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Ironman Japan Reconnaissance via Niseko Multisport

ironman japan logoJust over a week ago, the World Triathlon Corporation announced the return of Ironman racing in Asia as well as introduced the new Ironman Japan triathlon event on Hokkaido Island, in Northern Japan. Registration opens on February 15th. With no race history, it's a tough decision for those considering taking on the new Ironman challenge, especially not being familiar with the area or culture. With that, we reached out to Niseko Multisport, a coaching and training camp outfit on Hokkaido for some insight on what athletes will see and experience if they decide to go. Continue reading to see what Jess Ripper has to say.

Ironman Japan Reconnaissance via Niseko Multisport

Hokkaido is an incredibly beautiful part of the world, teeming with natural beauty. The island is very well known for it's winter activities - Niseko, nearby to Ironman Japan venue Lake Toya, has been named in the top 10 ski resorts in the world by the New York Times.

Once the snow melts, the region transforms into an endurance sports training paradise! Stunning alpine scenery, volcanoes, crystal clear caldera lakes, quiet wide-open roads, tranquil forests; with a perfect mix of flat, rolling and mountainous terrain makes it ideal for Ironman!

ironman japan lake toya


  • Fly into Sapporo's New Chitose International Airport - with connections from all major cities in Japan, and direct flights from cities including Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Bangkok, Honolulu, and Guam.
  • • Lake Toya is approximately 100km from New Chitose International Airport.
  • • Buses and trains access Lake Toya from the airport (2.5 hrs).
  • • Rental vehicles are available from the airport.
  • * An International drivers license is required for renting vehicles in Japan.


  • Lake Toya - the start/finish location for Ironman Japan is traditionally a popular Japanese tourist area, renowned for it's many hot spring hotels. Accommodations are plentiful, with the majority being of the modest hotel variety. The area also has numerous Japanese ryokans (B&B) and minshuku (simple lodges) available.
  • Niseko - a popular mountain resort area approximately 50km (40 min drive) from the race start at Lake Toya. Recent years have seen extensive foreign investment and property development in the area, and the range of modern accommodation options is wide; from condominium apartments to private stand-alone houses, modest to 5-star luxury. Niseko offers the widest range in terms of 'western-style' accommodation. Rumors are already leaking out of a possible course change to include T2 and possibly the Ironman Japan finish area in Niseko in future years - stay tuned for more on this...
  • * For 2013, if staying in Niseko, a private rental vehicle is advisable. Bus transfers between Niseko and Lake Toya may also be operating during Ironman week - TBC.

ironman japan preview

Ironman Japan Course Preview (course map):

  • Swim - a one-lap 3.8km swim in the crystal clear water of Lake Toya, a deep volcanic caldera lake. Very scenic, and one of the most pristine lakes in Japan, with water clean enough to drink! Water temperature on race day should be in the low-20 degree Celsius range, not too cold, and should be wetsuit legal.
  • Bike - a one-lap 180km loop though one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Asia. Beginning with a fast 30km section around the lake, athletes will then begin the first of several climbs (steepest approx. 10%), as the course meanders through patchwork farmland, lush forests, and around the base of the ever-present and ever-impressive landmark, Mt Yotei. Roads are fast and in good condition, and the challenging mix of flats, rollers and short steep climbs will offer something for everyone.
  • Run - a two-lap out-and-back course will comprise the 42.2km marathon. One slight short gradient on an otherwise flat road course, which winds along the shore of picturesque Lake Toya. The spectator-friendly course is very leafy in parts, and if the weather is hot, will have good sun protection for a significant portion of the run.


  • • August is one of the most pleasant months of the year weather-wise. Temperatures average in the low-to-mid 20 degree Celsius range, perfect for Ironman racing! It's not uncommon however, to see daytime temps reach 26-28 degrees Celsius in late August. The air can cool down quite a lot once the sun sets, so bring an extra layer for evening outings, or if you predict a late Ironman finish.

Bike shops:

    ironman japan preview
  • • There are no local bike shops in the Lake Toya area, so bring your spares, tools and nutrition with you.
  • • In Niseko, Rhythm Cycles provides bike maintenance services, and stocks a range of tires, tubes, tools, clothing, sports nutrition, and other cycle needs.
  • * All Ironman events have an expo, so it's expected that there will be one here as well with items you may need.


  • • Lake Toya's large hotels offer a variety of good restaurants to choose from, with both Japanese and Western dining options available. For a quick snack or emergency supplies, there are several convenience stores located around the lake.
  • • If staying in Niseko, there are some fantastic restaurants to enjoy, from Michelin Star-rated fine dining, to traditional Japanese fare, to simple café style serving top quality espresso. A good selection of non-Japanese dining options are available.

Before/After the Race:

  • • The roads in the Lake Toya/Niseko region offer some of the best cycling in Asia. Roads are quiet, drivers are polite, and the scenery is simply stunning. Pre-riding the course will be safe.
  • • The region is well known for the many nutrient-rich natural hot springs (onsen), which are a must for post-race recovery.
  • Local produce - Hokkaido is the food bowl of Japan, be sure to sample the array of fresh organic produce. Local wild venison is also a favorite.
  • Volcanoes! The region is dotted with dormant volcanoes. Mt Usuzan, on Lake Toya's shores last erupted in 2000, and has a ropeway accessing an observation deck near the summit - with great views of neighboring volcano Showa Shinzan, the Pacific Ocean, and Lake Toya itself.
  • Niseko - the world-renowned mountain resort offers everything from white water rafting, to downhill mountain biking, to Michelin Star restaurants. Fantastic road cycling, and a wide range of modern (from modest to 5-star luxury) accommodation is available.
  • Sapporo - Hokkaido's largest city offers the bright neon lights, busy pedestrian crossings, and extensive shopping & dining experiences one associates with a trip to Japan.
  • Otaru - nearby Sapporo, this pretty coastal city is a great stopover for a fresh sushi lunch and a wander though the old antique shops.
  • Lake Shikotsuko - another scenic caldera lake surrounded by inspiring mountain peaks.

Physiotherapy/Massage/Body Tune-Up:

  • Niseko Physio and Niseko Massage provide professional world-class treatments by English speaking therapists. Owned and operated by successful triathletes!

Local Tri scene:

  • • The bulk of the local Tri scene is based in the Niseko and Sapporo areas. Locals are passionate about the sport, and there are some great races around Hokkaido. The announcement of Ironman Japan on home soil will see the scene continue to expand, as more and more locals catch the 'tri bug' and become addicted to the multisport lifestyle.
  • * It's expected that Ironman Japan will attract many triathletes from all over Japan as well as other Asian countries, so register early.

ironman japan preview

For those wanting a closer look, Niseko Multisport will be holding several training camps on the Ironman Japan course this summer. The camps will be based in Niseko and will provide a great opportunity for those wanting to recon the course, enjoy the incredible natural landscape, and eat some great food! 50 qualifying slots for the 2014 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii makes Ironman Japan an attractive chance to punch your '14 Kona ticket early - come and prepare on the IMJ course in advance! Visit
www.nisekomultisport.com/Training_Camps.html for more information.

Author: Jess Ripper
Photos: Glen Claydon Photography

About Niseko Multisport
Niseko MultisportNiseko Multisport is a triathlon & fitness coaching service, providing face-to-face and online coaching to athletes across the globe. Our personally customized training programs cater to your specific ability & fitness level, which will see you reach your triathlon & fitness goals faster!

Niseko Multisport is based in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan - an endurance sports training wonderland. Find out more about us at: www.nisekomultisport.com