Running in Japan

I’ve been to Japan several times on business over the years – airport, hotel, airport. My male hosts were courteous, but inscrutable. I couldn’t get beyond the façade. Recently, I travelled to Japan with four running friends, one of whom, Marti, lived there and is fluent. That was invaluable.

We landed in Kyoto, immersed as tourists and seekers, visited temples and markets, walked 20km each day, adventurous with food. We even had Fugu, poisonous blowfish. History and culture are entwined and endemic and we dug deep for insight.

I was impressed: Bullet trains with timetable accuracy within 2 minutes in a year; no litter in ten days and no litter bins as people take it home. The men were still inscrutable. But the women were a delight: smiling, nodding, engaging, despite the language barrier.

We visited Osaka for nightlife and Nada, the ancient capital, and then the horror of Hiroshima.

In August 1945, the bomb exploded 600m above ground, liquidating everyone within 2Km. In concentric circles radiation killed 140,000 and laid Hiroshima waste. It’s only when history is personalised by individual deaths in a silent museum does it reach your soul.

In Tokyo, we ran the Cherry Blossom half-marathon, the only foreigners. No Cherry Blossoms though. They came out the day we left.


The revered poet, Basho, wrote over 1,000 haikus. I heard the rhythm several times, magical in Japanese. Here’s one about Basho coming home:

In Kyoto

Hearing the cuckoo

I long for Kyoto

We’ll be back and trekking north next time!

First published in Swindon Link