Nestled in the eponymous bay, Tokyo is a sprawling megalopolis at the center of the world's most populous urban area. Seen from the sky, it seems to extend to the center of Honshu, the main island. However, running in the heart of this huge concrete labyrinth will make you discover linear business districts and winding alleys. In the heart of which you will find Shinto temples and maid cafes, sumptuous parks and skyscrapers...
"Tokyo operates at two speeds. On one side, the immense arteries, the concrete bridges, the human tides. On the other, tiny neighborhoods, dark alleys flanked by blind facades and floating banners."
This quote from Jean-Christophe Grangé's book Kaïken sums up the atmosphere of the Japanese capital.
On the one hand, there are several business districts, with wide sidewalks, which allow, outside of office hours, to run for miles.
On the other hand, in the heart of modern Shinjuku, surrounded by skyscrapers, is the Golden Gai. A tiny district flanked by a temple, made of small two-story buildings, often dilapidated and stuck together. This mecca of Tokyo's nightlife, full of tiny bars, is one of the rare vestiges of the city's architecture before World War II, after which the city's plan was completely redesigned.
Asakusa, between tradition and mass tourism
In the northeast of Tokyo is the Asakusa district, known for its Buddhist temple, the Sensō-ji. Dedicated to the gods of wind and thunder, Fujin and Raijin, one often sees Japanese people in traditional costume. Full of handicraft shops selling kimonos, kitchen utensils or fake wax food, the district is very popular with tourists despite its remote location.
Asakusa is also home to about 20 geishas, which you may come across during your run. If you run for a few minutes, you will soon reach the Skytree tower. This 634 meters high broadcasting tower can be visited, and offers travelers two observation platforms. However, this vertical journey is not free, and you will find on the other side of the city, in Shinjuku, an equivalent (and free!) panorama at the top of Tokyo Metropolitan Building.
Akihabara, the electric town
Every otaku - the japanophile version of a geek - must visit Akihabara, nicknamed "the electric town". In the center, near the train station, there is a huge shopping mall gathering the big Japanese electronic brands. However, its success is due to the fact that hundreds of tiny ultra-specialized stores surround it.
As you walk along the streets, look for the vertical signs that tell you which floor you can find which product.
The atmosphere is just as electric.
Arcades play blaring J-Pop, countless neon lights flash, while maids in the surrounding cafes harpoon the many passersby.
Running through these streets is a very special experience.
The Meiji Jingu, between Shibuya and Shinjuku
Between Shibuya, the commercial district where young Japanese women flock, and Shinjuku, the business area covered with emblematic skyscrapers, lies Yoyogi Park. It is a real urban forest in which a vast sanctuary, the Meiji-jingu, is hidden.
Compared to the red and gold temple of Asakusa, Meiji-jingu is an ode to Japanese sobriety. Its portals (torii) are free of decoration except for three gold cabochons on their main beam. The rest of the temple, made of dark wood, contrasts with the green roofs and the surrounding trees.
During a stroll in the west of the city, you can leave the fury of Shibuya Crossing to go into Yoyogi Park, and have the feeling of entering a Studio Ghibli movie.
From there, after having, for example, performed the ritual ablutions in the ancient pool that stands at the entrance of the temple, go back to the lively streets of Shinjuku, before reaching the eponymous park, famous for its tropical greenhouses.
Pandas, Ueno Palace and Gardens
When hearing the name of Ueno, many Tokyoites by adoption will think "pandas". In fact, even if you decide to avoid the endless queue in front of their enclosure, you will not escape the omnipresence of these two-colored ursids. All the stores within a kilometer around, from bakery to clothing store, offer products with their likeness! Ueno Zoo is also home to various more local species, such as the Hokkaido grizzly bear. If you decide to run around the zoo itself, there are almost invisible windows into the enclosures, and you might come face to face with this gigantic bear (several hundred kilos!) at the corner of an alley.
If you walk down the alley to the Tōshō-gū shrine, you'll find a stone memorial with a flame burning permanently in memory of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings.
Nearby, the imperial palace reaches out to you. Surrounded by a moat, you will come across many runners during your morning jog.
Street workout apparatus, very common in Tokyo's green spaces, will probably also be occupied by athletes of all ages.
Run with Runnin'City from Asakusa to Shinjuku!