See Tokyo, Run Tokyo: Five Scenic Running Courses

By Yulia Mizushima
May 14, 2016
Health & Beauty

Tokyo might be one of the most cramped metropolises in the world, but whether you're into long-distance training, trail running, or just in need of a refreshing jog, this city has the path your feet are itching for.

Here are five of our favorite Tokyo running spots, with something to offer runners of all levels and styles.

Meguro River by Shuichi Aizawa cropped

Running along the Meguro River is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. Photo by Shuichi Aizawa.

Meguro River

This four-kilometer-long urban river winds through three Tokyo wards—Shinagawa, Setagaya, and Meguro—making it the perfect course for inner-city runners. There’s something about running along a river that really relaxes the mind, and the Meguro River offers much more than a continuously serene path through calm residential areas. Runners will also encounter many bridges, museums, parks and temples along the way. The only negative thing about this run might be the dangers that come with not watching the road!

Yoyogi by Hiroyuki Nakano cropped

There are plenty of trails running through Yoyogi and lots of lawn space for stretching. Photo by Hiroyuki Nakano.

Yoyogi Park 

Known as one of Tokyo’s best woodsy getaways, Yoyogi Park lies smack dab in between the notoriously un-green Shinjuku and Shibuya districts. Not only does this popular scenic spot attract runners with its variety of trails through well-kept grassy lawns and dense woods (not to mention being open 24 hours, perfect for the after-hours worker), it’s also an ideal spot to have a picnic, sunbathe under the open sky, fly a kite, practice yoga, and do various other activities that make good remedies for the city blues.

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This is one of the most popular running routes in the city with lots of great facilities for joggers. Photo by Hajime Nakano.

Imperial Palace

The five-kilometer loop around Tokyo’s Imperial Palace adds a dollop of historical sightseeing to your run or bike ride, but don’t expect this workout to be completely without its outside temptations. The many hot spring facilities surrounding the area allow runners access to convenient locker and changing spaces as well as an after-workout treat. The circuit can get crowded due to its incredible popularity and easy access from its many nearby train stations. Still, the Imperial Palace route is awesome; who doesn’t want to add “fancy” to the list of adjectives describing a morning or evening run?

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The ginko tree-lined Meiji Jingu route is perfect for shorter runs. Photo by Inoc.

Meiji Jingu Gaien

The Meiji Jingu Gaien running course  seems like an unpretentious one; it’s known not specifically for its running paths but more for its variety of other facilities: the baseball games at Jingu Stadium, an ice skating rink onsite, a golf range, some baseball fields, tennis courts, and even a culture school, complete with classes in traditional Japanese arts. The run itself is short, close to one kilometer, but the paved track is clearly marked every 100 meters, making training a breeze. Prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by visiting the National Olympic Station, only a slight detour from the running course, to take a moment to commemorate the original 1964 Olympic stadium building.

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You’re not hardcore unless you run hardcore (up Mount Kumotori). Photo by Domitori.

Mount Kumotori Ascent

This trail is for serious runners only. No, scratch that, this is for the hard core, take-it-to-the-next-level sorts who need their run to be more than just the number of loops they did or record time beaten. Mount Kumotori is way off the beaten path; located in Omatsuri, at the intersection of Tokyo, Saitama, and Yamanashi Prefectures, it is Tokyo’s tallest peak at a height of 2,017 meters. Most people would obviously prefer to hike up mountain trails, but Mount Kumotori’s ascent is featured in both CNN Travel and Namban Rengo (Tokyo’s international running club) as a popular trek for running, not walking. By carrying minimal equipment, trail runners can cover long distances in unpredictable terrain, getting a primal, adrenaline-fuelled run that only forest animals normally experience. In fact, besides the few other mountaineers you might encounter, you’ll most likely run into wild animals such as deer, weasels, wild boar, monkeys, and possibly bears. To fully take advantage of this natural gem, stay overnight in one of the huts available along the ascending trails, where you can enjoy a hot meal, a bath, and tired yet good-spirited company.