Living in Japan
Where Runners Go

Where Runners Go

Added In: Living in Japan › Sports

Rob M. Dupuis

We love to fill our lungs with deep breaths of fresh air... but not when the air is laced with car and truck exhaust. We love to lose ourselves in the simple mantra we repeat with every couple of strides... but can’t when the honk of a horn or the ring of a bicycle bell constantly interrupts it. We love the satisfaction of accomplishment as kilometres rush by under sneakered foot... but hate when it’s the same kilometre run over and over again in a tiny loop. We are the runners of Central Nagoya and we long for something more.

Well, there is.

For 8 years, I ran on the back streets of Nishi-ku, dodging speeding cars and traffic lights. I ran on the sidewalks around Nagoya Castle, trying to see only the swans and cherry blossoms while ignoring the forgotten cars and homeless. I ran on the 2-kilometre cycling path of Shonai Ryoukuchi Park, pretending that it wasn’t already the eighth time I had passed the tennis courts. Then, last December, I decided it was time for a change: I took my sneakers out of town.

If you enjoy running as much as I do, I suggest you do the same.
And as it turns out, you do not have to venture very far. From Fushimi Station in Nagoya, ride a Toyota-bound train on the Tsurumai line for about thirty minutes, until you are out of town. (A word to the wise: if the train you hop on terminates at Akaike, worry not; the next one along will take you the rest of the way.) Get off at Komenoki Station, a developing little patch of land just outside of Nagoya that will soon enjoy its very own AEON shopping centre, and walk south for one kilometre. There is a traffic light just before the MINISTOP. Hang a left there, climb the stairs at the far end of the parking lot, and once at the top of the rise a deep blue blanket of water will stretch out before you, beckoning.

Built in 1961, Aichi Ike (pond) is a regulatory reservoir for the Aichi municipal water supply, as well as a regular paradise for runners. Strap on your sneakers and do some pre-run stretching on the large paved area at the entrance. Take a deep breath of fresh air and push the start button on your chronograph at the 0.0km marker. Then, off you go, enjoying the well-maintained jogging/walking course that winds, bends, and zigzags around the so-called pond (it seems big enough to be called a lake, but, hey, I am no geographer).

The 7.2-kilometre course is perched upon a small rise and, apart from the few corporate buildings (DENSO and NEC), the tallest things around you are a variety of trees that line the course on one side, including one small alcove of tall bamboo. As a result, the blue sky above is clean, comforting, and most importantly—vast.

Due to the lack of cars and trucks, the only sound you will hear is that wonderful mantra you have missed for so long and maybe the occasional “Ohayogozaimasu” from passers-by.
Plus, if 7k is a bit far for you or you are just the type that likes to pause to take in the scenery, benches and chairs from which you can soak up the colours and scents of nature are set up along the path. If you are like me, however, and train for half-marathons, a mere three laps will do it for you and still leave you wanting to go around again.
So, now that the marathon season in Aichi is pretty much over (approx. October-April) it is time to put yourself into training mode. It is time to bring that 50-minute 10 down to a 45-minute 10, or the 2-hour half down to an hour forty-five. It is time to get out there and run.
And Aichi Ike is where runners go to run.

Where Runners Go—additional information
If you are looking to extend your marathon season and are willing to travel beyond the borders of Aichi, there are numerous road races, trail runs, and marathons throughout the summer and early fall in surrounding prefectures, such as Nagano, Ishikawa, and Tokyo.
If you are new to the Japanese marathon system, there are two websites that you will need to bookmark on your PC.
This website, as its name implies, is focused directly on running. It is littered with advertisements. However, it provides not only information and registration for almost every race in Japan, but also a race calendar for those who sign up (for free), so you can track all the marathons you’ve registered to run. It is only in Japanese (mostly kanji), so those unilingual runners among us will need a hand interpreting the registration forms.
The layout of Sports Entry is a little easier on the eyes and most of the buttons are labelled with English or katakana, so even if you do not possess a 2-kyu certificate, you should be able to utilise the site. Sports Entry has information on and registration for a wide variety of sports, including marathons, duathlons, and triathlons. Keep in mind though that Sports Entry does not have access to as many events as Runnet, so it is wise to keep both sites bookmarked.
Whichever site you decide to use, remember one more thing: marathons and road races in Japan are not like the ones we enjoy overseas where one may walk up on race day and register without hassle. Registration deadlines here are usually a month before race day and sometimes even earlier. So if you are planning a run in July, you’d be wise to get to signing up right away!