MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 14: Sponichi Yamanakako Road Race (Half Marathon)

I traveled to Japan for the third time (in less than 3 years!) to Yamanakako to run in the Sponichi Yamanakako Road Race Half Marathon on May 26, 2019

I’ve been dreaming of participating in a Japanese half marathon for some time now, and this could not have been a more perfect race.

About 13,000 participants ran in the race, and it was memorable in many ways.

For starters, Mount Fuji. The first photo I took from my hotel room window – can you believe that view?! Mount Fuji is magical, and having it in clear view during the race was something I’ll cherish forever.

Second, running through Yamanakako, around Lake Yamanaka, and small village towns was beautiful. Not only that, the locals stand outside cheering for you in Japanese, even giving you high fives. That was super motivating.

Third, race day was hot, and I mean very hot. No one expected it as it was a record high for the season. Running in the heat can really mess with your mental game, and there were moments in the race where my mind went haywire. So much so that on mile 11 I wanted to call it quits ! I was so close to the finish line but the heat was getting the best of me. Thankfully my family was texting me during the race to keep me motivated.

Lastly, there was no one in the finish line waiting for me as I traveled alone to run this race. Not only that but there was no finishers medal, no awards, just me, myself, and I. There was something special about just having the sense of satisfaction that I had just completed this difficult thing.

I would certainly run this race again. It’s certainly a highlight of my life and travels thus far.

*If you’re planning on running this race and would like more details, I’ve put some pointers at the end of the post !

*Make sure you sign up for the correct race, there’s a 13K (which is 1 lap around Lake Yamanaka) and the Half-Marathon which is 13 miles (21K).
*There really aren’t many announcements leading up to the race. I received 1 email confirming I signed up and paid, and another email a couple weeks leading up to the race with my bib number and details on how to get to the venues. That was it.
*Wake up early (5:30/6am), eat breakfast, and head to the venue. I never eat before a race, but the race doesn’t begin until 9:15am. You’ll be happy you had food in your belly.
*Head to the venue early, Yamanakako is a very small mountain village and all the roads close for this event. You can schedule a taxi with your hotel to pick you up race day.
*I recently started running with compression sleeves and highly recommend it for this hilly, elevated race. I recovered quickly after this race because of the sleeves.
*Try to stay at a hotel that includes breakfast and dinner. Yamanakako is a small village and finding breakfast places can be tricky. I stayed at the Sun Plaza Hotel Fuji, and am happy I did.
*You can pick up your bib and packet race day. I picked everything up the day before, but there was no need. Everything is so organized that you’ll have no problem picking up your materials day of. There’s a special, small tent with International Runner’s packets.
*There are no signs or announcements in English. Everything, and I mean everything, is in Japanese. Don’t worry though, it’s all self-explanatory.
*Carry some cash (100-500 yen coins). There are vending machines along the path in case you need to purchase water. There are water stations, but with the intense heat the day I ran, I’m grateful I had cash on me for a bottle of water.
*The race ends at the middle school, which is uphill. Save some mental energy for that final push !
*Note that you will not receiving a finisher’s medal. You do receive a t-shirt when you pick up your packet though.
*Traffic is horrendous after the race, so I just walked to lunch and then to my hotel which was about 1.5 miles from the venue.
*Lastly, have fun. Take photos. Enjoy the views. This race is beyond memorable, and you’ll be happy you made the journey to Yamanakako, Japan.

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 13: Hedgehog Cafe Yokohama

HEDGEHOG CAFES ARE REAL!

SPOILER ALERT: this cafe also had Meerkats!

To be honest, I don’t like when animals are commercialized. But, I will say, this Hedgehog Cage is immensely clean and very careful on how guests handle the hedgehogs and meerkats.

When you first walk in an employee sits with you and explains the hedgehog personality, and the correct way to handle them. They sit with you for a while to make sure you’re doing it right. Not only that, the staff walks around the entire time making sure the animals are safe, and being handled adequately. I appreciated the educational aspect of the entire experience.

If you’re in Yokohama, you definitely don’t want to miss this Hedgehog Cafe. Admission includes a drink of your choice, leather gloves, and 1 hour of Hedgehogs and Meerkats.

You can check out this photo of Tim Ferris visiting a Hedgehog Cafe while in Tokyo!

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 10: Meals in Yokohama

I’m eternally curious about what people eat when they travel, so I’m including this post for those of you who are as well.

Before traveling to Japan I had a perception that the food would be mostly raw fish, and they do serve it, but I found their food options to be much more diverse than I expected. I eat a primarily whole food plant based diet, so as you can see I ate veggies, ramen, soba, and rice snacks.

Here are some things I learned:
Use the bib if you’re given one. It really will protect your clothes.
Slurping your noodles is not optional, but encouraged.
Check to see the restaurant menu has pictures, or ask to see if they have an English menu.

頂きます itadakimasu (non-literal translation of bon appétit!)

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 9: Yokohama Chinatown

The other night I went for veggie sushi with one of my best friends and she wanted to know all about my trip to Japan. It seemed appropriate to have a Japanese meal.

I shared that I stayed near the Chinatown in Yokohama, and her reaction was, “Chinatown in Japan?!”

I know, right?!

Yokohama Chinatown reminded me a lot of China — Music! Lanterns! Dumplings! It’s in your face in the most beautiful way. Check it out…

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 7: Discovering Yokohama

Do you know the feeling of being in a place that makes you feel so alive? Like, where you just feel even more like yourself?

That’s how I feel about being in Japan.

There’s something unique about the Japanese culture that resonates so deeply with the way I see the world.

It’s been about two years since my last trip to Japan, but this time I travel south of Tokyo to the city of Yokohama.

Join me, as I continue the Japan series and share some of my favorite spots and experiences in Yokohama!

 

You can read the previous posts here >>

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 1: PEONY GARDEN AT UENO TOSHOGU

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 2: EXPLORING TOKYO

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 3: KYOTO COFFEE SHOP

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 4: OWL CAFE ASAKUSA

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 5: BEING PRESENT IN HISTORIC KYOTO

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 6: DATE NIGHT AT THE PARK HYATT TOKYO

what’s your favorite travel destination(s)?