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Tokyo on a Trot by Cassandra Davis

Running in Tokyo

Running in Tokyo

I recently had a business trip to Tokyo, which was my first visit to Japan.

So, naturally I was worrying beforehand if I would be able to run there without getting lost, I had visions of myself trying to memorise street names in Japanese. To my surprise and delight, I discovered when consulting the website of the hotel in which I was staying that they provided a jogging route complete with land markers; three circuit routes between 1.5 and 3kms crossing Japanese gardens and temples.

When I arrived in Tokyo I realised that I need not have worried before as there are marked out jogging routes everywhere. The Japanese are a very running-friendly nation. You wonder how any Japanese person has time for running with the long hours they work and their long commutes home. I figured it probably has something to do with their Zen culture, and you see them doing it anywhere, in impossible areas, and at any time of the day. I even saw a picture of Paula Radcliff in the underground subway, she was obviously a feature in some current Japanese magazine.

I was up the first morning at 5am which was no problem with jetlag. When I tried to call the lift to descend to go on my run, it did not appear to be functioning so early in the morning. After several attempts, I walked around and discovered a service elevator which was functioning. However, as the buttons were in Japanese and I obviously did not get off at the lobby floor, because I found myself surrounded by dirty tea bowls and knee deep in laundry. I then tried to locate the exit but got a bit lost. I must have set off some kind of surveillance alarm system, because when finally I regained the lift it suddenly opened and two security chiefs with white gloves and batons came at me Kamikaze style shouting out in Japanese.

I guess we got a mutual fright, and when they realised I was just a bewildered female jogger, they began bowing in humble apology. I do recommend that you go earlier rather than later for a run in Tokyo, as the sidewalks quickly fill up with people shuffling to work. It gets light a lot earlier in Japan in the middle of winter than in Europe, and it was already daylight at around 6:30am. It is also a lot warmer than the European winter, so you don’t need to pack as many layers.

On the last evening, I decided to relocate to an hotel closer to Narita airport, basically to ensure that I could get a run in before my long flight home. I was expecting to have to run around airport terminal maintenance buildings, but I was pleasantly surprised that the airport hotels are located on the edge of an exotic Japanese forest. So not only are the hotels much cheaper than in Tokyo out at the airport, but there was a free shuttle bus to Narita town, station, airport, and the added benefit of great area for running. The forest trees were quite alien to me, but there are some lovely routes passing shrines etc.

If you visit Japan don’t forget to make a trip to a sports outlet. The Japanese makes Asics and Mizuno are of course dominant, but all the running shoe brands are much cheaper. If you have any raids in your programme you might like to stock up on the various fishy dehydrated snack foods available, anything from dried octopus legs to wafer thin algae chips. There is of course a mind-blowing choice of ramen noodles and not to mention that everything is also available from numerous vending machines, hot or cold.

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