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Running in Tokyo (Imperial Palace) June 15, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Running in Tokyo (Imperial Palace)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pa

The first ever Tokyo Marathon was held in 2007.  It was the start of an annual event that would change the way people in Tokyo thought about running.  While there were several other marathon races, and half marathon races, this was the first marathon that was widely broadcasted.  This was also the beginning of what would become the “running boom” of Japan, which is still going strong today.  The first ever Tokyo Marathon, and all subsequent versions after that started in Shinjuku near the Tokyo Government Offices.  From there, the route heads east to the Imperial Palace where the course turns south.  It then makes a U-turn at Shinagawa where it heads north to Asakusa via Ginza.  From there, runners make a second U-turn and head east again once they return to Ginza where they continue until they reach Odaiba and the finish line.  It is by far the most popular marathon in Japan and one of the most interesting ones.  For those who want to participate in this marathon, it’s necessary to enter a lottery to get a chance to run.  Due to the extreme popularity of this marathon, you must enter the lottery.  Thankfully, there are several other marathons and half marathons run throughout the Kanto area.  If you ever want to try it, feel free to ask.

In terms of running courses, there are several courses located within Tokyo itself.  The most popular route has to be around the Imperial Palace.  This route is fairly simple and has promoted many running related shops to open up along the route.  Most Japanese people start around Takebashi Station.  There are several reasons for this.  The biggest reason people start around here is that the station entrance is located on the course itself.  The entrances have small areas nearby for you to stretch and prepare a little before you head out on a run.  The other reason is that there is a small section on the road where drivers can stop and drop people off.  While this isn’t quite legal, if you do it quickly, you can probably get away with it.  The last reason people enjoy starting at this station is the number of places to change and shower after a run.  With several locations with lockers, it is obviously popular.  One of the few places that I would think about visiting would be the Art Sports: Running Oasis.  Art Sports is considered to be one of, if not the best place to buy running shoes.  They tend to have the most recommendations among the Tokyo Runners Clubs and among many Japanese people.  Unfortunately, it’s still somewhat of a specialized shop, so it isn’t very famous yet.

While Takebashi Station is the most popular starting point, it isn’t the only place to start.  You can always start from Nijubashimae Station, Hibiya Station, Sakuradamon Station or Hanzomon Station.  You can also easily access the Imperial Palace from Tokyo Station, Yurakucho Station, Kasumigaseki Station, Jinbocho Station, Kudanshita Station, and many more.  Whichever station you do use to access the Imperial Palace, just be aware that the location can alter how you feel during your run.  The route around the Imperial Palace is located on the side of a hill.  The west side, near Hanzomon Station, is the highest point, while Takebashi Station and Hibiya Station are at the lowest points.  There are, obviously, two ways run around the Imperial Palace, clockwise and counter-clockwise.  This can make a huge difference in the quality of your run.  Most people run in a counter-clockwise direction.  The north side, from Takebashi Station to Hanzomon Station is a shorter and steeper uphill climb compared to the longer Sakuradamon Station to Hanzomon Station section.  For this reason, it is relatively easier to run counter-clockwise.  The secondary reason to run counter-clockwise is only for night runners.  Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan, so if you run clockwise, the headlights of all the cars will be shining in your face the entire way around the palace.  If you are like me, you will probably enjoy the challenge of going clockwise, but be warned that it adds the extra challenge of running against the stream of other runners.

In the last year, there have been a many articles regarding the Imperial Palace and the “Runners Boom”.  While most of it has been good, there have been some calls to improve the signage around the palace so that runners can understand where to go easily.  The first time you run, there is one section that can be confusing, if not get you into trouble.  Running on the gravel, aside from near Sakuradamon, will get you into trouble and the police guards will tell you to get out.  The sidewalk is free to run on, but be aware that there are many tourists walking around.  The east side of the course is the busiest for tourists and you will have to avoid them.  One article said that there was an estimated 4500 people running around the Imperial Palace between 6pm and 9pm on a weeknight.  That is by far the busiest time, and probably best to avoid running there.  I have heard from friends that it can be too busy, and running at your own pace can be a challenge.  Weekends and weekday mornings are probably better, but you may have to find a way to pass people who are slower, or let others who are faster pass.  While this may sound bad, the actual route is very nice and picturesque.  Most people only visit the east side, but the west side offers a look at the palace grounds from a different angle.  It may not be the most beautiful thing in the world, but a quick run around is worth it.

This is part of a series on running in Tokyo.  To read more, continue to Running in Tokyo – Central Tokyo.

Information:

Running Club:  http://www.namban.org/
Runner’s World Article:  http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-239-281–6897-0,00.html
Running In Tokyo:  http://runningintokyo.com/
Time Out Tokyo (Blog):  http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/176
Imperial Palace Running Guide (Japanese):  http://koukyo-run.boo.jp/
Art Sports:  Running Oasis (Japanese): http://runningoasis.art-sports.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Green Tokyo – Gundam Project 2009 January 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Green Tokyo – Gundam Project 2009” complete with pictures as well as the latest news on this Gundam.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-g1

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a huge Gundam machine on display in Odaiba, Tokyo.  Gundam is a very famous Japanese anime that began in 1979.  By and far, Gundam is the biggest mecha anime ever, and continues to draw huge numbers of fans.  The hardcore fans themselves can spend thousands of dollars on fan goods alone.  To give you an idea on how popular it is within modern Japanese culture, people will dress up as their favourite characters when there is a cosplay event, toy models of virtually every character has been sold at one point or another, countless T-shirts are created, and even mobile phones with Gundam logos sell out quickly.  The TV series, unlike American cartoon series, has evolved over time, and many of the characters have changed.  This has allowed the following generations of children to also enjoy and love Gundam, making any Gundam even a family affair.

From July 11, 2009, Shiokaze Park became the home of a life sized Gundam.  The biggest fans of the series flocked to the park on opening day to take various pictures of the robot.  It was built to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Gundam.  Since then, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people have gone to visit the robot.  Standing at 18 metres tall, it can be seen from the Yurikamome Line as you cross over Rainbow Bridge.  Your best bet is to get off at Daiba station and walk the rest of the way to the statue.  It is located west southwest of the station, at the corner of the island.  Going on the weekend guaranteed a crowded area.  The main approach to the Gundam is through the park itself.  You will have a nice opportunity to enjoy a nice view of Tokyo and Rainbow Bridge as you head towards the Gundam.  The entrance itself is located behind the Gundam.  You can also visit the official goods shop, but due to the line up to get inside, I didn’t venture in.  The main courtyard itself is not so special.  On the outer edges of the courtyard are food stalls and various activities for young children.  It isn’t that interesting for adults, but children will have a great time.

The main attraction is the ability to walk up to, touch, and take pictures as you walk under the Gundam.  It can take roughly 10 minutes to get through the long line, but the workers themselves are very good at directing people and keeping the line going.  Every 30 minutes, there is a small light show as the Gundam itself moves a bit and lights up.  The main event, however, was at night from August 20th till the 23rd.  If I read the information correctly, there was a laser light and music show surrounding the Gundam on each night featuring different music.  This was the only event where you had to pay to see the Gundam, but I’m sure it was an interesting concert to say the least.  Everything else about visiting the Gundam is free.  If you do have a free day, or just want to enjoy the view of Tokyo, please head out to Odaiba and see the Gundam while you still can.  Do be warned that the Gundam Project is scheduled to end on August 31st.  What will happen with it after that is anyone’s guess.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gundam

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II) September 22, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gU

After completing a museum tour, heading to the southern area, just east of the museums is a couple of famous attractions.  The first is Palette Town.  It is a large complex that holds various activities, one being Venus Fort, a theme mall.  It’s very similar to the shopping malls on the north side however Venus Fort is modeled after a European city.  On the exterior, it looks like any regular building, but once you enter, you’ll be greeted by a grand walkway full of Italian styled stucco wallpaper.  The shops in this mall tend to be more upscale and there is a huge fountain in the back of the mall.  It’s a famous place for photos and the staff of the mall will happily take your photo.  The end of the mall has a stage for various performances and Mariah Carey made an appearance at one time to promote one of her albums.  In grand style, she was over an hour late for a 15 minute appearance.  If you head to the second floor, you’ll enjoy small walkways connecting various restaurants.  The other main attraction is next door to Venus Fort.  Toyota’s Mega Web, and the Palette Town complex.  Mega Web is a large showcase for Toyota and Lexus cars.  If you have a Japanese driver’s license or an international one, you can, for a fee, test drive any of the Japanese spec Toyota cars around a small private track.  You can easily enter any of the showroom cars, buy a brochure, or take a look at a few of their displays.  There is usually an F1 car, other race cars, a theatre showing Fuji Speedway, and a race simulator.  There is even a corner for children to drive around or just have fun.  If you want to, you can take a tour on an electric, automatic car that will drive around the entire showroom.  Heading over to the far end of the complex, you’ll come to one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world, and an amusement centre.

From the eastern edge of Palette Town, you can walk over a famous pedestrian bridge, Yumeno Ohashi, which can be picturesque.  It was used in several TV dramas in the past but only a few people ever walk over it.  It is generally too remote for most people to use it, but it’s very good for most movies and dramas for this very reason.  Tokyo has very strict film laws, so closing any other bridge is very difficult.  The size of this bridge makes it very convenient to film on.   From here, there are various buildings that are mainly for office workers, but you can see the odd cosplay event from time to time.  In all honesty, there is almost nothing to see or do in this area.  If you can walk all the way to Ariake station, you’ll be able to visit the Panasonic Center.  It’s a small showcase of Panasonic’s latest technologies and green movement.  They even have a small Nintendo corner, but in reality, unless you love technology, it’s not worth the long walk.  In the past, this was a nice destination as it was the last stop of the Yurikamome line.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, but it does provide a nice trip to see the edge of Odaiba.

The bigger attraction in this area of Odaiba is Tokyo Big Site.  It’s the scene of various conventions and exhibits.  The popular Design Festa is held twice a year showcasing some of Tokyo’s craziest artists.  Everything you see will be strange, different, and unique.  It’s something that must be seen to understand.  There are several comic and anime conventions where you’ll be able to see your favourite characters, and even see all of the crazy fans that dress up as their favourite characters.  The annual Tokyo Motorcycle Show is also a popular exhibit, including various technological exhibitions.  It’s impossible to describe each and every convention that can be held in Tokyo Big Site, so visiting their website is essential.  If you don’t want to go to any conventions, or if none of them are interesting at the time of your visit, visiting Tokyo Big Site itself is still pretty interesting.  You can get very nice views of the planes coming in to land at Haneda airport and there are several public works of art.  Unfortunately, unless you want to see an exhibit, there really isn’t any reason to be in the area unless you have time to spare.

Overall, Odaiba is a wonderful place to visit.  For seasoned residents of Tokyo, there isn’t much to see or do.  Most people either come as a couple, usually in their teens, or to drive around.  Odaiba is, for some reason, considered a nice place to drive.  Is Odaiba really a place to visit in Tokyo?  The simple answer is no.  If you don’t have time, it’s not that important.  However, like any other city, if you have time and you finished seeing everything else, by all means, spend a day in Odaiba and you’ll have a great time nonetheless.

This is Part II of a II part series.  Please head back to Part I if you haven’t read it.

Odaiba Information:

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Odaiba
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba
Map of Odaiba:  http://www.tokyoessentials.com/odaiba-map.html

Palette Town (Japanese Only): http://www.palette-town.com/
Venus Fort: http://www.venusfort.co.jp/multi/index_e.html
Toyota’s Mega Web: http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/English/
Panasonic Center: http://www.panasonic.net/center/tokyo/
Tokyo Big Site:  http://www.bigsight.jp/english/

Design Festa:  http://www.designfesta.com/index_en.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Odaiba – Part I) September 15, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Odaiba – Part I)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gN

Odaiba is well known as being a leisure area of Tokyo.  Originally used as a way to protect Tokyo in the 1800s, it never found its true calling until the late 90s.  Today, Odaiba is a hub of shopping and entertainment with various hotels and apartments located on several islands.  The main island of interest is Daiba itself.  It is home to several shopping malls, a water amusement park, various futuristic exhibits, and Toyota’s main showroom.  Going to Odaiba is one of the most expensive trips in Tokyo.  The main mode of transport is the Yurikamome line.  It’s an elevated train system that is very scenic and quiet, due to the use of rubber wheels instead of traditional steel train wheels.  The trip over Rainbow Bridge, while using the lower deck, is quick and provides a very unique view of Tokyo and Odaiba as you enter and exit the bridge.  The Rinkai line is also popular and cheap, but do note that it is all underground, so the view is not good.  Also note that it is possible to walk across Rainbow Bridge, but you will be on the lower deck and completely sealed into the deck by a wire fence.  It is probably very smoggy due to all the traffic.

The first area people will see is one of the largest shopping malls in Tokyo.  Running at over 500 metres in length, and several stories tall, there are three shopping malls located on the Northern waterfront.  Often referred to as Decks, this shopping mall holds most of the value brands of Tokyo.  It can feel very crowded and chaotic, especially on the weekends, so weekday shopping is advised.  However, the views of Tokyo and a nice dinner with a view are worth the hassle of visiting this shopping complex.  I’d recommend a stroll along the upper outdoor deck of the shopping complex to enjoy the views.  There is a small indoor theme park, Joypolis, located in the centre of the complex where you can enjoy various small rides and games.  The main attraction has to be the beach that is just across the street, the Statue of Liberty, and a nice scenic park where you can walk out to Rainbow Bridge and some of the outlying islands.  No one would ever recommend a swim in the bay, and if they do, never listen to them.  You are likely to get some type of infection.

On the other side of the shopping complex is Fuji TV.  It is a well known building, and you can’t miss it.  You can see it from almost everywhere in Odaiba.  The distinctly grey building with a large silver ball in the centre makes it very unique.  Inside, there are various activities and on weekends and holidays, there may be some amusement like activities in the parking lot in front of the station.  Like many television stations in Japan, most of the shops cater to their current line-up of shows, so unless you like Japanese TV, or some of the anime that Fuji TV produces, you won’t find too much to see or do in the area.  However, if you walk towards Odaiba-Kaihin-Koen Station, there is a small Shell Museum that has a replica of a Ferrari F1 car and other various F1 goods.  The last thing to see in the Northern area of Odaiba is Shiokaze Park.  While it isn’t necessary to see, it has a nice area for barbecuing and more views of Tokyo.

If you head south or further along the Yurikamome line, you’ll reach an area that has many museums and activities.  First is the Maritime Museum.  It’s hard to miss, so just look for the large ships that straddle the western waterfront.  There are two ships moored next to the main building, but if you are expecting anything out of the ordinary, you might be let down.  From the website, it appears to be nothing more than a display of various aspects of Japan’s maritime history.  If you are a boat nut, go for it, otherwise, you might be better off going to the other attractions.  If you have kids, or you are a big kid yourself, you might be more interested in the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.  This building might be a little difficult to notice, but there is a large glass wall and inside you’ll see a large electronic globe featuring the earth, moon, and other celestial objects.  It is a typical science museum with a planetarium and other various interactive exhibits.  Next door is the Telecom Center which is easy to skip, but I heard there is a nice observation deck in the area.  If you are looking to relax, the Oedo Onsen is very famous and located in the same area as the Telecom Center.  If you are unable to make it out to Hakone, Izu, or other onsen areas, this is the next best thing.  You can enjoy the baths for a reasonable fee, and they have a famous foot bath with small fish that eat the dead skin off your feet.  Overall, there is pretty much something for everyone in the south-west area of Odaiba.

This is Part I of a II part series.  Please continue to Part II to finish this series.

Odaiba Information:

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Odaiba
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba
Map of Odaiba:  http://www.tokyoessentials.com/odaiba-map.html

Joypolis: http://sega.jp/joypolis/tokyo/home_e.shtml
Decks Shopping Mall (Japanese Only):  http://www.odaiba-decks.com/
Aqua City Shopping Mall: http://www.aquacity.jp/en/index.html
Museum of Maritime Science: http://www.funenokagakukan.or.jp/index_e.html
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation: http://www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/
Oedo Onsen:  http://www.ooedoonsen.jp/higaeri/english/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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