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Monument Honoring Japan's First Women's Marathon Unveiled

translated by Brett Larner

The winner of Japan's first women's marathon and other dignitaries took part in a ceremony at Lake Tama in Higashiyamato, Tokyo on Mar. 21 unveiling a monument commemorating the race held at the site 36 years ago.  According to city officials, the first women-only full marathon, the "First National Women's Turtle Marathon Race" took place in April, 1978, sponsored by the Japan Turtle Association.  On a course covering three laps around the banks of Lake Tama, 49 women started the race, the oldest among them 71 years old.  46 finished.

The Higashiyamato city government planned the monument in connection with its sports promotion and local revitalization initiatives.  Including the base the monument measures 1.8 m tall, with a width of 0.5 m.  According to Musashino Art University lecturer Yasuyuki Nishio, 47, tying the monument's design to its location overlooking Lake Tama, which forms a vital water supply for Tokyo residents, the monument depicts an undine, a mystical female water spirit.  The design was selected by local citizens from among a group of finalists.

Taking part in the ceremony was Ichiko Hokazono, 73, winner of the first race in 3:10:48. "I can see my memories of running hard through the dancing cherry blossoms again as though watching them projected from a lantern," she said with a smile.  "In those days I was always happy just to run."  Mayor Yasuo Ozaki told attendees, "Together with Lake Tama, ever-changing and always beautiful throughout the four seasons, I hope that this monument will become the new symbol of Higashiyamato."

Also in attendance at the ceremony was 1991 Tokyo World Championships women's marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita, whose Daiichi Seimei women's corporate team took part in the 24th running of the Lake Tama Ekiden following the ceremony.  A record 433 four-person teams took part in the ekiden, with more than 1700 people battling strong winds around the lake.  Yusuke Kodama, 27, anchor of the winning Comodity Ida corporate team, commented, "There were a lot of quick ups and downs, but it felt good to run surrounded by the abundant nature and I drew strength from that to push hard to the end."


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