NAGANO >> Municipalities in Nagano Prefecture are hoping to take advantage of their high elevations to provide athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics with options for high-altitude training.
Efforts include developing forestry roads for training courses and frenzied building of indoor facilities. The public and private sectors are working together to lay out the welcome mat.
The municipal government of Komoro has 8.7 miles of forestry roads at 3,280 feet and 2.5 miles at 6,562 feet (2,000 meters) on the Takamine highlands, and has also completed lodging facilities within walking distance.
“I don’t know of any other place in Japan where you can train at an altitude of 2,000 meters,” said Masaaki Watanabe, 55, who managed the Nippon Sport Science University team that came fourth overall in this year’s Hakone Ekiden race.
In May, people associated with the U.S. and German triathlon teams visited the area to inspect the facilities.
The municipal government, chamber of commerce and other entities formed a committee to promote high-altitude training last year and have sent pamphlets to associations representing sports around the country.
The Italian team competing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup is planning to train at Sugadaira highlands in Ueda, where a 2,953-square-foot combination gymnasium and workout facility was completed on Sept. 1.
Meanwhile, the city of Tomi is building a pool at an elevation of 5,741 feet on the Yunomaru highlands, to be completed in June. Tateshina is constructing a cross-country course at a town-run ranch.
Many athletes train at high altitudes because it improves cardiac functions, but there are few high-altitude sites or facilities in Japan.
Top domestic and foreign athletes would be a draw for other customers. “We are hoping for economic effects,” said one official of a municipality in the prefecture.
“We want to promote the strengths of Nagano’s high altitudes and increase the number of people we have exchanges with,” said Ichiyo Kobayashi, a planning official at the prefecture’s tourism section.