On February 15th, I will run the Kyoto Marathon. Kyoto brings me many wonderful memories as I think back on the hundreds of times I went there. First as a tourist: with friends, or showing my visiting relatives around; then as an English Language Teaching consultant helping schools and programme coordinators to decide on the right materials for their classes; but most of all the place where I got married. Kyoto is former capital of Japan and exemplifies the quintessence of of this country’s rich history and culture.
This series of posts will focus on the temples, shrines and other attractions dotted along the course. If you are visiting at the time of the marathon to support a friend or loved one, I hope that you will have a chance to visit some of these places! Do spare some time before or after the day of the race to visit some of the other wonderful places there are to see.
START — 5KM
Start – 9:00am Nishikyogoku Stadium (西京極総陸上競技場). Access: Nishikyogoku Station, Hankyu Line
This is a large sporting complex with an athletic stadium at its centre. It is best-known throughout Japan as the start and finish for the All-Japan High Schools Ekiden. The girls’ athletic team from my former school Hanamaki Higashi were perennial qualifiers in the days when I was teaching there. The stadium is also the home of Kyoto Purple Sanga, the local J-League football team. Runners will pass two large shrines – Umenomiya Taisha (梅宮大社) [around 3km from start] and Matsu-no-o Taisha (松尾大社) [around 4km from start]
The start will be very crowded. 15,900 runners have entered the full marathon, plus about 200 “pair ekiden” entrants and 20 wheelchair athletes. Judging by other races, depending on where in the crowd you are, it could take quite a while to even cross the start line.
My Recommendation to Supporters: Save it for later! Unless you have a very prominent flag or costume, it is impossible to pick someone out of the crowd whether you are a spectator or you are a runner looking out for a friend or loved one, it may be better to steer clear of the start and choose a more picturesque part of Kyoto to wait for him/her to pass. Moreover, all runners are pumped on adrenalin at the start and don’t really need the extra kick that a cheer from a husband, wife or child provides. They will do later!
5KM — 10KM
Saga/Arashiyama District (嵯峨・嵐山). Access: Saga-Arashiyama Station, Sagano Line
Just as the runners are getting into their rhythm and the field begins to stretch out slightly, the marathon cuts right through the hilly Arashiyama and Saga, one of the most popular and beautiful districts of Kyoto. There are lots of places to see in this area. There is a fairly large hill after the runners pass Daikaku-ji, so for runners who need a little extra support before, during or just after, this may be a good place to stand with a flag!
Tenryu-ji (天龍寺) is a World Heritage Site and the first of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples. The temple dates back to the 14th Century though it has been rebuilt many times. The garden, which includes a pond, pine trees and a bamboo grove, remains in its original form. If you have travelled from overseas for this marathon, this temple is one of the must-see places. So you might want to reserve it for a rest day.
My Recommendation to Supporters: This is a great setting for cheering and sightseeing at the same time. While the runners are getting changed and gearing up for the start, head out to Arashiyama and take a few pictures while staking out a cheering spot. Arashiyama is in the north-west of the city and is usually reached by the JR Sanin Line from Kyoto Station. A number of buses also serve the area, but these will be affected by the race.
Part 2 (10 to 20 kilometres) will take in the famous temples of Ninna-ji, Ryoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji as well as the shrines of Imamiya-jinja and Kamigamo-jinja.