Spring will hopefully be in full bloom in time for this benefit race around the Imperial Palace.

In Japan, March not only marks the arrival of spring, but it now also commemorates the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Although it’s been two years, the affected regions are still recovering and fundraising activities are still in full swing – this time, in the form of an ekiden race. Ekiden is a Japanese term for a long-distance relay running race, and although this type of race did not necessarily originate in Japan, the term was coined here and those events are quite popular here.

This race will take place around the lush gardens of the Imperial Palace and is inviting 160 teams of four people to participate – teams must, though, include at least one member who works in the Marunouchi area. The runners will start at Sakurada Gate and run the length around the outer garden of the Imperial Palace (about five kilometers), before passing the baton to their teammate for a total of four laps per team. Also worth a watch if you don’t fancy running yourself…

A portion of the registration fee will go toward supporting residents in temporary housing facilities in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi and other areas affected by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.

Registration is open to the public on from 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30 and concludes 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20 – so hurry and sign up!  Sign-up is limited to 160 teams (if applicants exceed 160 a lottery for official entries will be held).  For additional details and registration form, please refer to the website (Japanese only).

Marunouchi Ekiden

When: Sunday March 17, 10:00am

Where: Imperial Palace, Sakurada Gate (see map)

How much: ¥10,000 per team (includes runner’s insurance)