11 Lesser-Known Sporting Competitions in Japan
Osaka Marathon (Osaka)
• Fourth Sunday of October every year
Offering a full marathon for 30,000 people and a “challenge circuit” for 2,000, this is Japan’s next-largest marathon after the Tokyo Marathon. The course runs through famous sites in central Osaka as well as historical remains, and the ground is uniformly level and flat, making this a race known as an easy run for beginners and pros alike.
Fukuoka Marathon (Fukuoka)
• Every November
Fukuoka Prefecture has been rated as the No. 1 place to live in Japan, and the Fukuoka Marathon starts in Tenjin, which is considered among the most iconic city centers in the Kyushu region. The course then runs through Hakata Bay and along the coast of the Genkai Sea, letting you enjoy all of the nature Fukuoka has to offer.
(Image © Osaka Marathon Organising Committee)
Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji (Yamanashi & Shizuoka Prefectures)
• Late September every year
The foothills of Mount Fuji have been declared a World Heritage Site, and it is there, with the support of two prefectures and eleven towns, that you can run a trail that is 167 kilometers (104 mi) long and has a cumulative elevation of 8,634 meters (28,327 ft). Japan’s first hundred-mile trail race, this is also the world’s first sister trail to the L’Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc, which is the world’s highest trail run in terms of elevation.
(Image © NPO Fuji Trail Runners Club)
Strongman—All Japan Triathlon Miyakojima (Okinawa)
• Every April
Of the nearly 280 triathlons held in Japan, this is one of the most popular. Participants see the beautiful emerald green seas around the island of Miyakojima in Okinawa as they swim for 3 kilometers (1.9 mi), bike for 157 kilometers (98 mi), and run for 42.195 kilometers (26.2 mi).
Lixil IRONMAN 70.3 Centrair Chita Peninsula Japan (Aichi Prefecture)
• Early June every year
Lixil’s 70.3 triathlon is a half-sized version of a full 140.6-kilometer (87.4 mi) course. The proximity to Chubu Centrair International Airport and the excellent natural scenery make this an event that draws many overseas participants.
ITU World Triathlon Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture)
• Mid-May every year
The only part of the ITU World Triathlon Series held in Asia. Athletes from various countries come together in the historic port town of Yokohama, which blends the cultures of East and West. Seeing the racers sprint across town has become an iconic sign of the season.
Japan Cup Cycle Road Race (Tochigi Prefecture)
• Mid-October every year
Considered Asia’s foremost road cycling race. This is the only cycling event in Japan that brings celebrated cyclists from the Tour de France all the way to Japan’s shores.
Shonan Open (Kanagawa Prefecture)
• Late July every year
The Kugenuma Coast is where surfing was born in Japan. Kugenuma hosts this summer event as a way to maintain its status as a top region in promoting sports culture. The beachside venue is where you go to surf, while the parkside venue is home to skateboarding and street-dancing competitions.
AIRMIX (Niigata Prefecture)
• Mid-March every year
This is one of Japan’s largest snowboarding contests, taking place at Gala Yuzawa ski resort. Everyone from amateurs to former Winter Olympic athletes appear in this freestyle event where people show off their prowess on the slopes.
(Image © RIDER_YUKI KADONO PHOTO_HIT4)
SEA TO SUMMIT (Sites Nationwide)
• Weekends in May through October every year; held in sequential order
This sporting event sees you powering a kayak in the ocean, changing to a bicycle to ride through the countryside and then ascending mountain peaks in a hike. See nature in all its beauty as you make the circuit. This is an ideal chance to see Japan’s nature and culture in one shot.
Boat Game Fishing (Sites Nationwide)
• June through November every year; held in sequential order
This nationwide sport-fishing contest is designed to raise awareness about protecting the oceans and their resources. Lures are used to catch fish from boats. The event is open from June through November, so the fish available change depending on which area you visit and when.