Ekiden – the Japanese sport of long-distance relay running – returns for its second year in the old Siamese capital of Ayutthaya on January 28.
“The Krungsri Ayutthaya Kizuna Ekiden 2018 will build on the success of the first year and will help strengthen the bond between Thailand and Japan,” says Santi Chudintra, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
“It will also showcase the beautiful scenery and culture of Ayutthaya, a Unesco World Heritage site.”
Ekiden has been popular in Japan since its debut in 1917. It’s a team effort, with each member running a set distance with a cloth sash (tasuki) and then handing it on to the next runner on the team.
The inaugural Ayutthaya Kizuna Ekiden was part of 130thanniversary celebrations of ThaiJapanese diplomatic relations and drew 400 teams – a total of 1,600 runners, 60 per cent of them Thais.
The 2018 will have another 400 fourmember teams, each participant ready to tackle a 3.4kilometre segment of the 13.6kilometre course.
Runners can only register as members of a team, and in each team must have at least one Thai and one Japanese on board.
This year the Bank of Ayudhya has joined the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, TAT and Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers and RKB Mainichi Broadcasting as sponsors.
Japan is among Thailand’s largest sources of tourists. In 2017, 1.54 million visitors arrived from Japan, generating Bt65 billion in revenue. This year that figure is expected to top 1.56 million.
Easy air access is one of the contributing factors. Through March 24, there will be 194 flights per week between the two countries’ major cities.
Thai AirAsia X recently increased its OsakaBangkok frequency from seven to 14 flights per week, while planning to resume its SapporoBangkok service as well as introducing a HakodateBangkok route.
Thai Lion Air plans to introduce direct services from Fukuoka, Tokyo and Osaka to Bangkok.