Compete in world-class sporting events
Taking advantage of the subtropical climate (Okinawa’s average temperature is 23.2 ℃), major sporting events such as marathons and triathlons are held from autumn through spring. In the triathlon events held on outlying islands, contenders enjoy courses along the coastline, running next to emerald green waters, racing through fields filled with sugarcane swaying in the breeze and sprinting amongst colorful tropical flowers dotting the beautiful natural scenery. Okinawa’s sporting events are also characterized by the energetic and warm support afforded the participants, often involving eisa and lion dances.
Ishigaki Itu Triathlon World Cup
Place: Ishigaki Island
In the swimming part, participants share the crystal-clear water with schools of fish. The 40-kilometer bike course travels around the southern part of Ishigaki island, featuring continuously changing scenery of nature at its most pristine. The coastline with beautiful blue waters, green forests and endlessly stretching rice fields can be enjoyed by competitors. In the urban areas, the course is lined with supportive spectators.
Takeshi Yamada/Gifu/(Race experience) First triathlon
When swimming with schools of fish in the crystal-clear sea, I could see the bottom, which is a few meters down, and feel how fast I was going. Finishing the race in Ishigaki, I can say that cheers from spectators were the greatest encouragement to keep me motivated. Elementary school students holding their hands up to give high-fives and elderly people sending a smile to racers really cheered me up during the race. With my mind focused mostly on running, I clearly remember these sights.
All-Japan Triathlon Miyakojima
Date: Mid to late April
Place: Miyako Island
Also known as the Strongman Race, the All-Japan Triathlon Miyakojima is one of Japan’s major triathlons. A number of elite athletes from overseas and those with triathlon experience or anyone who has excellent physical endurance and the confidence to finish the race are invited to enter.
Naoki Yoshioka / Sapporo / (Race experience) Triathlon x 17
The warm lights lining Shimosato Street made me feel that I was on my way to the goal. The spectators showed their delight with loud applause as the athletes finished the race one after another, as if they had participated in the race themselves. I waved to them, responding to their enthusiastic support by holding my fist up.
Iheya Moonlight Marathon
Date: Late October
Place: Iheya Island
The Iheya Moonlight Marathon takes place in the late hours of the day. Participants can enjoy views of rice fields and the coastline in the first hours, and a beautiful view of the sunset and the full moon in the east after dark. This is a unique race where participants run toward the finish line by following a course lit by the moonlight and penlights. At the ceremonies before and after the marathon, participants as well as spectators enjoy traditional performances, shows and local dishes.
Asayo / Tokyo / (Race experience) Full marathon x 1; half marathon x 2
While running along the coastline, I enjoyed the changing appearance of the sun. It continued to hide behind the clouds and then emerge again and then went down. Shortly after sunset the moon and stars came out. This is the first time I had observed these everyday phenomena so closely. The full moon was shining impressively in the night sky.
Tour De OKinawa
Date: Early November
Place: Twelve municipalities in northern Okinawa, including Nago City
The Tour de Okinawa, known as the premier cycling event in Japan, features cycling courses in northern Okinawa’s beautiful natural surroundings. The race categories include a world-class international road race, eight divisions in the citizens’ road race and a 323-kilometer overnight cycling tour around the island. Races for children and families are also available.
Toshiyuki Namiki / Tokyo / (Race experience) First bicycle race
It was so refreshing to ride through Okinawa. It was the best opportunity to meet people with the same interest as myself.
Date: Early December
Place: Southern Okinawa
The course, stretching over five municipalities in the south part of the island, covers some of the most scenic areas of Okinawa, including old battle sites. The first 10 kilometers of the course are run in the city, followed by a country road through sugarcane fields dotted with private houses. After traversing Peace Memorial Park, where the Battle of Okinawa took place, runners enjoy a beautiful coastline and ocean view in Itoman City.
Kazuhiro Kamimura / Shizuoka / (Race experience) Full marathon x 2; half marathon x 1
The race was fantastic with so many runners and spectators involved. Cheers from the spectators along the course were truly beyond my expectations. Without them, I don’t think I could have finished the full 42.195 km run.
Yuko Higuchi / Tokyo / (Race experience) Full marathon x 3
A large number of spectators and supporters lined the 42.195 km marathon course from the start line to the finish line. There were so many private water stations, I couldn’t figure out where the official ones were. Some spectators were offering cold sprays to runners. I was encouraged by eisa dances, drum performances and sanshin in various places during the race, and when I felt tired and everything looked difficult, I gave as many high-fives to children as possible to keep motivated.
Date: Late February
Place: Central Okinawa
Covering three municipalities in central Okinawa, the course follows a scenic route, including wide highways running along the beautiful coast and the Katsuren Castle ruins, which have been designated part of the World Heritage by UNESCO. After reaching the halfway point, participants can have a unique opportunity to run through the residential areas of an American military base. Eisa dance teams urge the runners on in various places during the Okinawa Marathon.
Scott McGlynn / USA / (Race experience) Full marathon x 1; half marathon x 1
The organization and the fans were awesome. The Japanese do an excellent job of organizing sports events like these, and this one was no different. Handling 11,000 athletes must be challenging, and this organization did a great job.