No matter what language you speak, triathlon is still swimming, biking, and running. Yet, while the basics remain the same across borders, the sport means different things to different people and different cultures. Although the U.S. may stake claim to inventing the modern version of triathlon, other countries have adapted it and formed their own triathlon identities and communities.

In Japan, the sport has a long history and its own unique style. The country has always been an early adopter of Western trends, across technology and culture—while also adding their own spin. This was just as true when it came to early triathlon.

The first Ironman was held on Oahu in 1978—and only three years later Japan hosted its first event, the Kaike Triathlon. There, fifty-three people, including two women, competed over a 2.5K swim, 63.2K bike, and 36.5K run. Kaike was positioned as a way to attract tourism to hot spring and beach spots, but with only a photocopy of an Ironman Hawaii pamphlet—which had to be translated into Japanese—and a borrowed video tape of the event to go by, organizers had their share of challenges when it came to figuring out this new sport.

The seeds of the Japanese triathlon scene were planted, though, and in the rich soil of a period of great economic strength, they quickly took root. In 1985, the first Ironman Japan was held at Lake Biwa, near the heart of the country, about 200 miles from Tokyo. Dave Scott and Julie Moss were the winners, and the event gave Japan the distinction of becoming just the third Ironman host nation after the U.S. and New Zealand. It was also in 1985 that Japan’s most popular triathlon, the Miyakojima Strongman, and its first short-course race, the Amakusa Triathlon, began. Driven by serious media

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