Two men hiking in Japan

Foreign Tourism Is Reinventing Hiking in Japan – Yamap

Key points:

  • Yamap is a hiking app that was invented in 2011
  • What’s special about the app is its ability to serve as a map function even without an internet connection, its social aspects, and how it highlights convenient locations such as restrooms
  • The app has about 380,000 monthly users from all over the world

This Post is a J-Global Summary of a Podcast and post from Tim Romero’s

Foreign Tourism Is Reinventing Hiking in Japan – Yamap


Yamap was founded in 2011 by Yoshi Haruyama and the app was launched two years later. The app provides Hikers and Skiers with detailed maps even without any cell-phone reception.

Today, Yamap offers aerial maps in large parts of Japan and about 100 areas in foreign countries such as New Zealand, the United States, and Switzerland. After collecting and publishing most of the map information themselves, they are now able to let large chunks of new maps be created by the information users provide – it has become a self-growing app.

In addition to the obvious advantage of having a hiking map without the need of internet connection, it offers multiple social aspects with it: The app tells you, for instance, where the closest toilet is!

The app has about 380,000 monthly users, mostly consisting of hikers. Yamap differentiates by offering gamification. Users can get in-app badges for climbing a mountain, or overcoming an obstacle.

About one year ago, Yamap made a deal with Casio, who were developing a smartwatch specifically for outdoor people. The arrangement both companies made was a pre-installation of the app on Casio’s smart watches in return for a license fee.

Yamap’s main focus for the next years is to build up the international user base and grow worldwide.

The company wants to introduce a new hardware device of the size of an id card for the US market, by 2018. The device will offer the possibility to send messages to family and friends while hiking without the need of cell phone reception. This will be made possible with help of LoRa – a wide coverage network which can be used to transmit large numbers of messages.

Haruyama sees the future of the app in international markets. Most hikers in Japan are 60 years and older. He believes that most people in Japan are not even aware of the beautiful country side that are right outside their major cities and he sees it as his mission to change that.

When asked what the one thing would be that Haruyama could change about Japanese culture and the environment to make it easier for startups, he answered that people should be considerate about failure. It is important to understand that failure is often directly connected to success. Japanese people should be motivated to take risks instead of fearing them.

Read the full article and/or listen to the Podcast here:

This executive summary was written by Ludwig Engel, from J-Global institute, a company founded by Jon James Lynch.