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Tokyo on a Trot Part II by Cassandra Davis

I once again had the pleasure of visiting Tokyo on a business trip. I’m always glad that running as an exercise is so transportable, you can do it just anywhere (even the Tokyo on the Trotbusy metropolis of Tokyo), all you need is to pack your trainers. This time I was cursing a bit as my winter running gear was taking up more room in my bag than I would have liked, so that I had to favour them over an extra pair of shoes and casuals.

My second visit to the city lost in translation. This time I was feeling more confident from my positive running experiences there, however, when the friendly airport limousine bus dropped me off at my first hotel which was situated on a busy highway crowded with skyscrapers on both sides, I suddenly had my doubts on whether I would be using the gear that had been allocated so much prize space in my bag. The following morning, jet lag preventing me from sleeping beyond 4am, I got up and studied my English map of the immediate vicinity.

I discovered that there was a park a few blocks away and set out into the greeting flashing neon lights and the city buzz that seems to continue right through the night. In Tokyo you can forget trying to find street names, but it is possible to navigate by underground station signs and using your spatial brain functions which get kicked into jump start the minute you arrive in Japan. Suddenly you realize what it must have been like as a kid before you could read, you observe details and store them as picture maps. I located the park relatively easily and found it was about a 2km tour around. A word of warning, you still have to be careful of cyclists (even at 4am) and to remember that they veer towards the left hand side.

One thing that strikes you immediately is the contrast of the tranquility of the parks from the surrounding city, they are evidently very necessary as zen zones. You will see many joggers running around the parks, sometimes it is not evident at first that they are runners, because they are doing a sort of very slow shuffling, but others fly past in the true reputed Japanese marathon winning style.

My next port of call was a suburb some 40 minutes by train outside of Tokyo. Here I was treated to a true Japanese cellular gadget style hotel, newly built to serve the industries in the area and definitely not tourists. Everything was in Japanese, no continental breakfasts – rice balls and soup only – and no available map at reception.

First morning there I headed out following my nose, as luck would have it I landed directly in a big widespread park after about a mile from the town. I started out doing some laps of the park and noticed many runners, very serious fast young Asian males. My inclination was obviously to follow on one of their heels and only vaguely noticed that I was crossing a barrier into a fenced in compound adjacent to the park. It didn’t take long to realize that I was suddenly inside an army barracks, but I wasn’t particularly perturbed and did not imagine that I was transgressing until I tried to leave the premises. I was abruptly arrested by armed guards and ended up being detained for one hour.

An interpreter was sought out and it took a lot of persuasion, not to mention flattering my eyelids and putting on a sort of pleading girly innocent act in mime before I was eventually set free. Needless to say the following days of my stay in the area I kept well away from the army camp.

My final hotel was in the very well-known Manhattan busy shopping area of Shinjuku with has added attractions such as what is acclaimed as “the most innovative red light district in the world”. I was adamant to get a run in before my long flight back to Paris, so once again I sniffed out a park, this time a limited circumference of 1.5 km, but nevertheless adequate to do a few laps before breakfast and catch the friendly limousine bus back to the airport.

Now I am back in Paris, working in the busy skyscraper La Defense area where some 2 million French office workers are located, and it feels like I am in the countryside in comparison to Tokyo. But I immediately miss the friendliness of the Japanese people and those wonderfully heated toilet seats wherever you go. And I miss being amused at all the lost in translation phrases such as a notice at the breakfast bar: “Please have yourself”.

Further Articles by Cassandra under the Women’s section covering :

Who is Cassandra Davis head of the women’s section? | click here |

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