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.
translated by Brett Larner