Jet-setting across Japan for insanely low airfares and soaking in the “cool” atmosphere of a bustling city like Tokyo is no excuse to give up on your fitness routine. When traveling or living in a fast-paced megapolis like Tokyo, it’s easy to forgo the treadmill for appetizing platters of local fare and alcoholic refreshments.
Not only can exercising help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your cardiovascular endurance, it can also help you unwind and relax. Fear not, treadmills and unflattering neon lights do not have to be involved – parks, trails, quiet streets and a light jog are all that’s required to stay in shape. Take some time to squeeze in a fun workout during a busy day or sightseeing schedule, and see the “Cool Tokyo” from a different angle – no trains or crowds in sight.
Even though Tokyo is one of the most populated cities in the world, it’s filled with green, open spaces and fresh air to breathe. Lace up your sneakers and try one of my favorite running paths in Tokyo:
The Imperial Palace may be the most gorgeous and most interesting place to run in Tokyo. I highly recommend following the 5k loop around the Palace for an effective workout with a view on Tokyo Tower and the lush green gardens. The Imperial Palace is popular for novices and marathons runners alike – the path is safe, well-lit, and lined with a large moat and bushes. My favorite part? To encourage you along the circuit, there are even markers on the paving representing each of Japan’s prefectures, so you feel like you’re racing the length of the country.
(Closest stations: Tokyo, Takebashi, Otemachi, Jinbocho, Nijubashimae, Hibiya, Sakuradamon)
A woodsy oasis tucked in the middle of an urban jungle, Yoyogi Park is a favorite among visitors and runners alike. Although it’s likely to get more crowded mid-afternoon on weekends, Yoyogi is rather quiet at nighttime, and it’s conveniently opened overnight and well-lit, if you finish work late and wish to fit in a quick workout before bed. The path is quite scenic, not only with trees but with different characters, if you enjoy people-watching.
(Closest stations: Meijijingumae or Harajuku)
Located a few steps away from the Shibuya madness, Meguro River is a heavenly spot for cherry blossom season in early spring, and the rest of the year for running. The river is not only lined with trees, but with countless little cafes, boutiques, and fragrant food aromas to motivate you to finish your circuit so you can treat yourself afterwards… or it this how it works?
(Closest stations: Nakameguro, Ikejiri-Ohashi)
Tama River divides Tokyo from Kanagawa, and the running path extending along seems endless. In fact, you could run (or cycle!) for over 15 kilometers in a completely open space, without any roads or incoming cars, with only the river as a companion. In addition of its everlasting distance, the location is extra convenient, as it’s easily accessible by train, from a handful of stations.
(Closest stations: Futako-Tamagawa, Izumi-Tamagawa, Tamagawa)
… and more.
Residential neighborhoods are perfect for running around Tokyo, if you walk away from train stations a bit. Surprisingly, even metropolises such as Tokyo are filled with hidden, peaceful roads. It’s a good way to discover new areas, and if you are limited in time, you can just step out of your house (or hotel) and find some quiet streets usually nearby. University campuses (such as Tokyo University) usually offer lots of open space, and even if it’s on concrete and not the most scenic, it’s ideal for training, building up speed and sprinting.
Remember to stretch before and afterwards, and stay safe and hydrated.