I’ve been doing a lot of research on this one, because it was something I’d wanted to do when I first started my job. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used to work a ridiculous split schedule: 7am-12pm/5pm-10pm. I did this because these are ‘peak times’ at my office, which is located in the heart of the business district in Tokyo, and the afternoons were pretty dead. As we were just starting out in Tokyo and trying to save money, I wasn’t going to go home and sleep during that break, because
a- I can’t sleep in daylight and
b- it was expensive to go between home and the office TWICE each day.
So for the first two months, I spent my time in the afternoons at the closest Starbucks, drinking matcha lattes and using all of their interwebs.
It was around this time that I heard about how popular the track around the Imperial palace is. I literally work ONE BLOCK AWAY from the palace, and had heard from many of my coworkers that it is THE place to run in Tokyo.
The Imperial Palace is set on a bit of land in the dead center of Tokyo, and is surrounded by a moat (which is surrounded by a sidewalk, of course). No train lines go below it, they all go around it. When you look at a metro map, you can see there’s an open space in the middle of the city. I work within that space. The moat makes an almost perfect 5k track, and along the way you have access to many different train stations that all run lines in different directions. In the past few years, running has gotten really popular in Tokyo, and the Imperial Palace is an ideal place to run: it’s a 5k track with no traffic lights or stops. It’s a continuous track, since it has a sidewalk, and workers in the area have adopted it. I was determined to try to run the track.
There was only one problem: in the warmer months, I’d need to shower. Hell, I’d want to shower anyway after running before getting back into my suit. So I started to look around for places I could shower. There were many, but most were all Japanese speaking, or baths (so no tattoos allowed). Back then, this was what stopped me from going through with running. When I gave up on the splits after a few months, I had another reason to stop searching.
Now I work a better schedule: 12:15-10:40. I get mostly booked, but on some days I have a big, open space of about 4 lessons, which is equal to about 3 hours. I can leave them open (as I did today), or I can close them all down. Now that the weather is getting cooler, and I’m feeling a little more secure at work with which lessons I can close and which I can leave open, I’m ready to try to figure this out.
It won’t be the running that will be hard to work out. It’ll be figuring out the best place to leave my stuff and shower after running. It’ll be timing it all right with the run, shower, and walk to/from the place.
In this article, we have a list of 5 places where I can shower. Two of them are near my office, the other three are on the other side of the palace. I’ve never walked to that side before, and I have no idea what’s over there. I could just as easily take a train to that side, if I’m in a rush, but I prefer to walk it and see how far it is. Most of them will charge me to use the facilities. I have no idea how much it’ll cost. I need to find out.
So for the next few weeks, on my off lessons, I’m going to start walking. I’m going to visit each of these places, check out the costs, and find out if I can even use them. I have a problem: I have 3 tattoos. In Japan, this means I can’t use most public baths, since tattoos equal Yakuza. So I’m going to have to check out each facility. Showers will be ok, but if it’s a bath (one of the close ones is), I’m going to have to go in and ask if I can use it with my tattoos. Some places will see I’m not affiliated with the mafia, clearly, since I’m a gaijin, but others may be more strict, as it might scare the natives.
I’ll be reporting on all of this here. When I find a place I like, I can start running. I’ll schedule my normal times, and when they don’t book, I’ll be ready to go with my gym bag, which I’ll keep at the office.
My next issue is this: You can only run in ONE direction around the palace: most people prefer to run counter-clockwise, as on a normal track. So I’m going to have to figure out where I can walk across, or take a shortcut back, as in the beginning I may not be able to do the entire 5k. I’ll be figuring this out as I go to these places, as well.
So stay tuned for all of that! I’m really excited at the thought of running again. When I tried to run in my neighborhood, I realized it’s almost impossible, and very dangerous, since the roads are narrow, one way, and I prefer to wear headphones. I never hear the cars coming, and they come fast.