Monday, July 17, 2006

Japan for the Long Distance Runner: A Gaikokujin's Story

This caught my attention:

Free Triathlon Entry
Okayama tri assoc. is offering free entry to foreign athletes wanting to compete in the "Fashion-town Kojima Kurashiki International Triathlon Race" August 19 and August 20. If you are interested, please contact for more details.
Cited from

Now, if I were in Okayama, I would probably jump on this. Admission to said event runs about ¥18,000, which is about $150. However, I would have to take the local over there, which would be about ¥1000-2000, and stay in a hotel, which could run anywhere for those two nights. Two problems. One, I have to work that Saturday, the 19th, and they require the international entries to be there in the afternoon for the course viewing and race briefing. Two, I can't swim that well yet. Still, if anyone is reading this that happens to be a runner in Japan, I'd jump on it - 1500 meter swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run. FREE ADMISSION.

I'll look for such opportunities in the future. Japan for the gaikokujin can be a land of milk and honey if you choose it to be. (Tokyo is the exception, providing a superb experience, but there's a reason it's the most expensive city on Earth). As for as the bar scene goes, people will buy you drinks if you're alone and look like you could use some company. I've already had it happen. Some Japanese people will just walk right up to you and start talking to practice their English. If you act nicely, they might take you out to dinner or invite you to go to their home sometime. Of course, most often than not, they are just looking for a free English lesson.

This isn't just true for the Japanese, but other gaikokujin as well. If you can assist some visitors with knowledge of the area or just the right words in Japanese to help them get around, they will reciprocate. I've already met a family in from Australia under those circumstances.

But back to running. Keep in mind Japan is roughly the size of California, with 70% of the land mass completely unihabitable. Now consider 125 million people within that landmass. It's crowded, and it's not always flat. But is it difficult to run, if you're training for a marathon? Not at all. I know I'm biased in Saijo, where it's definitely the countryside, but the same is true of Hiroshima. I've got a nice path from my apt to the University of Hiroshima stretching about 5 miles roundtrip (I try to think in kilometers, and I can convert easily, but as a runner, it will always be miles for me... they're bigger, anyway). Here's a link to my area - the road next to the large park takes me there and back, but I've also gone to that other park in the lower right corner; it has a 600 meter track. Beautiful trail to take any time of day. You can always see the lake and the mountains.

Map of Saijo

My pledge to you: I will report the best trails, hidden or published, to be used for running all around Japan. Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Tokyo, some small town in Hokkaido, you name it. Just give me time, and let the information coming pouring forth like the huge stockpiles of sweat I've discovered I've had recently.

For runners only:

Start スタート
Finish フィニッシュ
Race レース
Course コース

Final word:

The two most understood words in the world are OK and Coca-cola. They are both American words. Thank you Martin Van Buren.
Source: The Colbert Report: November 9th, 2005.

Signing off,

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