Charity sports events are starting to take hold in Japan, with an increasing number of people making sizeable donations to a variety of worthy causes in exchange for an entry pass to run in famous marathons.
“Though ¥100,000 is by no means a small sum, I feel less reluctant because the money I voluntarily paid will be used to help other people,” said Toru Matsumoto, a 70-year-old resident of the city of Niigata who will run in next month’s Tokyo Marathon for the first time.
Matsumoto took up jogging after reaching retirement age and had applied to compete in the race every year since, but was never successful in the lottery held to determine the entrants.
The marathon, one the biggest in Japan, is so popular that the number of nonelite runners applying to take part exceeds the quota by more than tenfold every year. Entrants are therefore decided by lottery.
Since 2011, however, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation, which organizes the race, has permitted 3,000 so-called charity runners to participate on a first-come, first-served basis, providing they donate ¥100,000 or more to charity.
Charity runners can make tax-deductible donations to any of 11 organizations, including those supporting sick children or engaging in regeneration of forests. The foundation also accepts donations from people who do not actually run in the marathon.
Matsumoto decided to enter as a charity runner because the 2013 Tokyo Marathon is expected to be his last full marathon, in light of his advanced age.
More than 1,700 people participated in the 2012 Tokyo Marathon as charity runners, and donations, including those by people who did not run, totaled some ¥180 million. Donations for the 2013 marathon exceed ¥200 million.
“An important role of marathons for citizens is to arouse attention to the importance of social contributions,” an official in charge at the foundation said.
Some people run marathons for fundraising purposes nowadays. For example, Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka took part in the Kyoto Marathon last March before winning the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, calling for donations to the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at the university if he completed it.
Yamanaka, who heads the center, used the online fundraising site Just Giving Japan to make his appeal.