Entering a triathlon in Japan is quite a complicated business for a newcomer to the country. It is also an expensive sport. When I arrived in Japan only 10 months ago now, I thought that I would simply roll up on the day of the race and enter then. Imagine my surprise when I tried that at the "Maisu Sports Island Triathlon" in September and was told that entries had closed three months ago! I quickly learned that unlike in Australia or the United States of America you have to plan ahead. You have to decide what races you want to do at least three months in advance. You cannot enter on the day!
Initially I couldn't understand why this was necessary. However, now I know. Whilst triathlon in Japan is a relatively minor sport, people who take part in races are very enthusiastic. Races are typically oversubscribed. So most race organizers have a lottery to decide who can take part. And the lottery process starts about three months before the race date.
So you send off your application and wait until you find out whether or not you have been accepted into the race. If you are one of the "lucky" ones then you must now send your entry fee to the race organizers. Race entry fees range from about 13,000 Yen for a short race to 35,000 Yen for a long race like "Japan Ironman". Assuming you have the spare money you then have to work out how to send it to the race organizers. Depending how long you have been in Japan you will find that an easy or a very difficult thing to do. Fortunately, during my early days in Japan I had plenty of Japanese friends who helped me understand the kanji and the bank and post office transfer systems.
Once you have managed to get your money to the race organizers you are almost there. All you have to do is wait for your race package, keep up the training, and decide whether or not you will need to book accommodation near the race.
Unless you are very lucky, most races will be a long way away from where you live. I recently took part in the "Japan Ironman" in BiwaKo on June. So I had to find a hotel nearby for three nights accommodation. Two weeks later I took part in the "Shimokita International Triathlon" in Aomori. For that race I had to fly to Misawa and book in at a hotel for another three nights.
So apart from having a plan, some friends to help you through the process of entering, you also need a reasonable amount of money and free time. After that it is quite easy. All you have to do is show up on race day and get ready to suffer for between three and twelve hours depending on the race distance you have chosen.
Run The Planet thanks the ATC website (www.mmjp.or.jp/amlang.atc/mokuji.htm) for the permission to reprint the article "Triathlons in Japan - A complicated, expensive and painful pastime" by Philip Norris. The original text has been slightly modified to fit Run The Planet standards. ATC provides English lessons over the phone in Japan to Japanese mature adults. Illustration © by Run The Planet.