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Swimrun In Japan Is On The March

Swimrun in Japan is at an exciting juncture now entering its 5th year. With interest in swimrun gaining traction year on year, a core estimated community of 600 swimrunners and one lady who is single handily driving the growth of the sport – swimrun in Japan is about to ignite.

Hanae Takayama is the sole race organiser and responsible for the Japanese Swimrun Association. She has fought tirelessly to grow swimrun in her home country, swimrun.com sat down with her to hear her story. Thank you to Hanae’s race partner Umi Miyahara for translating.

Umi Miyahara (top left), Fred Newton (top right) and Hanae Takayama (bottom).

Early Beginnings

Hanae is somewhat of a trailblazer. She and her race partner Umi Miyahara were the first swimrun team ever to compete from Japan at the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Isles of Scilly race in 2016. There was very little information for either of them, but a background in adventure racing and having completed some of the world’s toughest ultra marathons prepared them with a certain amount of ‘let’s just give this a go and see what happens’ approach. They trained regularly from a beach in Tokyo and taped and cut their equipment to see what worked, not knowing what to expect.

A Struggle To Launch The First Swimrun Race In Japan 

Hanae was blown away by the ÖTILLÖ race and returned to Japan, determined to bring the sport back to her home country. She smiles ruefully and admits that ‘getting people for the first ever race in Japan was really really hard’. The reaction from local people was ‘sheer surprise’ and since there was no knowledge of swimrun at all in Japan, there were plenty of tough conversations to be had.

Recounting one such meeting with a Regional Officer, Hanae was talking though a proposed swimrun route. To which their response was ‘but there is no path there’. Hanae explained about the flow of swimrun through a natural environment. The curt response back was ‘there is no path’. 

It is these battles that Hanae has had to fight along with tricky negotiations with hosting towns for races to bring swimrun into Japan. She changed approach and looked at where there are incumbent triathlon races to make the process slightly easier, but only just. Her efforts finally resulted in an iconic race, the Marunuma Swimrun.

An Island Nation With Enormous Potential

Japan is a glorious swimrun destination, with over 6000 islands and many uninhabited islands. The landscape fits very well with the concept of swimrun.

After that first race, the growth of swimrun in Japan has come from three main areas of interest: trail runners, outdoor swimmers and triathletes. Japan has an abundance of outdoor and multi-sport enthusiasts, and is ripe setting for swimrun to flourish.

The formation of the Japan Swimrun Association has proved an essential resource. A place to provide practical information for the domestic population in Japanese and English. Word of mouth continues to be the main driver of the growth and awareness and the Association plays a key role in converting interest into actual swimrunners.

Hanae hopes to grow the race series culminating in a Japanese National Championship and for other race organisers to put events on. There are currently two world-class swimrun races here and all international visitors will be warmly welcomed.

Marunuma Swimrun – 27th August 2022

A glorious mountainous race through wooded trails and across beautiful turquoise green sheltered lake swims.

The full course is 30km in total distance and made up of 22km of running and 8km of swimming. The Sprint course is 10km total distance made up of 7.5km of running and 2.5km of swimming.

Kyora-island, Amami Swimrun – 24th September 2022

Kyora-island, Amami Swimrun is in a stunning setting of crystal clear blue waters in the Amami archipelago. Currently just running a Sprint course with 10km total distance made up of 7.5km of running and 2.5km of swimming.

Swimrun Is Freedom

For Hanae, swimrun is a true and pure expression of freedom. The freedom of movement and a celebration of human spirit and the natural environment. In today’s age of technology and consumer culture, swimrun is a much needed antidote for all of us to experience that freedom.

Fred Newton

Fred is the Editor and co-founder of swimrun.com. He has actively been involved with the sport of swimrun as an enthusiastic participant, race director, volunteer and journalist.

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