Running Japan


Following the Honolulu Marathon and an additional few days in Hawai’i, we took a 2 week vacation in Kyoto, Japan. Warning: lots of photos!

Some of you may know that I lived in Japan for close to six years, back in the late 90s and early 2000s. As readers of this blog will also know, I was quite physically inactive until the last few years, although I probably did more in Japan than in the years prior or immediately after – I rode my bicycle pretty much everywhere, and also went to the gym quite regularly for about a year. However, I never ran in Japan.

December 27 Run/Walk – 7km

I wanted to give myself a bit of time for recovery after the marathon, but by Christmas Day I was feeling the urge to get running again. I was having dinner that night with a couple of friends, one of whom is running the Kyoto Marathon (her first!) in February. I mentioned that I was planning to go for a run in a couple of days, and the other friend asked if she could join me. Of course! So bright and early on December 27, we met at Gojo Bridge, beside the Kamogawa, and went for a run!

Running Japan
My friend was too shy about running to pose for the selfie!
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LOVE this photo!!
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Looking north to Sanjo Bridge

As it turned out, we probably did more walking and chatting than actual running, but still it was great to get out and enjoy the riverside. During my time living in Kyoto, I rode my bike along the river hundreds of times…it was one of my primary travel routes. But to finally be there as a runner was truly special!

December 28 – 12km + Race Interrupted

The next day, I decided to make more of a go at things, and set my sights on Kitayama-dori – the northernmost ‘main’ street/bridge crossing the river – and close to my old neighbourhood. I headed north up the west side of the river from Gojo for about 3 kilometres until I reached Imadegawa, where the river veers slightly to the northwest.

Running Japan
Map of Kamogawa Bridges & distances – only in Japanese, but I’ve labelled Gojo (from here) and Kitayama (to here)

At this point, I suddenly saw several runners heading toward me – moving at a pretty good clip – and realized that they were all wearing bibs. Somehow, I was facing down a race! The group (obviously the lead runners) ran by so fast that I couldn’t read their bibs. When the next pack approached, I was able to make out…10km? What? A 10k race while I’m in town?? Why didn’t I know about this? I should have signed up!

Running Japan
I suspect this guy won the race

A few runners later, however, I could finally read the whole thing: 京都鴨川30kmマラソン(i.e. the Kyoto Kamogawa 30km Marathon – link is in Japanese) – and quickly realized that I would have been in no shape to do a 30km race that day! Around Kitaoji, I passed the Start/Finish line – turns out the race consisted of multiple out-and-backs along the same stretch of river – 8 x 3.75km, to be exact (well, sort of…I never found a course map so I’m a bit vague on the calculations). In any case, I ended up encountered the same runners several times, as I ran a simple out and back that day, totalling 12km (nowhere near 30km!).

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Each night, I went to the local sento (public bath), and warmed my aching muscles. This made it easier for me to tackle running the next day!

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Benten-yu, the local public bath – a lifesaver!

December 30 – Short & a wee bit lost

I had some plans out of town, but wanted to squeeze in another run. I decided to try running south along the river. Unfortunately, I soon encountered this:

Running Japan
Extremely sorry for the inconvenience but KEEP OUT!

I had to head up onto the road, and promptly found myself on a busy truck-ridden highway/underpass. Mildly terrifying. After a few turns into blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, I managed to find a bridge across the river and headed back up the other side. A brief run – 40 minutes, just under 7km.

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The concrete bridge in the background is the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) Line
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Happened upon this wee shrine

December 31, 2014 – 17km

Finally, New Year’s Eve! I wanted to end 2014 with a solid distance, and committed to running as far north as Misonobashi – the bridge I used to cross daily during my first 3 years in Japan, and a solid 8km from my hotel. When I reached that distance, I stopped my watch and spent about half an hour wandering around Kamigamo Jinja, one of my favourite shrines in Kyoto.

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After that, I trotted back towards Kamigamo-bashi, my second ‘old neighbourhood’. After venturing into the residential streets, I thought I had lost my way…only to discover that my old apartment block had been torn down, replaced by a street of fancy new homes!

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Used to live here…but the apartment is gone!

In short, along with visiting some of my favourite local sights, and spending quality time with friends – I immensely enjoyed the running I got to do while visiting Japan! And while I think I swore off marathons after Honolulu, I’m considering the Kyoto Marathon 2016…but no promises!

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See how much I enjoyed myself!
Running Japan
My Kamogawa


  1. We visited Kyoto for two days/one night during a two week Japanese vacation in 2012 and it’s the one city we definitely didn’t see enough of. Rainy while we were there, tired from the train ride in, trekking with our one-year-old, and under prepared for that leg of the visit, we definitely didn’t get to see enough of it. And it was before either of us were running, so we certainly didn’t see it your way. Looks like you caught a lovely few days in December.

    • I’m a little biased because Kyoto was my home for over 5 years – but every time I visit, I discover new places of beauty. Two days is definitely not enough! And yes, during the 2 weeks there, it only rained once…and snowed on New Year’s Day! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Pingback: Travel. Run. | Bradley on the Run

    • It’s lovely, isn’t it? And it was so funny to end up in the middle of a run – totally unexpected!! Unfortunately, they never posted their results online, so I didn’t get to find out who won!

  3. i was looking for a place to run during my visit this week in Kyoto and found your post. Looks like a really nice place for running. I’m looking to do a 10-20k, any suggestions?


    • bjcjapan

      Steve – thanks for visiting my blog! The Kamo River from Gojo north is your best bet – no traffic to worry about, pretty popular with runners. You can also run Gosho (in the centre of town – between Marutamachi & Imadegawa, but you’re going to end up doing loops! Also found this blog post: (running the Philosopher’s Path). You could probably run the Katsura River if you’re in the Arashiyama area (western Kyoto). Hope that helps!

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