With a terrain like that, I was grateful that in this non-competitive social running club, it was acceptable for hashers to run, walk or crawl as they make their way to the end meeting point. As for me? I started by walking, then launched into a run, and have been crawling since the day after the event! At any rate, it was a real ‘trip’ from the initial gathering of hashers to the down down song circle at the finish point, to the hash slinging and naming rituals at the end of the day at the Hash Bash.

Into the forest we go

Into the forest we go

As a hash run virgin, I had no idea that there are Hash Houses all over the world, and that these clubs started way back in the 1930s. I am sure there are distinct differences between clubs and events depending on where they are located, but I quickly learned there are some traditional aspects to the language and culture of HHH clubs, as well as some aspects that might have been, shall we say, ‘amped’. While this particular club is an enjoyable mix of international people, the language used to educate us newbies was English. At least, I think it was.

Along the trail, mainly symbols and codes were used. For instance, a circle with an X in the middle is NOT “X marks the spot”. Quite the opposite. This means that the trail could proceed in any direction. Oh, great. However, it is the first hasher to happen upon this symbol that must explore the various paths until they find the next trail marker, AND must return to that checkpoint and draw an arrow indicating the correct route the rest of the hashers are to follow. Ok now, a perfect reason to slow down. Additionally, those hashers that have found the right track call back to those behind them using the code language, “ON ON”. I gathered this meant to carry on (if you can hear me). For those that might be lost in the haze of hashing, they should look for symbols written in washable sidewalk chalk or watch for evidence of someone before having laid out a line of…no, not ‘coke’…cooking flour. If you’re in the weeds or high in the mountains, search for the biggest rolling paper you can find. Ahem, that would be toilet paper. Well, it DOES come on a roll, you know. Strands of this stuff will be twisted around the ends of various stems or branches showing you the way to come down.

I'm forked!

I’m forked!

We were warned that somewhere along the trail, we would get forked (so to speak). If you reached the fork after 4pm, you must take the “Turkey trail” (a shorter route) where you can waddle to the finish. Hashers arriving at the fork before 4pm could soar through the “Eagle way” (a longer, more treacherous trail). However, when you reach the peak of the longer run, there is a belly check, where you must raise your shirt and show your stomach for some unknown reason. I think it was originally meant as a refreshment station, and since beer is the main beverage at these events, my guess is that it was originally meant to show your beer belly. Consequently, when I reached the belly check, I raised my shirt, showed my gut and was then offered my choice of refreshment: beer, whiskey or water!
Checkin' my belly

Checkin’ my belly

During this brief rest, I was told that my next encounter would be all down down. While it was true that for the next few kilometers I was coming down off a beautiful mountainscape, the real meaning of ‘down down’ has more to do with drinking than descending! That is, at the final meeting point, all hashers have come ‘round to down a few beers, and sing a few rounds of cheer for as many reasons as they can muster up. For instance, any newcomer (hash run virgin) is serenaded with a bawdy song, at the end of which she and/or he must drink DOWN a cup of beer and invert the empty cup over their head as a means of initiation. Other categories of recognition (or really, any reasons for hashers to drink) include the DFL (Dead Fucking Last) award, the Best Dressed in Hashwear (club t-shirt or other attire), or even a “Shitty Trail” award to the Hare that planned it. When all the celebratory beer has been downed, the hashers move on to a hash bash where the buzz is all about food, drink, friends and fitness, and is one that never wears off!

May it go ON & ON!

May it go ON ON!


Now that I speak from experience, all I can say is it only took this one toke to get me hooked!

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Sonya Shannon April 25, 2014, 4:16 pm

    What a wonderful adventure Kristina! I particularly like the “X” sign. Sounds like life itself: just proceed whichever way you want & you’ll reach your destination – as long as you aren’t going in circles 😉

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