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Run. Tokyo. Explore.

By MIYA HUANG


"The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

-Christopher McCandless (hiker)

This is my favorite quote.

Unlike a lot of the foreign students in the University of Tokyo, I did not come to Japan to study because I was a big fan of Japanese culture such as anime, manga or tea ceremony. Indeed, I came here because I knew nothing about this place. The idea of living in a completely foreign place sounded exciting to me. Since I think of my college life in Tokyo as an adventure, both physically and mentally, I decided to explore this mysterious city by running since the first week I arrived here. Compared to walking, running to explore is quicker and makes one feel more like a local instead of a tourist. With that slight increase in adrenaline level, you decide which way to turn based on your gut feelings instead of your travel book or Google map. Moreover, it is a great way to relieve stress and freshen one’s mind. Running is my way to find inspiration. Here are some of the interesting incidents that happened during my runs.

Story 1: Soaked up in the Rain

One item checked on my bucket list of Things To Do Before You Die - “getting lost in heavy rain in Shibuya”. Image by Moran Brenn.

It was my first run to Shibuya. That night, my friend and I decided to venture into the crowds unplugged. Originally, we planned to go and come back the same route. However, a dark, mysterious alley intrigued us and threw us off path. Along that alley, we saw a lot of family-style restaurants, izakaya (Japanese-style bar) and love hotels and ended up on a busy street with no idea of where we were. Then, all of a sudden it started raining buckets. Empty handed, we could not count on Google Map. Our only option was to ask. The problem was, both of us were novices in Japanese. All we could do was to keep asking “Komaba-Todaimae wa doko des ka” (“Where is Komaba-Todaimae station?”) to random people on the street. However, we did not understand 90% of the things they replied in Japanese and actually ran further away from home. In fact, we asked eight different people, including a policeman, before we finally got home drenched from being caught in the heavy rain for two hours. Getting lost in heavy rain in an unfamiliar city was certainly an interesting experience. It was my first time to get in touch with local Japanese people. Not sure if I made a good first impression looking like a drowned rat.

Story 2: Run for Cookies and Karaoke

“Cookie Monster” in Harajuku - the cookie shop we discovered during our run. Image by author.

One time me and my friend were running along the street opposite to Harajuku station. A banner advertising “karaoke for free cookie” caught our attention.

“We can definitely do this! We’ve run for 20 minutes already, now I’m ready to sing and eat!” said my friend. So, we went in. The staff said we can either sing one song together and get a small cookie each, or we can sing solo and get a huge cookie each.

“So, if we sing individually first and then sing one together, we can get a big one and a small one?”

“No, you can only get one cookie, but you can sing as many songs as you want!” said the staff.

Fair enough. Free karaoke with one piece of warm chewy cookie, what more could we have asked for? What is the purpose of running? To eat more! That’s the spirit!

Story 3: Bumped into a Party

Trying out Halloween costumes after “running” to Shibuya. Image by author.

“Holy moly! Tomorrow’s Halloween Party, what are we going to wear?” my friend kind of freaked out a bit when she realized Halloween was a day to go and she had no costume to wear.

“Let’s run to Shibuya to get costumes!” I said.

Running to Shibuya the day before Halloween was probably the worst idea ever. It is just like volunteering to get squeezed into pulp. Starting from around October 29, Shibuya would be occupied by people dressed in Halloween costumes at night, and eventually become a massive street party on the night of Halloween. We did not even need to walk, because the massive crowd composed of “zombies”, “Tenga”, “President Trump” et cetera pushed us forward. Although our running plan was destroyed, we got out costumes and accidentally walked in one of the grandest parties in the world.

Running can relieve stress, freshen one’s mind and help find inspiration. Image by author.

Running is a quick and exciting way to get to know the soul of a city. Sometimes things go wrong and your plans will have an unexpected turn, but I can guarantee the joy you gained from this surprise will trump that gained from your original plan. Just like in life, the best memories is often not something we planned, but something unexpected.Time to grab your sneakers, get out of your comfort zone and see where your feet will lead you to! Trust me, you will never expect what you will run into.

#Running #ExploreJapan #Shibuya