From its dramatic coastline cliffs to its picturesque mountain ranges, Japan’s lesser-known Prefektura Miyagi boasts some of the country’s best terrain and natural environments for adventure travel and fitness aficionados.
As the cherry blossoms begin to bloom across Japan this spring, Miyagi will get ready to host two of the biggest marathons in the country. The Tohoku Food Marathon in Tome City is one of the biggest events in the region with hundreds of participants, including many from overseas. Inspired by France’s whimsical Marathon du Medoc, the multifaceted event features participants in costumes from their favorite shows and video games. The marathon events begin on April 25, 2020 with a relay marathon, followed by a full marathon, half marathon and several smaller races for teenagers and children on the April 26, 2020. Multiple food festivals are held in conjunction with the races, allowing runners and spectators to sample regional delicacies including over a hundred varieties of sake.
For those looking for more of a challenge, the Sendai International Half Marathon will be held in Miyagi’s capital on May 10, 2020. The annual marathon hosts over 10,000 runners from around the world. The route begins in Kohshin Rubber Athlete Park, traversing the city’s parks, lush avenues and stadiums. The race has several divisions, including 5K and 2K races, and is accessible to those in wheelchairs.
From the big cities to the picturesque landscapes of mountains and forests, Miyagi’s title as the “Land of Contrasts” comes from the prefecture’s incredibly varied environments. One of the best way to experience its diversity is by hiking the Michinoku Coast Trail, one of Japan’s longest hiking trails. This 560-plus-mile trek runs from Fukushima to the Aomori Prefecture, passing through four of Miyagi’s inner regions. The most sought-after hiking location is the Northern Kesennuma Section on the Sanriku Coast, which features a scenic rocky coastline and the Ogama Hanzo Monolith and Dairiseki Coast, a shore composed of natural marble.
Along the trail, hikers can take a break at Matsushima Bay, one of the great views of Japan, and paraglide along the bay’s iconic islands. At Shobutahama Beach, Takeshige Yamaya, a three-time paragliding national champion, offers tandem paragliding experiences. These experiences last around twenty minutes and offer incredible bird’s eye views of Matsushima Bay and, at higher heights, the city of Sendai and Mount Zao.
While the Michinoku Coast Trail and Matsushima Bay provide the best views along the coast, the Zao Hill Climb Eco event on May 24, 2020 is one of the best ways to see Mount Zao. Every spring, Miyagi Prefecture hosts this mountain biking tournament on two of Mount Zao’s roads: the Zao Echo Line and the Zao High Line. The challenging courses reach an altitude of 43,000 feet and a total length of 11.6 miles, starting from green terrain and ending at the snowy mountaintop. While many participants race, others go at their own pace to admire the incredible landscapes of Miyagi, including a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and the Asahi Mountain Range (only accessible from the peak).
North of Mount Zao, the Onikobe Ski Resort offers the best ski runs with a mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes and boasts the longest ungroomed powder run in Miyagi. Skiers can also hit the slopes after dark, as night skiing is offered on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Many of the lodges feature on-site onsens – a cozy way to unwind after an eventful day of skiing.