[From December Issue 2010]
The Imperial Palace, where the Emperor of Japan resides, is located in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Here, among the lush greenery, and somewhat out of place in the city center, is the Palace moat, where swans and geese can be found swimming about. Recently, the path encircling the Palace has become a popular place to go jogging.
The Palace path has been critically acclaimed by running enthusiasts as being “a perfect practice course” because one lap is approximately 5 km, with no traffic lights, making it ideal to accurately time a run. And, since the police guard the Palace 24/7, runners can feel safe even late at night. Area resident SAITO Minoru says, “Someone I know has been jogging there everyday for about 50 years,” adding that “there are also a lot of non-Japanese runners and others who are training hard, aiming to participate in the Honolulu Marathon. Some people even stop by the sentou (public baths) and hotel gyms around the area afterwards.”
The sudden jump in the number of runners around the Imperial Palace was triggered by the Tokyo Marathon, which was first hosted in 2007. It became very popular because anyone could register, and participants selected by lottery could see famous sights around Metropolitan Tokyo as they ran. The marathon’s popularity continues, as the 5th edition, scheduled for February 27, 2011, received more than 335,000 applicants. This is 9.2 times the event’s maximum allowable capacity.
And the running fad has spread well beyond the Tokyo Marathon. More and more similar events are being organized, including the Lake Biwa-Otsu Relay Marathon and the Koushuu Fruits Marathon. Other, more events, such as “RunGirl Night,” a running event and after party exclusively for women, are also being organized.
IKEDA Miho, a technical staff member at ASICS Store Tokyo, says: “With the Tokyo Marathon boom, we saw a rapid increase in the number of runners. Now, running has become entrenched in daily life. Today’s runners are people who truly love the sport.”
“Previously, ASICS customers were predominantly men. Their aim was to break their previous record, and they were looking for highly functional sportswear. But now, we have more female customers. They run for various reasons including having fun, health, and to make a fashion statement. Their styles are very tasteful, combining running skirts or running dresses with other items,” she explains.
New facilities called “ran-sute,” short for “runners’ station” have also popped up around the Imperial Palace. They are equipped with lockers and showers, and cost between 500 ~ 800 yen per visit, or 2,000 ~ 8,000 yen per month. After satisfying run, drop by the “ran-sute,” shower, freshen up, fix your hair and makeup (with the supplied cosmetics), and then head out on a date or for dinner. This seems to be the new after 5 PM lifestyle of today’s health-conscious fashionistas.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo