I long ago gave up running in Japan. Why you ask? Japan is not a very navagable country. Streets are not organized, not logically connected, and are narrow. This makes the streets which ARE navagable crammed with cars at all days and times of the week. One would think the countryside would be better, but the streets are just as narrow, and while they do have the not (as) crowded factor going for them, if a car does come the street, you will be pushed off into the standing water and mud of a rice field.
I talked about this with a very good friend of mine from Minneapolis yesterday on sunday. We went to the same elementary and junior high schools, and are kind of like surrogate brothers, but I digress. We also both ran in high school and both have lived in Japan for awhile, so he can relate and testify to the impossibility.
We talked about this while doing hanami, or cherry blossom viewing. Hanami is a huge thing here, but I have just never gotten into it. This year, however, perhaps the weather or my location it does seem pretty amazing. My department on Friday went to, of all places, Yasukuni shrine for hanami, it being where war dead (including war criminals from world war II) are buried. With my friend on Sunday, however, we were at a great park outside of the imperial palace. On Sunday, there was the sakura fubuki, or the cherry blossom blizzard, when all of the petals start blowing off the trees. It really is quite a site.
To get to the park we had to walk around the perimeter of the palace, which many foreign people say is a good place to run in the city. I often disagree pointing out the huge road and its ensuing pollution.
With the nice weather recently, I've taken to walking home from work. My office, near Tokyo station, is located right next to the imperial palace. From Nijubashimae station you can walk down Hibiya Street until you get to Hibiya Park. If you cut diagonally through Hibiya Park, you will end up near Kasumigaseki train station. If you turn right, following the Chiyoda line, you'll walk up a very wide but uncrowded street with a great view of the Diet building. I know this part of the walk, but what I found was a really cool and pretty shortcut, and more importantly a potential running path. As you walk up the hill you find a free way interchange that is more or less underground that the selfish bureaucrats built for themselves right by the Diet. I used to turn left down Roppongi Street, but there is a more narrow street that goes down by Prime Minister's residence that's very quiet and beautiful. The prime ministers house has a very minimalistic grove of bamboo planted outside of it (not to mention the massive building; it really is nice)You then go underneath the uphill approach to Hie Shrine (or is it Sanno Shrine?). You will be right in front of Akasaka street which is the street that goes back to my place!
So despite years of thinking running is impossible in Japan, I may have found a route that rather than being choked with cars, is littered with green(well, Hibiya Park and the Palace grounds anyway), and the Imperial palace is a great hub; it reminds me of running around the lakes of Minneapolis.Read the whole post.