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Japan’s Data + Sports

Over 30-year continuous challenges unite people and municipalities through Challenge Day

Dec. 19, 2023

Challenge Day Appreciation Gathering was held to mark the end of Challenge Day in Japan with mayors, officials and staff from municipalities who developed Challenge Day with SSF in its history of over 30 years.

A) Challenge Day Appreciation Gathering

SSF held the “Challenge Day Appreciation Gathering” as the concluding event of Challenge Day, with the participation of the communities and individuals that have contributed to Challenge Day over the years. During the gathering, we had the opportunity to reflect on past Challenge Days and present awards to the municipalities that made substantial contributions. We are grateful for this opportunity to recognize their efforts.

For more information on Challenge Day, please visit here.

B) Challenge Day Fact Sheet

C) How Challenge Day Contributed to Local Communities

Here are some examples of the positive outcomes achieved through Challenge Day.

1) Participation in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic – Nayoro City

Shortly after the fourth state of emergency was lifted, Nayoro City decided to resume "Challenge Day" for the first time in two years. While there were mixed opinions about this decision, the focus was on addressing the residents' pandemic-induced lack of physical activity and assisting them in returning to normal life. Outdoor activities, including walking and morning exercises, were planned with a strong emphasis on infection prevention. Despite limited participation due to the ongoing pandemic, the positive feedback received from the town council chair underscored how Challenge Day was contributing to the community.

2) Connection among local communities - Rikuzen Takada City

"Our city was unable to participate in the 2011 Challenge Day due to the Great East Japan Earthquake. During that difficult time, several local municipalities, including Bungo Takada City in Oita Prefecture and Kiyama Town in Saga Prefecture, which we had previously competed with in Challenge Day, generously offered emergency supplies and donations. I believe that "Challenge Day" is a highly meaningful event that enables us to build strong bonds with other municipalities." said Mr. Toba, the former Mayor of Rikuzen Takada City, which had participated in Challenge Day over 20 times and achieved an impressive participation rate of approximately 70%.

3) Mutual support for Disaster Situations – Hadano City and Seki City

The interregional exchange among local communities initiated by Challenge Day goes beyond the field of sports and physical activities, strengthening the bonds in various aspects, including community development and disaster recovery support.

Hadano City in Kanagawa Prefecture and Seki City in Gifu Prefecture concluded the Mutual Support Agreement for Disaster Situations in October 2021. The connection between these two cities began when they competed in Challenge Day 2018. The heavy rain disaster occurred two months after Challenge Day 2018, causing substantial damage to Seki City. A few days after the damage was reported, nine staff from Hadano City headed to Seki City to provide reconstruction support. The support included providing the volunteer center with supplies, sanitizing flooded houses, and more.

Since then, Japan has been hit by natural disasters every year in different areas. Because it is unlikely that both cities will be affected simultaneously by the same disaster given their geographical distance, they decided to conclude an agreement to help each other out with supplies, equipment, and sending staff when a major disaster occurs in either city.

4) Mini-Challenge Day – Oga City

Oga City in Akita Prefecture, located in the northern part of Japan, began participating in Challenge Day in 2012. Since 2014, the city has been further enhancing the well-being of its citizens by designating the last Wednesday of each month as “Mini-Challenge Day in Oga” for the purpose of enhancing the local community network, workplace communications, and citizens’ health awareness.

Citizens who had participated in sports or engaged in physical activities for more than 15 minutes reported their activities to the designated sports facilities or community centers via email or fax. Event schedules and real-time participation rates were made available through the city's official website or community paper.

As mentioned earlier, Oga City has been encouraging its citizens to engage in physical activity on a regular basis by designating the last Wednesday of each month as its original “Mini Challenge Day” since 2014 to ensure that Challenge Day doesn't remain a temporary project. However, both awareness of the event and the number of participants remain low in the meantime. The official of Oga City stated, “since Challenge Day aimed to notify citizens about the importance of regular physical activity, we are happy to focus on our Mini Challenge Day as well as Challenge Day from now on to further promote the overall well-being of our citizens and encourage lifelong sports participation.”

5) Exercise for both brain and body – Fujiyoshida City

Fujiyoshida City in Yamanashi Prefecture organized a walking event utilizing a library, which is not typically a place for exercise or sports. Inside the facility, the organizers of Challenge Day set up some points encouraging the event participants to do exercises like “20 steps on a stepper” and “10 push-ups against a wall.” Additionally, the organizers placed mini-quiz boards related to sports at these locations to have the participants engage in brain exercises.

6) Collaboration with local businesses and shops – Daisen City

Daisen City in Akita Prefecture asked local companies and shops to set up posters and banners at their locations to gain their support for promoting Challenge Day. Additionally, the organizers of Challenge Day attached coupon tickets to the city's promotional leaflets featuring those companies and shops. The participation rates of Challenge Day were successfully increased by offering special benefits to shoppers who brought the coupon tickets on Challenge Day.

Through such local communities’ experiences, one of the crucial lessons learned is the importance of including people and organizations who promote sport, physical activities and health in their respective communities without building vertical silos.

D) Conclusion

This year marked Japan's final participation in Challenge Day. Some of the local communities are planning to independently organize their own similar events sparked by Challenge Day, promoting physical activities and the health of the residents. We are keen to strive hard to contribute to the advancement of future 'Sports for All' and health promotion by utilizing the knowledge we have gained over the past 31 years and the relationships established with various regions and communities.

Year Date Participating communities Total population Number of participants Participation rate (%)
1993 26-May 1 (1 town) 6,873 4,925 71.7
1994 25-May 7 (2 cities, 5 towns) 151,305 70,279 46.4
1995 31-May 12 (2 cities, 10 towns) 173,155 94,329 54.5
1996 29-May 16 (4 cities, 12 towns) 318,301 186,638 58.6
1997 28-May 26 (2 cities, 24 towns) 355,461 249,392 70.2
1998 27-May 35 (6 cities, 27 towns, 2 villages) 646,573 395,558 63.1
1999 26-May 45 (7 cities, 32 towns, 6 villages) 759,919 449,724 59.2
2000 31-May 58 (9 cities, 37 towns, 12 villages) 880,394 565,043 64.2
2001 30-May 62 (11 cities, 37 towns, 14 villages) 1,030,512 657,441 63.8
2002 29-May 82 (14 cities, 49 towns, 19 village) 1,421,384 873,543 61.5
2003 28-May 91 (14 cities, 57 towns, 19 villages, 1 district) 1,534,518 946,019 61.6
2004 26-May 97 (14 cities, 62 towns, 16 villages, 5 district) 1,548,279 983,737 63.5
2005 25-May 77 (12 cities, 36 towns, 7 villages, 22 districts) 1,399,173 792,748 56.7
2006 31-May 93 (17 cities, 28 towns, 7 villages, 41 districts) 2,203,299 957,011 43.4
2007 30-May 92 (16 cities, 25 towns, 5 villages, 46 districts) 1,693,383 871,816 51.5
2008 28-May 109 (23 cities, 28 towns, 6 villages, 52 districts) 2,336,853 1,212,450 51.9
2009 27-May 102 (25 cities, 28 towns, 5 villages, 44 districts) 2,382,899 1,259,719 52.9
2010 26-May 117 (32 cities, 25 towns, 6 villages, 54 districts) 2,729,399 1,425,366 52.2
2011 25-May 103 (30 cities, 22 towns, 7 villages, 44 districts) 2,302,458 1,062,740 46.2
2012 30-May 121 (43 cities, 31 towns, 8 villages, 39 districts) 3,158,631 1,711,874 54.2
2013 29-May 101 (57 cities, 34 towns, 10 villages) 4,107,277 2,053,284 50.0
2014 28-May 118 (64 cities, 43 towns, 11 villages) 4,458,408 2,391,129 53.6
2015 27-May 130 (69 cities, 48 towns, 13 villages) 5,254,533 2,771,720 52.7
2016 25-May 128 (68 cities, 47 towns, 13 villages) 5,381,691 2,923,999 54.3
2017 31-May 128 (63 cities, 1 ward, 51 towns, 13 villages) 5,878,178 3,391,469 57.7
2018 30-May 121 (58 cities, 1 ward, 49 towns, 13 villages) 5,421,606 3,315,699 61.2
2019 29-May 119 (58 cities, 1 ward, 46 towns, 14 villages) 5,200,694 3,065,438 58.9
2020 Cancelled
2021 27-Oct 66 (33 cities, 24 towns, 9 villages) 2,532,116 672,531 26.6
2022 25-May 68 (34 cities, 28 towns, 6 villages) 2,175,832 995,724 45.8
2023 31-May 67 (35 cities, 27 towns, 5 villages) 2,185,181 1,080,566 49.4

Note: Canceled in 2020 and postponed until October in 2021 due to the COVID-19 state of emergency declaration.


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