Running rings around the Imperial Palace

Running rings around the Imperial Palace

As a new generation of runners hits the streets, jogging around the Imperial Palace is booming -- for good reasons. Here is a guide to trying it yourself
imperial palace jogging
The Imperial Palace is like New York's Central Park if no one was allowed inside.

You may have noticed streams of runners zipping around the Imperial Palace lately. The path right in the city center has become one of the most popular and attractive places to go jogging in Tokyo.

The unofficial 'course' follows the path skirting the parameters of the Palace (you don't actually go into the grounds), along the way encountering the National Museum of Modern Art, the British Embassy and a distant Tokyo Tower. It's also lined with bushes and the spacious moat, meaning you can almost forget the cars on the other side.

To encourage you along the circuit there are even markers on the paving representing each of Japan's prefectures, so you feel like you're racing the length of the country.

Why is it so popular? It's green, safe even at night (there are lots of police, of course), and no doubt its popularity is self-inducing -- people come to the Palace to run with other people, novices and marathon veterans alike. The whole loop is an exact five kilometers, which makes keeping track simple. Jogger Kenji Nakamura tells us, "The Palace is perfect for a weekend run. It's really green and one lap is just the right distance for a non-serious runner like me."

You can reach the running area easily too: From Otemachi, Hibya or Kudanshita stations, it's just a few minutes walking, or and is almost direct from Nijubashi, Takebashi or Sakuradamon stations.

What's more, this being Japan, convenience is paramount. On top of the toilets, water fountains and vending machines along the route, changing room facilities have sprung up in Jinbocho and Koujimachi so office workers can go for a jog before work or during their lunch break.

The weekend, however, is still when the circuit is most crowded, and etiquette and the size of the path demands you run in single file in a counter-clockwise direction. But here's a tip: Go in the evening or at night when there's far less people, and you can run clockwise, awarding you a great heads-on view of Tokyo Tower.

Imperial Palace: Chiyoda 1-1, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3213 1111

Runners Station Koujimachi: Koujimachi 4-8-1, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 5275 0089, runsta.jp/koujimachi.shtml

Runners Station Jinbocho: Jinbocho 3-11-1, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3264 0089, runsta.jp/jinbocho.shtml