The history of the Boston Marathon & Japan: Runners from Japan have had 15 total victories in the Boston Marathon. The only countries that have more total victories than Japan are the U.S. (95), Kenya (29), and Canada (21).
Shigeki Tanaka was the first Japanese person to ever win the Boston Marathon; he won the men’s open at the age of 19 in 1951, finishing with a 2:27:45 time. Tanaka’s personal history as a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima garnered much media attention. His win was also memorable because instead of typical running shoes, he wore tabi (足袋), which are traditional style split toe Japanese footwear. Today, advocates of barefoot running often look to him as an example.
Other memorable Japanese winners of the Boston marathon include Wakako Tsuchida, who has won the women’s wheelchair division 5 times (most recently in 2011) and Toshihiko Seko who won twice during the 1980’s and is currently on Tokyo’s advisory panel for the 2016 Olympics.