Marathons are hugely popular in Japan. Every year, hundreds of them take place around the country. But the race held in the town of Obuse, in Nagano Prefecture, is very different.
The aim of the Obuse Mini Marathon is not to compete against the clock but for participants to enjoy the hospitality of the local area. There are no major tourist attractions in the town. The runners just move at a relaxed pace through the residential areas and around the surrounding countryside. This event has become famous throughout Japan as the marathon with the largest number of runners in fancy dress.
In this edition of Journeys in Japan, Sabrina Sayin comes to Obuse to take part in the Mini Marathon. She also takes time to explore the town, which still retains many buildings from past centuries - including a temple decorated with a work by one of Japan's best known artists, Katsushika Hokusai.
There is also a prize for the participant with the best costume. This attracts many runners in fancy dress, which adds extra excitement to the event. Participants can apply on the official website from December of the previous year.
Address: 778 Obuse, Obuse-machi, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Hours: 09:00 am - 17:00 pm
Admission: 300 yen
Address: Karida, Obuse-machi, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Traveler: Sabrina Sayin > More Info
Length of residence in Japan:5 years
Reason:To became an idol
I never imagined that Obuse would affect me so much! I can't stop thinking about my visit, even now.
My first impression was the flowers: when I stepped out from the station, I saw so many different types of flowers. As a flower lover, I felt I was in a world of my dreams.
I thought that only people who have time, money and the opportunity can make a populated city so beautiful. And to top that, to put flowers everywhere! But no, it takes people's mindful hearts and their wish to contribute!
Can you imagine letting strangers walk through your garden? How would you feel about it? The mindful citizens of Obuse have done that, by creating "Open Gardens."
Again, this is the special kindness of Obuse. Everybody makes their community garden an "Open Garden" so you can go through freely, enjoying the beautiful nature. This makes me think the people trust each other not to violate their rights or vandalize their property.
There is another thing that I discovered in Obuse - the ceiling art in the Gansho-in Temple. It's a painting created about 170 years ago by the famous Japanese Ukiyoe artist Katsushika Hokusai. And it still looks downright beautiful.
This painting, called "The Phoenix Staring in Eight Directions," amazed me. When I looked at it from different directions, each time it looked different. All kinds of feelings came to me. I felt fury, treachery and pain - but also kindness in the Phoenix. It is a painting that is alive.
Now about the marathon…!
This was my very first marathon. Normally, I don't even run more than 5 minutes. I kept wondering why people enjoy running - and I probably know the answer. But I wanted to make sure, just for the benefit of this exciting expedition. So, I took part to the Obuse Mini Marathon to find out.
But that's not the only reason! I heard that the runners dress up in this marathon. I was curious whether this was true! This is what I saw on the train to the start of the Marathon… so many runners in different costumes. I still remember the excitement their faces.
I was very nervous. I worried whether I could make it to the finish line, since it was my first marathon. As I expected, my knee started to hurt after a few kilometers. But the people of Obuse were cheering us on throughout the race. They kept saying, "Ganbatte!" ("Keep going") with huge smiles - and I forgot my pain and just kept going.
I was touched by their kindness. They kept cheering the runners the whole time, giving out food and drinks, playing instruments, singing and more. They were supporting us from the bottom of their hearts. They were such lovely people!
Obuse is full of love. I really want to go again. Thank you very much for reading my long blog. Hope to see you next time.