Running Japan – Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa

Posted: April 23, 2017 in My Story, Travel
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Running Japan

After completing the Honolulu Marathon in December 2014, I had my first experience running in Japan. It was a great experience, part of my post-marathon recovery. Last month, I completed my first truly ‘international’ race, the Kumagaya Sakura Half Marathon in Saitama. Although I’ve already written my race report, I wanted to share my stories of running Japan prior to that race! Running in Kobe, Kyoto and Kanazawa!

**NOTE: This is a photo-heavy blog post!!

Running Japan – Kobe

Running Japan

We departed for Japan on Monday, and I had just run both the 5k and the 10k at the West Van Run weekend! Nevertheless, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to run while on vacation. We flew into Kobe and arrived late on Tuesday night – so in an effort to combat jetlag, I was up bright and early the next morning for a solid shake-out run!

Running Japan

I had tried to scope out a running route the night before, but it’s so hard to tell from a map what things will be like in real life – elevation, pedestrian-friendly streets, etc. I targeted a nearby park and headed out from the hotel.

As it turned out, the park in question was Okurayama Park – and they had a course designed for ‘jogging’. There was a loop around the park, with markers for each Prefecture in Japan.

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Then I ventured a bit further to run alongside a small river running through town. The walking path was well maintained, perfect for my bit of exploration. I got my fill, and returned back to the hotel – traversing the park once more.

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The rest of the day was spent sightseeing around Kobe – including a surprisingly challenging hike – before heading to my primary destination: Kyoto.

Running Japan – Kyoto

Running Japan

During the 6 years I lived in Japan, Kyoto was my hometown. I settled there after visiting friends in a few other cities – but Kyoto felt like the place I belonged. Whenever we return to Japan on vacation, Kyoto is my primary destination because many of my friends are still there.

I was staying at a wonderful guest house in central Kyoto, with beautiful Japanese-style tatami mat rooms.

Running Japan

When I woke up the next morning, I decided to make a beeline for Kyoto Imperial Palace Park (Kyoto Gosho), which wasn’t far away. My intention was to do a quick loop of the park, and then head back for breakfast.

Running Japan

I reached one of the southern gates of the park, and headed onto a path. At that moment, a group of runners cut across about 50 metres in front of me! My first instinct was…oh, I should join them! But then I thought, “Well, I kind of want to sightsee a bit, take pictures and go at my own pace” and decided not to bother. They had veered off to the left, so I continued on my way to the right.

It was a beautiful sunrise!

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At the northern edge of the park, I had to go outside the walls and along the sidewalk. Just as I reached another gate – I almost collided with that same running group! We had gone opposite directions, ending up at the same spot…and I stoplight. Naturally, I had to say hello. They were heading out for about 5km or so, and I asked if I could join them. They welcomed me warmly.

Turns out, it was a group from the Ritz Carlton Kyoto – led by their General Manager, a bunch of interns (mostly from Switzerland), the GM’s son (currently a student in Toronto) and a family on vacation were doing a sightseeing run of the city! Exactly what I was looking for! We weaved through some side streets, stopped to take a few photos, and then headed back along the river to the hotel.

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If you’re ever in Kyoto and looking for a run – this group departs every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30am from the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. It’s a great way to explore the city!

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My other two runs in Kyoto – 8km and 7km respectively – took me to some of my favourite spots in the city. I ran along the Kamo River, as well as the Takano River. I climbed Funaoka Hill, and stopped by Imamiya Shrine – near my old neighbourhood. The photos were definitely part of the training…

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Running Japan Running Japan

The only regret – somewhere, somehow, I lost my BUFF. And not just any BUFF, but the one I got at the Yellowknife Overlander Half Marathon. Sadness. But hopefully someone found it and is enjoying it now!

Running Japan Running Japan

Running Japan – Kanazawa

Running Japan

The next phase of our journey took us to Kanazawa, a small city on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Sometimes known by the moniker “Little Kyoto”, it is a beautiful, historical town. Unsurprisingly, much of our day was spent sightseeing, enjoying local food, and taking pictures.

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Before heading out for dinner, though, I decided to get in an evening run. While on the bus, I had seen the beautiful Saigawa river, and made that my goal. It was a bit further than I expected, and I had to wait for a lot of traffic lights, but it turned out to be a wonderful 7km run at dusk.

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Running Japan

Sightseeing!

We left Kanazawa, and travelled through the mountains and visited a wonderful hot spring.

Running Japan Running Japan

It was a scenic, restful time followed by some whirlwind sightseeing in Shirakawa-go, Matsumoto and Nagano…

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Before arriving in Kumagaya, the location of my half marathon. To read about that experience, please read my Kumagaya Sakura Marathon race report!

Tell me about your favourite international travel run!
Ask me about running Japan – I’m happy to help!

Comments
  1. Debra says:

    Hey, maybe the Yellowknife race still has that Buf! Somewhere in Japan, your Buf is probably in some lost and found…

    • bjcjapan says:

      I thought I had lost it once before and contacted the race, but they didn’t have any more. If I’d had more time, I would have gone looking for it!