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Tokyo – Kanda, Ochanomizu, Jimbocho January 18, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Kanda, Ochanomizu, Jimbocho” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-xS


When looking on a map of Tokyo, it is common for people to see Ueno, Akihabara, Tokyo, Shinbashi along the Yamanote line.  It is often the places in between that are overlooked.  It’s unsurprising that this small area has been skipped, even by me, for many years.  It isn’t the most interesting place to visit, and for the average tourist, there isn’t much to bring them in.  For a resident and those looking for something new in the area, this is another secret of Tokyo that deserves a look.  To get your bearings, grab a map and look for Jimbocho, Kanda, and Ochanomizu.  Draw a circle with these stations as the outer border and you have the area that I will talk about.  It is bordered by Akihabara in the north-east, Tokyo in the south, and Kudanshita in the west.  It’s a quiet area with a few universities and secrets around every corner.

Personally, I find starting at Ochanomizu to be the easiest point.  It helps that the station is located at the top of a hill too.  If you head north of the station itself, you will find yourself quickly swallowed up by Akihabara.  The train tracks provide a “natural” barrier between Akihabara and the area I’d call Ochanomizu.  Along the south, you will see a very interesting mix.  Generally, most of the buildings are smaller due to the old height restrictions of the area.  In the past, buildings were not allowed to be built too tall or else they would encroach on the Imperial Palace.  All buildings were forbidden to have views into the inner palace grounds.  This was changed in recent times as evidenced in Marunouchi these days.  Ochanomizu is on a hill that overlooks the Imperial Palace, so many of the buildings near the station, especially the old ones, are somewhat shorter.  This allows a little more light into the area compared to some areas of Tokyo.  A little south of the station stands the Holy Resurrection Cathedral.  It is a Russian Orthodox Church that was originally built in 1891 and restored after a massive earthquake in the 1920s.  The exterior is not as magnificent as a renaissance church, but it is still nice.  I hear that the inside is also interesting, but for 300 yen to enter, I wasn’t about to pay for a church when I’m in Tokyo.

If you head down the hill, you quickly reach Awajicho.  It’s a small nearly no name station, but it’s a good reference to find your bearings.  Around this station, on the main street, you will find the centre of sports goods in Tokyo.  Between Awajicho and Jimbocho, you will find dozens of different sporting goods shops.  Many are large, but most are small.  The specialty has to be skiing and snowboarding, with golfing being the second biggest.  You will find shops dedicated to skateboarding, and a few to running, but those tend to be far and few between.  If you are searching for a new pair of skiis, a new snowboard, or some new golf clubs, this is the place to be.  If you are looking for a cheap deal, you are probably not going to find it though.  While this is a place for sports goods, you are unlikely to find the best deals in the world, but to do your shopping in one specific place, this is the easiest place.

If you continue along towards Jimbocho, you will reach an area called Kanda Jimbocho, which is the old book shop capital of Tokyo.  It’s the place to be if you are looking for rare Japanese books, or first editions.  It’s a nice place to take an afternoon stroll and you will see the various scrolls and relatively unbound books.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many foreign books, so unless you are looking for Japanese books, you probably won’t be able to buy much.  For the foreign resident, this area can yield some cheap English books if you are willing to look around.  You can easily get a sense of the amount of literature in the area by the sheer number of book stores in the area.  If you are looking for magazines, you are unlikely to find it, and if you are looking for modern books, you may not find it either.  It’s definitely a place to enjoy history.  If you return towards Ochanomizu, you will also find a small area called the music instrument capital of Tokyo.  It’s a small area where you can get any musical instrument you can imagine, and I’m sure you can also get it tuned if you want.  These are all generally small shops, so the service can be spotty for foreigners without a firm grasp of Japanese.

Finally, you can head over towards Kanda station itself.  Kanda station is a small, yet very busy station.  It is here where you can find all of the small shops to eat.  It’s a typical business area where you can see various Pachinko parlors and small yakiniku shops.  It probably gets very noisy on Friday nights with various businessmen joining for a few too many drinks at the station before going home.  In the afternoon, you might be lucky to find a few coffee shops, but if you are looking for a cheap meal, you can probably find one here, compared to Otemachi in the south.  The main clientele of the area are the ordinary businessmen, so you can expect all of the shops to be geared towards these people.  Don’t expect high class in the area, but as in any other area of Tokyo, you will definitely find something high class in the area.

This region is an area that is not often in guidebooks, and there is a reason for it.  It’s a wonderful place for a stroll, and there are many places to do your shopping if you are interested in any of the main types of goods that are sold.  In my research, I have read that some of the shops may be unfriendly to foreigners, but this is probably due to the language barrier and their laziness to try to make a sale.  They more than likely cater to their core customers as any small shop would.  Trying to sell one item to a foreigner versus 50 items to a regular customer, it’s easy to see who would get more attention.  It is unfortunate, but that’s how many businesses in the world operate.  If you want to spend your money on any of the things mentioned, there are far friendlier areas to get them, and they are usually more convenient too.  The differences in prices won’t be huge either, and when you factor in the cost of transport, it can be the same price.  If anything, if you have some extra time in Tokyo, by all means, take a nice afternoon stroll from Ochanomizu to Tokyo station.  You’ll enjoy the beautiful diversity of the area, if you are careful enough to look for it.


Holy Resurrection Cathedral:

Japan Atlas:  http://web-japan.org/atlas/architecture/arc07.html

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Resurrection_Cathedral

Official Site (English):  http://www.geocities.jp/ynicojp2/english/index.html

Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.geocities.jp/ynicojp2/index.html

Area Information:

Wapedia:  http://www.wa-pedia.com/japan-guide/kanda.shtml
Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanda,_Tokyo


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.


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/


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