Since 2017, Oshu’s hosted a road running event known as the Kirameki (“Sparkle”) Marathon. It was held as a race with a full marathon, an accompanying 10K, plus a 3K race for children (by themselves or with a parent in pairs.) Anyone and everyone was welcome to join, so it would draw a number of participants, but was canceled in 2020 and 2021, for obvious reasons. Happily though, this year it returned with COVID-19 precautions and in an abbreviated capacity – as a 10K challenge.

Oshu is the kind of place where you can see people walking, biking, and jogging everywhere, thanks to walkable city design. Plus the scenery is beautiful: I’m partial to the spectacular sunsets over the Ou Mountain Range, and it’s generally very safe, so running after dark is a totally viable option (with sensible safety precautions, of course.) This environment has produced Mizuho Nasukawa, Oshu native and winner of the 2009 Tokyo Marathon, who now popularizes the Kirameki Marathon as its ambassador.

Sunsets make the Ou Mountains really pop!

I’ll now talk about what it was like to participate in the Kirameki Marathon. I applied online; as the big day got closer, everyone got an orientation packet explaining all the essential details. All of this – the website and the info packet – were in Japanese, so if necessary, I recommend having an app or a friend to help check the meaning.

Part of the info packet, with my bib number.

Race day was a bit cloudy, but not too hot or humid: perfect for running. Oshu’s in eastern Japan, so the climate isn’t nearly as hot compared to the west; on the whole, it’s a comfortable area to live in. Furthermore, the Kirameki Marathon is always scheduled for May, which is the ideal season for marathons.

All kinds of people take part in this event, including cosplay runners! These are people who run in full costume as characters from manga, anime, or pop culture to entertain onlookers, especially children. Spectators populated the sides of the road, and their encouragement was really motivational – good news for me, as a new runner with a slow pace. I can honestly credit them with helping me reach the finish line.

The Kirameki Marathon exemplifies some of the best things about Oshu – beautiful nature, signature local goods, and a spirit of community from the cheering onlookers and the hardworking volunteers who made all this possible. Here’s hoping for a full marathon next year!


Bread from a local bakery, Esashi apple juice, a mask, and a commemorative towel for all runners