Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

J-blip: Sweets Marathon

Friday, January 18th, 2013

So, for the past few years, running has been really, really big in Japan. How do you make something already popular even more attractive? Cake, naturally. We’re guessing that was the logic behind Sweets Marathon, a running race with baked-goods stations set up along the way next to the usual water stations. You can run – and eat – your way through the whole 10k, or do it in a relay with a group of friends. And you can eat as much as of the little bite-sized cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pudding cups as you like. It sounds a like a recipe for disaster, but the event handlers seem to do a pretty good job of moving everyone along.

Since 2010, there have been 13 of these events held in cities around Japan organized by Tokyo-based International Sports Marketing, Inc. Last month two Sweets Marathons took place at Tokyo Summerland and in Osaka, drawing 3,000 and 4,000 participants, respectively.

Next up is the Gourmet Run, which is already on track to happen in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya early this year. It costs ¥4000 to enter, which is pretty decent for access to a huge spread of regional cuisine – though you have to work for it.

Tech for keeping pace with the marathon trendsetters

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A participant in last year's Tokyo Marathon takes the rat race literally. (Mark Thompson photo)

It’s been two years since the Japanese press got all out of breath announcing an “unprecedented running boom,” and yet the spandex-clad pack of joggers shows no sign of slowing down. Though the numbers are down from last year, this Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon still had almost 10 times as many applicants as the 35,500 spots in the race. The increase in women running put the phrase “beautiful jogger” onto the shortlist of top buzz words for 2011. As the marathoners get in their final practice runs and the spectators stake out their spots, we bring you a few of the tech trends that are going the distance for runners in Japan.

Sites like Run Net and Sports Entry make it easy to apply online for the growing number of races held all over the country. Popular races can fill up the same day they’re announced, leaving many would-be entrants hovering over their computer screens like they’re waiting for a starting gun. In addition to dedicated sites like these, runners in Japan are using Twitter to find running partners and groups with hashtags like #run_jp and #running (in both English and katakana).

Running rings around the Imperial Palace

The American fitness app RunKeeper has a loyal following among runners in Japan, even though the interface is only in English. A similar Japanese app called Tweet Runners also maps and shares completed runs on social media and is sponsored by pharmaceutical and supplement company Otsuka. Maybe not surprising for an app from a company better known for products like CalorieMate bars and the sports drink Pocari Sweat than its software, runners find its functions less robust than RunKeeper’s.

While not a role model for every runner, Tokyo Marathon veteran Joseph Tame is showing exactly what is possible when mobile tech is applied to the marathon course. Over the past few years, Tame has made an international name for himself by broadcasting his Tokyo Marathon runs via a wearable Ustream studio cobbled together from various mobile-tech devices. He keeps in shape between races and sharpens his tech capabilities at the same time with his “Art of Running” project: His meticulously plotted routes draw pictures or Japanese characters on the Tokyo map when he’s done. This year, he’ll be broadcasting a live interview with a fellow runner every kilometer of the race.

Continue reading about tech at the Tokyo Marathon →

Virtual games in a real sports club

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Hey, Tron fans. The future you’ve been dreaming of is here, located in a sports club inside a shopping mall in Tokyo. Or one step closer, anyway. With the new e-Sports Ground, players can run around a yoga studio kicking balls and breaking blocks made of light projected on the floor. The technology behind it is a system similar to Microsoft’s Kinect:  Sensors hanging from the corners of the the ceiling read and react to players’ motions and instantly change the projected images accordingly. Players don’t need to hold or wear any special equipment.

Get your virtual game on

As described by Nikkei Trendy, there are sports games, where where players kick virtual balls to each other and try to score, like one-on-one soccer or full-body air hockey. Another option is like stepping into the kind of video game you might have played … if you were a kid in the early ’80s. You become the paddle in a version of Breakout, using your  feet or hands to bounce a ball into a layer of bricks to destroy them. In Spacerunner, you outrun moving blobs of light. For a more cerebral experience, a game that translates roughly to “Spreadsheet Walk” challenges you to perform calculations on numbers on the ground by walking on them in the right order. We don’t remember seeing that in Tron.

The space opened last Friday at sports club Renaissance in Kitasuna, Koto-ku. Playing is free for sports club members. The game schedule is posted on the gym’s homepage. A spokesperson at the gym was quoted in Nikkei Trendy as saying that they have plans to add the system to one more branch early next year and hope to install it in others as they are renovated.

The maker of the e-Sports Ground is Eureka Computer. The system is also currently on display at the Kobe Biennale. Versions of the game system have been appearing at new media and digital art exhibits in Japan over the last two years, including at 3331 Arts Chiyoda and at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2010.


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