Hundreds of Japanese amateur marathon runners put on samurai and other costumes and raced through the winding roads of a mountainous town northwest of Tokyo on Sunday.

Known locally as the “samurai marathon”, the 30-kilometre race was started in Gunma Prefecture in 1855 by a local fief holder who sought to strengthen his samurai troops by making them run uphill on mountain paths. The event is believed by some to be the country’s first semi-marathon race.

More than 150 years later, however, only a handful are taking the competition as a serious physical event.

Most participate for fun, wearing funny costumes ranging from ancient Japanese samurai to movie and cartoon characters.

A Participant Said:

“I’ve burned the midnight oil to make this costume. I’ve been waiting all year for this day.”

The heavy costumes took their toll on some participants. Some ran out of breath and staggered, but most of them didin’t give up until they reached the goal located 1,000 metres higher in altitude than the starting point.

Sun Tzu has spent about 7 years in Asia traveling through Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Korea. A true fan of everything that is weird and strange, he decides in the end what is displayed and published on this site. Sun has previous experience writing for numerous print mags such as XLR8R, URB, and Movement Magazine.