Skip to main content

Ohtawara City Government Plans to Drop Its Two Major Public Events, the Ohtwara Marathon and Yoichi Festival

On Nov. 20 it was learned that the Ohtawara municipal government is seriously considering discontinuing two of the city's major events, the Ohtawara Marathon and the Ohtawara Yoichi Festival. Due to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Tochigi National Sports Festival the two events are likely to not be held for a period of at least three years, but due to the financial burden on the area including construction of a new city hall, city officials will undertake a serious review of all municipal expenditures.

The Ohtawara Marathon began in 1988 as the only JAAF-certified full marathon course in the prefecture of Tochigi. It has served as a gateway to the marathon for young athletes, with top placers earning invitations to the Paris Marathon. Over 85,000 people have run it, bringing a tangible financial benefit to the region. But in recent years the spread of mass participation marathons across the country has impacted the event. For this year's 32nd running only 3,500 people entered the marathon, down 650 from last year.

Organized annually by a committee made up largely of city officials, the Yoichi Festival is Ohtawara's largest summer festival. This year's festival in August marked the event's 39th edition. Celebrating samurai Yoichi Nasu, the master of archery, the festival is a beloved highlight of midsummer for the local population. Due to increasing summer temperatures in recent years, the festival has had to face the issue of how to minimize the risk of heatstroke among the children and other participants in the warriors' procession that makes up the highlight of the festival.

With these circumstances in mind, the city intends to suspend the two events and consider their futures after reviewing their scale and timing. Speaking to media during a press conference on Nov. 20, Ohtawara mayor Tomio Tsukui commented, "The schedule is jam packed with the Olympics, National Sports Festival pre-event , the National Sports Festival and other events elsewhere. Should other events that we have put on in the past continue to be held as if they are basic inalienable rights? I'd like to review all of our operations with the aim of settling the issue."

Translator's note: I ran the Ohtwara Marathon twice, breaking 2:50 for the first time and running the second-fastest time of my career. At that time its course was two laps of a relatively flat loop around local roads, but partly in response to an increasing number of people using it as a half marathon and dropping out after the first lap it switched to a hillier single-lap course around 2010. As mentioned in the article, it has a long history as an entry-level elite race. Its relatively low entry numbers are in part due to its 4-hour cutoff time.

source article:
translated by Brett Larner

Buy Me A Coffee


Yokohama said…
Maybe this is the trend, maybe now beginning to see the saturation point of mass marathons, especially the bigger ones, crowding out the small races, especially those that have been around for a while. Just saw an article on Quartz, about how the cost is just too much now. It used to be you could reasonably run, 3, 4, 5 marathons in a year, and not bankrupt your budget. Now marathons, even Yokohama is around 18,000 yen. Who can afford to do more than one marathon any more unless you try to target the smaller ones, but they are most likely being the ones crowded out of the marathon market. I see Japan, and maybe only Japan, where performance, or at least trying to run your best marathon/half marathon, and or a reasonable type time/effort as still a goal, instead of just a bucket list event.
TokyoRacer said…
There is also a 10K, which starts after the marathon. That's a perfectly flat course and mid-November weather makes it ideal for running fast. When it was a two-lap course, we would finish the 10k, then go to the marathon halfway point to cheer our friends, and then again about 1k before the finish. I think with the new course it's still possible to cheer twice. Anyway, it's a really nice event and we always have quite a few club members doing it. Also, it's easy to get to from Tokyo in the morning. Would be a shame if they do away with it.

Most-Read This Week

Tokyo Marathon Cancels Mass Participation Race, To Go Ahead as Elite-Only Event (updated)

Update: The Mar. 8 Nagoya Women's Marathon, the world's largest women-only marathon, is now also looking at canceling its mass-participation division.

In response to the spread of the coronavirus within Japan, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation has decided to cancel the Mar. 1 Tokyo Marathon's 38,000-runner mass-participation race. Founded in 2007, the Tokyo Marathon is Japan's largest mass-participation marathon, with more than a million spectators along its course every year. A men's Olympic marathon team selection race, this year's Tokyo Marathon will be an unusual spectacle with only 200 elite runners including national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike) and previous record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda).

The Tokyo Marathon Foundation is also looking at significantly cutting back the activities of the 11,000 volunteers involved in the event's operations. On Feb. 1 the Foundation already asked roughly 1,800 participants living in China to refrain from taking part…

Urano and Ishizawa Win Senior National Cross-Country Titles, Ishida and Kosakai Win Junior Races

One of the few events to survive the wave of race cancelations currently sweeping Japan as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, the National Cross-Country Championships took place Feb. 22 in Fukuoka.

The senior men's 10 km was almost a replay of last year's race, with Hakone Ekiden uphill Fifth Stage star Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) replacing Yuta Bando (Hosei Univ.) in the leading role of outrunning brothers Kazuki Tamura (Sumitomo Denko) and Yusuke Tamura (Kurosaki Harima) for the national title. Despite windy conditions times were quicker than in recent years, with Urano winning in 29:18 by 6 seconds over Kazuki Tamura and Yusuke Tamura another 10 seconds back.

In the senior women's 8 km, last year's 5th-place and 2018 national 3000 m steeplechase champion Yukari Ishizawa (Edion) came back from a mid-race dropoff to outrun a group of women more than a decade younger for the win in 26:57, beating 20-year-old Yuna Wada (Meijo Univ.) by 1 second and 19-year-old teamm…

Six People in Close Contact With Person Infected With COVID-19 Ran Kumamoto Castle Marathon

The Kumamoto municipal and prefectural governments have released further information on three new cases of infection with the COVID-19 coronavirus within the prefecture. Prefectural officials have identified the bus an infected person used to travel between Fukuoka and Kumamoto, while city officials revealed that six people who came in contact with one of the infected people ran the Feb. 16 Kumamoto Castle Marathon.

At a press conference this week, city officials explained that prior to the onset of her symptoms, a nurse in her 20s came into close contact with eleven friends and colleagues, saying, "She went to the marathon with six of them to cheer at Kumamoto Castle's Ninomaru plaza, and went out for dinner with the other five." However, that information was corrected to eight people who cheered with her and ten who had dinner.

Six of the woman's colleagues in fact ran the marathon, having ridden to it in a car she was driving. Two others had lunch with her in the…