Running Around (Castles) in Japan

After running in the Shizuoka Marathon, we did some touristy easy runs while enjoying the rest of the holiday. Mainly staying in the city centres, it was hard to find long, continuous routes and it seemed like the main areas to run were around the citys’ castles. This was not a problem as it combined some slow jogging with sightseeing and lots of stops for photos!


We visited Tokyo at the start and finish of our trip to Japan. The day before the marathon, we did a warm-up run around the Tokyo Imperial Palace. This was a great 5km lap and there were heaps of people out and about, being a sunny but fresh Saturday morning. It also looked like they were setting up for an organised relay event. If there was ever a Tokyo pakrun, this would be the ideal place to hold it! There were a few slight hills but lots of interesting gates (and birds) to admire. There were also by far and away the deepest moats of any of the castles we ran around (and by the end of the trip I’d seen quite a few…)


Posing in front of Nijubashi Bridge, Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Running through Sankuradumon Gate, Tokyo Imperial Palace.

On our return to Tokyo we were staying on the other side of the city, and went for a jog around Yoyogi Park. Although it was a nice enough park, it really wasn’t that big so we ended up doing lots of loops around various sections (and avoiding the homeless people camped out in one corner). The best part of this run was post run breakfast, the only the second western meal we’d had in Japan (the first was pasta the night before the marathon). We found a trendy cafe, I felt very out of place in my running gear, and enjoyed a fantastic savoury pancake.

Post run breakfast! Amazing Dutch pancake which baked for 40 minutes.


We visited Kyoto a few days after the Marathon, when jogging was still a bit of a shuffle! This was one of the only places we visited where there was an easy linear run from the city, along the banks of the Kamo River. I didn’t feel out of place shuffling as there were a few other slow runners, but they were about twice my age!


The path along the Kamo River, Kyoto.


Stepping stones across the Kamo River, including some turtles. I even saw a business man using then to cross over!


I was happy to stop and rest my marathon weary legs by admiring the plum blossoms.

A few days later, I jogged from our hotel to Nijo Caslte which was a very stop/start run with lots of traffic lights, as well as trying to avoid bikes and pedestrians. The lap around the castle was nice, with a few other runners doing what looked like interval work (it was about 1.8 km around the moat). I might have been better off running around Kyoto Imperial Palace and gardens (4 km loop), but we had walked through there earlier and I wanted to see something different.

It was really cold running in Kyoto. Luckily I had my gloves from the marathon, long tights and never took off my long sleeve top! I have never run so far in so much gear (normally it takes less than 2 km to warm up to shorts and a t-shirt even in the depths of Perth ‘winter’!)


Impressive walls and towers of Nijo Castle.


Reflections in the moat.


This was the only place were I got a bit lost, running along the river I knew that you had to cut in to visit the castle, but I got the distance a wrong and did a lap around a dodgy pachinko (casino) area. Luckily, I had my phone with me and was able to sort out where I needed to go!

In late afternoon, Hiroshima Castle was really beautiful, although it is not original. The castle was destroyed when the city was bombed in 1945 and re-built in 1958. It was a lovely jogging lap around the moat and very peaceful. I also visited inside some of the courtyards, until I got too cold and had to keep running and stop sightseeing!


Hiroshima Castle in the late afternoon.


Contrast of old towers and the new skyscrapers beyond the castle, plus a lovely plum tree in full blossom.

Running along the river, the sombre Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome) is hard to miss. Even though I had seen it before (we visited Hiroshima on our school trip to Japan), it is still a very emotional place. I stopped for a few moments of reflection, the utter devastation caused by the bomb is hard to comprehend.


Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome).


Osaka was yet another city where the easiest running route seemed to involve loops around the castle. We took the metro to Osaka Castle, which had large surrounding gardens and numerous moats so there were a few different running routes to chose from. Even though the weather was not great, there were lots of other joggers also lapping the stately castle.


Overcast skies above Osaka castle (a little bit of rain during the run).

My favourite part of the castle gardens was the plum grove, where over 1,000 plum trees of different varieties had been planted. The blossoms ranged in colour from white, very light delicate pink to deep pink (almost red) colours. I ran a few laps through here as it was just so pretty!


Running through Osaka Castle Plum Grove, my favourite were the very dark pink blossoms.

Enjoying the blossoms!

Finally a place we didn’t run, but we were interested to see was the midpoint of the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden race. This is the most famous Japanese college relay race which takes place over two days from Tokyo to Hakone and back, a distance of around 110km each day which is split into five sections. It’s fast – with 90% of the runners being sub 14.40min for 5 km or better!

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