Hokkaido’s Epic City Marathon with the Best Views
Article by Aris Azman
This American-esque city shaped by the years of sediment deposits from the Toyohira River and flanked by the looming mountains in the southern and western parts can only be described as breathtaking. This is Sapporo city, in Hokkaido prefecture, the fifth largest city in Japan, and famed for its ramen, beer and the annual snow festival.
Climatically it is perfect, with just the right humidity during summer where the green scenic landscape, shimmering rivers, and hovering cotton clouds is beyond picturesque. Of course, internationally, Sapporo will always be remembered for hosting Asia’s first ever Winter Olympics in 1972, and the dazzling snowflakes and gleaming sleet that welcomed visitors to the games. However, the city is also home to another prominent sporting event; it stages Japan’s only summer marathon since 1976, the Hokkaido Marathon. This famously tough race is also favoured by 40% of Japan’s national team including Olympic and World Championship Games qualifiers, ranking it even higher on the pundit’s list of must-go events.
The 11.5km race held annually at the end of August, kicks off from Odari Park at the centre of the city, with the Sapporo TV Tower screening the countdown. It takes runners, 40% of whom are usually from outside Hokkaido, through Sosei tunnel, reaching the halfway point at Shinkawa-Dori, with its endless views of the Sakura trees. They then pass the Akarenga or “red bricks”, which is the old Hokkaido Government Building and the city’s symbol, before ending the race at Odori Park Nishi 8-Chome.
Participants usually arrive earlier to inhale the intoxicating beauty of the countryside or indulge in the brewery delights that follows the Odori Beer Garden festival. Some stay on for the Autumn Fest in September where local’s best produce and cuisine are showcased. Either way, it should come as no surprise now why it continues to attract pro-runners, novices, and first-time marathoners, with its dual offer of a fantastical fun race with the best views of Hokkaido.