Picture this: Cherry blossom petals cascading down from swaying trees, crisp cool air, tranquil waters and regal Mount Fuji towering in the background. Soak in Japan’s spring season in an extraordinary way – meander around luminescent lakes situated at the northern base of the grand Mount Fuji. Covering vast distances of 71km, 100km and 118km, its little wonder that this is Japan’s largest ultramarathon event!
Taking place in the heart of spring on Sunday, 19 April 2015, the ultra-run’s 25th premium edition is organised by the General Foundation Yamanashi Athletics Association. The race categories Fuji 5Lakes, 4Lakes and 3Lakes are essentially that—runners will run five, four or three loops around the Fuji Five Lakes. Also known as Fujigoko, the famed Fuji Five Lakes from east to west are made up of Yamanakako Lake, Kawaguchiko Lake, Saiko Lake, Shojiko Lake and Motosuko Lake.
At the break of dawn, all 4,000 endurance runners will gather at Fuji Hokuroku Park Baseball Stadium, a point of interest located in Fujiyoshida city, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan. Setting off first are the 118km runners, before three waves of 100km runners are flagged off between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. and the remaining 71km runners start at 7:00 a.m. Sunrise is said to be the best time to capture a photo of the cloudless Fujisan, a World Cultural Heritage Site valued for being an object of worship and source of artistic inspiration.
Shaped like a whale, Yamanakako Lake is the largest of the five lakes and is situated at the highest point among them at 982m. A popular resort area, many guest houses, restaurants, museums and shops ring the lake. After fishing or engaging in any of their various water sports activities like yachting and board-sailing, unwind and dip into one of the onsen hot springs here. As the 100km and 118km runners bypass this area, bursting with spring activities, they may catch glimpses of vibrant tulips in Hanano Miyako Koen, a flower garden northwest of the lake.
Attracting the most number of visitors, Kawaguchiko Lake is the most easily accessible of the five lakes with direct trains and buses to and from Tokyo. Also a tourist hot spot, this lake has the longest shores which are lined with various amenities. Given the higher altitude of the area, cherry trees here start blossoming later than in city areas. This works to the runners’ and spectators’ advantage as the Fuji 5 Lakes Ultra Marathon also coincides with the Fujikawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival in mid April. Don’t miss out on this fun-filled event with festival food and drink stalls, arts and craft market and workshops!
Whereas the first two lakes are famous tourist spots, the others are quiet and scenic. Dubbed “Lake of Otome (maidens)”, Saiko Lake has waters reminiscent of clear, deep blue eyes, giving a enigmatic vibe. Aokigahara Jukai Forest lines the western side of the lake. The smallest of the five lakes is Shojiko Lake, where remnants of lava flow are still observable. Gracing the front of the 1,000 JBY bill is the exquisite view of Mt. Fuji’s north shore from Motosuko Lake, a sight that only the 118km athletes will be rewarded with on the course.
Besides the remarkable sights, runners will also benefit from the water stations set up every 4-5km and the provision of two designated change-cloth bags. Of course, tourists and various spectators along the way will bring constant cheer and motivation as they tackle the seemingly endless pavements and sidewalks. Spectator buses running along the course will also be available in the event. Upon finishing at Hokuroku Park, everyone will receive a finisher’s medal. The overall top 6 finishers of each race will be rewarded with overall awards and the top 6 of each age category will also be presented an age-group award.
The night before the race, a dinner party will be held at Fuji-Q Highland. If you missed out on purchasing the dinner tickets, you can still explore this resort in the day post-race. One of Japan’s most popular amusement parks with record-breaking roller coasters, it is also known for being a luxurious hot spring hotel.
Will you go to support these ultra-runners or do you plan to join for yourself next year? Let us know in the comments below!