A seemingly endless sea of skyscrapers, Tokyo can be difficult to navigate on foot. This is especially challenging for runners. Stopping to check Google Maps at every intersection will dash any hopes of keeping a consistent pace and heart rate.
So what’s the trick to enjoying a good run in Tokyo, especially when you don’t know the lay of the land? Plot a course that sticks to rivers and major roads (typically known as Tokyo Prefectural Routes). That way, you can jog and soak in the scenery instead of the dim glow of a smartphone screen.
Besides providing plenty of fascinating scenery and being easy to follow, Tokyo’s rivers and major routes are the arteries that connect the most populous parts of the city. This means that you’ll never be far from a major train or subway station (and the helpful staff within) in the event that you get lost or tired.
A city unto itself, the Shinjuku Ward is no exception to this rule. The following running course will have you circling the entire ward by sticking to some of its main roads and occasionally sprinting alongside one of Tokyo’s most famous rivers.
And we’re off
As with previous articles, our starting point is the Tadaima Japan Shinjuku Ryokan. A quick warm-up sprint to the south will put you right on Shinjuku-dori (Avenue), one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Continue east through Shinjuku-sanchome and, if you are running on the weekend, the streets may be closed to vehicle traffic which will give you free reign to run through one of Tokyo’s most bustling shopping districts.
Reaching the river
Make your way to Omekaido (National Route 411) as you enter Nishi-Shinjuku, the western portion of the ward. If the sidewalks get to busy, feel free to duck into some of the backstreets. As long as you keep heading west, you’ll eventually reach the Kanda River and a welcome scenery change.
Designed for strolling, walking, and running, the banks of the Kanda River will offer lengthy stretches of uninterrupted exercise. And, depending on the season, the Kanda River is home to some exceptionally beautiful scenery. Naturally, cherry blossom season is a showstopper.
Onward to Route 8
After about 2.5 kilometers along the Kanda River, you’ll be forced to leave it behind and proceed to Route 8. From here on out, the river will pop in an out of our jogging course like a fair-weather friend.
For the most part, the Kanda River parallels Highway 8, and if you are adventurous, feel free to veer slightly off the beaten path to enjoy its wonders. However, if you are pressed for time or worried about getting lost, stick to Highway 8, which will take you to the mishmash of roads and highways that signal your arrival at Iidabashi Station.
The home stretch
Iidabashi, the last major navigational challenge of the trip, is where our love affair with Highway 8 ends. Leave the main branch of the Kanda River behind, and instead proceed to follow an offshoot that terminates in familiar territory: Yotsuya Station, a mere 1.5 kilometers from “home.”
Push on to Araki-Cho, where a warm bath and a comfortable futon await. After this 15-kilometer run, you’ll definitely get a good night’s sleep.