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The Story Of The Ibaraki Hash House Harriers

Author:Joseph Robbie, Issue: September 2000, Topic: Sports

Once upon a time, 1938 to be exact, British soldiers stationed in Malaysia founded a crazy running/drinking club. They had to keep fit and they like to drink beer, so it only made sense. They decided to name their little club after the local restaurant where they all met and ate - The Hash House Harriers were born. After WWII, the club spread rapidly throughout the world.

Our hero, ToeJam, discovered it for the first time while working in Saudi Arabia, not an easy place to have a drinking club. After participating in only two Hash runs there, it was time for him to leave the country.

ToeJam's life continued on through many journeys, loves and jobs. He soon forgot about the Hash. Then, one day, while living in Hawaii, he heard that the Aloha Hash House Harriers club would be meeting that evening at a local bar. Faded memories of his brief encounter with this wild group came rushing back. He decided to check out the bar that night. This was a decision that was to change his life forever.

There they were - hard to miss. A table of about twenty animated, beer-consuming Hashers stood out clearly in the otherwise sedate pub. He was immediately welcomed and made to feel at ease. With each ensuing beer, he felt ever more at ease until he reached the point where the strangers at the table took on the role of the family he'd never had. Then he puked. The following day was the weekly Hash run. Calling the telephone hot line, he secured directions for the location of the start. Upon arriving there, he saw a large and extremely varied group milling about. Most looked somewhat sporty, at least in their attire. Some wore strange headgear or other bizarre accessories, and a few were milling while drinking from beer cans.

Somehow, none of his newfound family seemed to remember him from the previous night. Orphaned again, he approached a blonde amazon and meekly inquired, "Excuse me, this is my first run and I'm not sure exactly how it works. Can you help me, please?"

She slowly turned to sneer at the newcomer and by way of answer to his plea, exclaimed, "Pay up and shut up! Can't you see I'm trying to do something here, jerk? Did you bring a dish for the potluck, as announced on the Hash Hot-line?" More than somewhat taken aback at this unprovoked rudeness, ToeJam stammered, "Uh, no. I wasn't sure if I could find the place and was running late and was hungover from last night. Sorry."

"Sorry don't cut it. You might as well just go home right after the run", she informed him.

So, he shut up and paid his $5. Feeling extremely out of place and contemplating the wisdom of his decision to come, ToeJam looked around for a friendly face, or even just a good-looking one, to talk to. Everyone seemed to know each other and ignored him. He was later to learn that one characteristic associated with Hashers is a pronounced lack of social graces.

As it happened, the occasion of his first Aloha Hash fell on Saint Patrick's Day. The majority of the 50 runners present wore green clothes well accessorized with green nick-knacks. The prize for best accessory went without question to the Hasher who had dyed her white pit bull terrier green with food coloring. Yes, a green dog!

One of the leaders then asked if there were any virgins or visitors present. Someone pushed ToeJam forward, announcing, "Here's a virgin!" It seems that "virgin" is Hash jargon for a first-time participant. Along with a couple of other confused souls, ToeJam listened carefully as the Grand Master explained about the flour and chalk markings to be searched for and followed to get from the start, Point "A", to the end, Point "B". Suddenly, with the deafening din of fifty blaring whistles, two members, the designated "hares", sprinted away.

Twelve minutes later, with the deafening din of fifty blaring whistles, again, the pack took off in pursuit. The course began in an average section of town and soon entered a very disreputable section of town. Although it was a serious struggle due to his poor conditioning, ToeJam kept up with some members of the Hash. His main motivation was terror at possibly being lost and abandoned in that dubious neighborhood - every other house had an extremely vicious dog, for protection no doubt, and he'd already seen two guns.

Then came the wall. The trail undeniably appeared to involve climbing over a jagged six-foot high wall that wasn't built to be scaled. Yet, one after another of those loonies managed to get over it. After several members of the female persuasion had succeeded, ToeJam gave up his attempts at circumnavigation in embarrassment and somehow landed on the other side. Cut and bleeding, he staggered on, rueing the impulse that had urged him to join these psychos. Suddenly, like a mirage in the Saudi desert, there appeared before him two visions of loveliness and lust. In the middle of nowhere, a table had been set up staffed by a couple of knockout beauties serving Irish whiskey in disposable shot glasses. He was invited to rest and drink.

"Well, you don't have to twist my balls for that", he reasoned. One shot was followed by the offer of another, and then a third. The girls were delightful. He didn't want to leave. However, other Hashers took their shots and were on their way again. ToeJam realized that this was just the halfway point. Ugh!

With deep regret and a spinning head, he plodded on for another 30 minutes until, near death, he saw written on the pavement in chalk the words "Beer Near", Hashese for: "The trail is almost finished." And, indeed, a half-mile further on, he came to a funky beachside residence where the beer was flowing and the burgers were smoking.

Slaps on the back; congrats all around; beer forced down his throat; it was great!!! He belonged. He had survived the initial initiation. - Then, just as he took a large, juicy bite out of the homemade bacon cheeseburger in his hand, he observed the evil eye of the blonde Amazon boring into his inner soul through the conduit of his pupils. Suddenly, he didn't belong. He hadn't brought "something to share." He went home in a still sober kind of haze.

Why do we do the things we do? Isn't it just insane sometimes? He went back the next week. Sure, the second run is free, but what's $5? Right off, the Grand Master approached ToeJam, apologized for the blonde's behavior the previous week, and handed him back $10, double his previous beer fee.

"She's weird like that. Forget it", he said.

After the second run, ToeJam was hooked. With his sixth run, he received an Aloha HHH headband and his hash name was confirmed. Other members of the group were named Teeny Weenie, Bimbo, Cums in a Minute, Head First, Famous Anus, Insatiable, Knocked Up, and many more not printable here. Being awarded such a distasteful hash name means one is a real member of the worldwide club and will be accepted with a certain degree of hash respect when visiting any other club on the globe.

Like most such clubs, the Aloha HHH hosted runs weekly, and ToeJam rarely missed one. Soon, he had fifty runs under his belt and had become close friends with many of the wankers. He learned that hashers generally look out for one another and are always ready to lend a hand when needed. The shared experiences of navigating the, often difficult, mystery trails, and then consuming large quantities of beer together, allowed for few pretensions to prevail. ToeJam discovered that there was nothing else that he would rather do with his Saturday afternoons and evenings. Hashing is essentially healthy exercise followed by fun and fellowship.

Soon after becoming a Centurion (100 runs), ToeJam married and moved from Hawaii to Ibaraki Prefecture in Japan, about an hour NE of Tokyo. While settling in, he surfed the net in search of nearby hash clubs. There were none in Ibaraki, however, there were four such clubs in Tokyo, and 19 clubs in the country overall. Despite his aversion to long train rides, ToeJam journeyed into the city several times to join those clubs.

It was great! It was so great, in fact, that he was reluctant to leave the post-run parties and go home. Twice he missed the last train and was put up for the night by sympathetic local hashers. This couldn't go on. Only one solution: ToeJam decided to found a new hash in his own stomping grounds.

Pressuring his English students, recruiting members from bars, urging his wife to invite her friends and using various other means to publicize the venture, Ibaraki's first Hash House Harriers event took place on the Forth of July, 1999. About 35 people showed up for that first run, including several supportive members of other Japanese HHH clubs. With a short ceremony, their own local group was declared established.

On a perfect, sunny day, that first course started at the train station in Tsuchiura, wound its way through "soapland", the right-light district, then along the scenic, though polluted Sakura River, to the shore of Japan's second largest lake. There the drinking and singing ceremony known as "religion" was held. This was followed by the "on afters", for which they retired to a friend's restaurant for dinner, more beer, and the debut of the Ibaraki Hash Band on stage. By then the group had swelled to over fifty. It was all over by 10pm, and had been an overwhelming success. The Hash was there to stay.

The End

PS - Since then, the IHHH has held monthly events around the area, including in Tsukuba, Ami Town, Ushiku, Kashima, Mt.Tsukuba, and many countryside locations. Although total international membership is over 100, a core group of about 25 keeps things going.

PSS - This unique "organization", and I use the term loosely, is for young/old, fit/flabby, male/female, Japanese/foreigners - basically, anyone who likes fun, fitness, fellowship -and beer. Join them for their belated anniversary celebration on Sept. 17, 1:30, meet at Frontier Bar. The event will take place in the country outside Tsukuba and conclude at a farmhouse with bar-be-cue party, live bands, prizes, surprises, talent contest, overnight pyjama party, and hearty breakfast. Also cumming up on Oct. 29th - the infamous Halloween Hash - jog the course in costume!!! Meet at Frontier, 1:30

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