Whether you’re in Tokyo for a short stay or for business and whether you run for your health or as a hobby, when you feel like running here, where should you go? I definitely recommend you run the perimeter of the palace grounds. The course is known as a holy ground for local runners which is filled with joggers both day and night.
What exactly is the Imperial Palace anyway? In addition to being the residence for the Emperor and Empress, the vast, park-like grounds house venues for various official events and the administrative buildings of the Imperial Household Agency. Located close to Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace is situated in the center of Tokyo. In the past, the palace served as the Shogun’s castle (Edo Castle) during the Tokugawa Shogunate before becoming the imperial residence during the first year of the Meiji Era, when the capital was relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo. Because the grounds originally housed a feudal castle, many historical remains are present, including the stone walls, moat, and bridges.
Here are five reasons why I recommend running the palace grounds when running in Tokyo:
1. One lap is approximately 5km long, making the course welcoming for beginners.
2. There are no stoplights at any point in the loop, making timekeeping possible.
3. Moderate elevation changes present throughout the course.
4. The Imperial Guards patrol the grounds all day, keeping the area safe day and night.
5. Many famous landmarks such as Sakuradamon Gate, Kokyo Gaien National Gardens, and Miyakezaka can be found along the course, so you can enjoy the sights during your jog.
I recommended making the square in front of the clock just past the Sakuradamon Gate the starting point for your run. The square extends all the way to Nijubashi Bridge, making it the perfect place for stretching and warming up. It’s also good as a meeting place for group runners. From there, head towards the Kokyo Gaien National Gardens before continuing on towards the skyscrapers in Marunouchi, and Takebashi Bridge. The sloped path along the moat from Miyakezaka to Sakuradamon Gate forms the final approach of the course and is known as the most beautiful descent in Tokyo.
The sidewalk of the palace grounds is also used regularly by pedestrians and bikers. In order to ensure an enjoyable run for everyone, there are some rules in place. Pedestrians are given priority, run single file in narrow sections, run the course counterclockwise, and refrain from passing while your focus is on something else (while using a smartphone, for example). Be like a true Tokyoite and remember to be considerate of others, in addition to respecting the give and take with your fellow runners.
Given the Imperial Palace’s status as a tourism destination, restrooms and drinking fountains are available around the grounds. Additionally, “running station” rest areas specifically for runners are also set up in the area, though you will have to pay a fee to use them. They offer luggage services, shoe rentals, shower facilities, and more.
The Imperial Palace can be accessed from several stations but if you plan running, use Sakuradamon Station.
By Emi Sotome
Translated by Rafael Olivares