translated by Brett Larner
2013 Hakone Ekiden winners Nittai University held a banquet at Tokyo's Hotel New Otani on Feb. 18 to celebrate their first Hakone title in 30 years. More than 1200 guests and dignitaries attended the banquet, including former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, 75, holder of an honorary doctorate from Nittai. A lifelong Hakone Ekiden fan, Prime Minister Mori praised team captain and Fifth Stage winner Shota Hattori, telling the banquet attendees, "On TV he looks so strong and powerful, but seeing him in person he is an adorable little munchkin, that Hattori." Hattori, looking nervous onstage up to that point, laughed and relaxed.
The members of Hattori's last Hakone-winning team from 30 years ago were also in attendance and gathered onstage for a commemorative photo. Among them were 1991 Tokyo World Championships marathon gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi, 51, and other familiar faces from long ago.