The upcoming 2024 Tokyo Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, March 3, 2024. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re more likely to be a spectator than a participant.
The Tokyo Marathon begins at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and follows a winding route through various areas, such as Shinjuku, Asakusa, and Ginza, before looping back and concluding at Tokyo Station.
You might be wondering, “What are the best spots to watch the race from?” and “What can I do afterwards to make the most of my weekend, considering I won’t be running over 40km (24.9 miles)?”
In this article, I’ll share the top spots for marathon fans to catch all the action during the Tokyo Marathon.
So, let’s dive in and find those perfect spots!
The First 10 km (6.2 miles)
The starting line is a spectacular sight and a favourite moment for many spectators.
Outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the atmosphere is electric and vibrant, marking the end of months of intense training.
The sea of people becomes a unified force streaming down the street together, surrounded by confetti and lively music.
If you get goosebumps from watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, this is the place to be.
If you’re there to support friends in the race, check the letter on their bib number to find their starting group, and plan to be on the left or right side in advance.
With over 30,000 participants passing by, it can be challenging to spot your runner in the crowd, especially since the street is quite wide here.
There are some grandstand seats available if you arrive early, and plenty of standing room for the energetic atmosphere.
Another excellent vantage point is along Yasukuni Dori, just a block away from the Kabukicho Exit (East Exit) of Shinjuku Station. You’ll find plenty of entertainment and a vibrant atmosphere here as well.
This area marks around the 9 km (5.6 miles) point, with a long straight stretch where the road narrows slightly, making it easier to spot participants in the race.
Additionally, this is your last chance to catch the 10K (6.2 miles) race participants, as the finish line comes up shortly after this point.
From 10k (6.2 Miles) To The Halfway Point
Exiting the first “hairpin” down-and-back (refer to the course overview and route breakdown for details), the course heads south on the Nihonbashi bridge, where the 10.7 K (6.6 miles) race finish line is located. The crowds here are lively and dense.
Beyond Nihonbashi, the course shifts northward toward Asakusa for the second out-and-back hairpin. The crowds along the northbound route remain consistent, although not as remarkable.
Many spectators choose to gather near Asakusa, a significant point of marathon entertainment. Asakusa is a prominent tourist area, boasting stunning temples and attractions.
Close to the entrance of the renowned Senso-ji Temple, a stage is set up, featuring traditional performances throughout the event, including dancers, taiko drummers, and costumed actors.
The area teems with massive crowds, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. Additionally, there are several cafes and restaurants with elevated views of the route, allowing for a great vantage point.
A prime spot for viewing is near the halfway point, which falls in the Ryogoku area, famous for its association with sumo wrestling, hosting the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the national sumo arena.
Reaching the halfway point serves as a significant psychological boost for the runners, and the large, enthusiastic crowd in this area provides a tremendous morale boost.
Halfway Point Through The Third Out-And-Back Of The Tokyo Marathon
Shortly after reaching the halfway point, the runners will turn back north to complete the half of the out-and-back section in the Ryogoku area. You can wait for them in Nihonmashi, which is where the 10K (6.6 miles) race ends.
This can be an excellent spot to cheer for them, especially as many runners tend to “hit the wall” around this point in the race, needing mental and physical support.
For a great photo opportunity, head to the 36-km (22.4 miles) mark to capture runners with Tokyo Tower in the backdrop. This spot is the same location as the 39-km (24.2 miles) point, but at 36-km (22.4 miles), you’re on the opposite side of the road, making it easier to take photos.
You’ll find several smaller entertainment points along this stretch, featuring stages for musicians and performers.
The Final Stretch Of The Tokyo Marathon
After leaving Hibiya Park, the course takes sharp turns heading north, guiding the runners through the home stretch. The crowds in this area are still thick and full of enthusiasm.
Afterward The Tokyo Marathon
Following the completion of the race, runners are typically occupied with various tasks, such as collecting their medals, retrieving their belongings, and changing (not to mention recovering from the race).
Therefore, it’s advisable not to rush to meet them immediately. It can get quite crowded, so it’s beneficial for both you and the runner to have cell phones or designate a meeting spot beforehand.
Additionally, be prepared for potential traffic congestion as many entrances are funneled through a single exit, resulting in potential delays.
To help you prepare for race day, here are some essential tips:
Spectator Race Day Tips
Be Confident Using Public Transport
Be prepared to rely on public transport during the Tokyo Marathon as many roads near key tourist spots are closed. Although finding a good spot to spectate isn’t challenging, it’s essential to plan your transportation ahead. Make sure you have a Pasmo or Suica card, which grants access to JR East trains and the subway and can even be used for payments at certain eateries and cafes.
Try Shinjuku Restaurants
If you prefer to watch your friends or family at the beginning of the race, find a spot near the starting line.
As the race progresses towards the 1 km (0.6 miles) mark, runners will pass through the vibrant Shinjuku area, providing spectators with a taste of Tokyo’s dynamic atmosphere.
You can catch the action from Yasukuni Dori, which is close to the East Exit (Kabukicho) of Shinjuku Station.
Shinjuku is known for its bustling array of restaurants, bars, and department stores, making it a great place for leisurely strolls and exploration.
Many tourists choose to stay in Shinjuku due to its convenient access to amenities, including its major train station, which is renowned as one of the world’s busiest.
Watching a marathon can be tiring, so why not treat yourself? Maidreamin, located near the East Exit of Shinjuku Station, offers a unique dining experience.
The Maidreamin cafes are staffed by women dressed as maids who are ready to provide you with extra attention and create an incredibly cute experience.
Be Aware Of Restricted Zones
Although you can catch all the action of the Marathon from various points along the course, there are specific areas you should avoid.
For instance, in 2020, the gardens around the Imperial Palace were completely off-limits to spectators.
For an excellent viewing experience in this area (which is close to the finish line), your best option is Marunouchi Naka-dori, which is typically set up for spectators. This area is also conveniently located near the 10 km ( 6.2 miles) and between 32 – 33 km (19.9 – 20.5 miles) markers due to the course’s looping structure.
Have A Sugar Rush In Kuramae
By the time the runners hit this point, they would have burned nearly 1,000 calories. Show your support by treating yourself to heaps of chocolate to help replenish their energy in spirit.
Dandelion Chocolate Café and Factory, located not far from the Kuramae 1-Chome checkpoint, is the perfect place to satisfy your sweet cravings. Treat yourself to an array of cakes, pastries, cookies, and chocolatey beverages served in this artisanal venue.
Kuramae is also known as one of Tokyo’s premier arts and crafts hubs, boasting a variety of meticulously curated stores for all you Etsy enthusiasts.
Try Geisha Fantasies In Asakusa
As the runners pass by Sensoji Temple and its Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa, they’ll be greeted with the enchanting melodies of traditional Japanese music drifting through the crisp air and into their overheated ears. But why should they be the only ones having all the fun? You love fun too!
If your idea of a workout is less about raising your heart rate and more about dressing up and channelling your inner Bella Hadid, then a personal styling session and photoshoot might be just your thing. Get decked out in the style of a Geisha or Samurai, complete with exquisite hair and makeup.
Once you’re dressed to the nines, strike your best poses until the session ends, and then choose your favourite prints to take home. Who needs a face full of sweat when you can have a face full of fabulous makeup?
Try Some Food In Ginza
Phew! Is it just us, or does watching people exercise really make you hungry? If you’re spectating in Ginza, you’re in luck because there are plenty of places to refuel with some protein and give those legs a rest.
Ginza is one of the best districts in Tokyo for shopping, socializing, and eating. With a variety of eateries to choose from, you might consider indulging in a traditional Japanese BBQ experience, complete with some succulent wagyu beef.
It’s the perfect way to recharge and cheer on the stragglers as they tackle the final 8-10 km (5 – 6.2 miles) of the race.
Visit The Tsukiji Fish Market
If you’re near the 34 km (21.1 miles) mark, consider visiting the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, known for offering some of the freshest and most delectable sushi globally.
While the market is famed for its culinary delights, there’s more to explore here than just food.
If you’re an early riser, you can catch the intriguing 5 a.m. tuna auction, where prices can reach staggering amounts.
Keep in mind that this auction is only accessible to wholesalers, but you can still immerse yourself in the experience by participating in a sushi workshop.
Learn from an expert and try your hand at crafting your own sushi lunch – a delightful and educational experience!
Watch From Above
If you’re okay with missing out on the detailed expressions of determination on the runners’ faces or the playful costumes worn by some participants, consider watching the marathon unfold from the elevated Tokyo Tower.
From this vantage point, you can witness approximately 35,000 Tokyo Marathon participants flooding the streets as they sprint towards the finish line, which, from this distance, may seem like it’s just a short 10 km (6.2 miles) away!
Reward Your Hard Work With A Michelin-Starred Meal.
Congratulations! You did it! You’ve witnessed the Tokyo Marathon, a feat many can only dream of achieving. And you know what? You deserve to celebrate.
What better way to do so than by treating yourself to a delightful six-course meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant Sézanne?
This modern gem is situated in Marunouchi, conveniently close to the Imperial Palace and right near the marathon’s finish line. You can easily access it after you’ve had your fill of watching all those fit individuals surpass their personal bests.
Hey, if the only “run” you’re doing today is between “ma” and “ouchi,” who are we to judge?
By now, we’ve established that spectating is way more enjoyable than participating, so go ahead and choose your spot to watch from!