translated by Brett Larner
On March 21, 1909, the first 'marathon' in Japanese history took place. Announcing the race in its February 19, 1909 edition, the Osaka Mainichi Newspaper wrote of the "Great Osaka - Kobe 20 Mile Marathon Run." Describing the upcoming race, the newspaper said, "Such races frequently take place in Europe and America," and went on to describe the historical origins of the marathon in ancient Greece. This race is now considered the birth of Japanese marathoning.
The race's course covered 32 km between Osaka and Kobe and had a field of 20 athletes. Okayama Prefecture native Chonosuke Kaneko [featured in the first of the pictures linked above] won the race in 2:10:54. 100 years later, Japanese marathoners are competitive at the Olympic and World Championships and amateur marathons take place regularly across the country. Whether people run for a time goal, for health, or to lose weight, Japan is now in the midst of its greatest running boom. The landscape seen by the runners in the Great Osaka-Kobe 20 Mile Marathon Run has long since passed, but as long as there are roads in the next 100 years there will be Japanese marathoners to run them.