The beautiful, historic city of Kyoto will host a marathon on February 15th.
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.
30KM — 35KM
Access: Kuramaguchi Station, Subway Karasuma Line
By the 30-kilometre mark, the athletes will have been running off the road, along the riverside for about two kilometres. Right as they reach the 30-k point, they will pass the ornate Shimogamo-jinja (下鴨神社) on their left (to the east over the other side of the Kamo River). Shimogamo is the sister to Kamigamo. Shimo literally means ‘lower’, while Kami is ‘higher’, and Gamo is simply taken from the river’s name but with a soft vowel as often happens when two words are merged in Japanese. Shimogamo-jinja was first built in the sixth century long before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. While its name might suggest it is the younger of the two sisters, it actually predates its sister Kamigamo-jinja by about a hundred years.
Access: Marutamachi Station, Subway Karasuma Line or Jingu-marutamachi, Keihan Main Line
The runners come off the riverside somewhere near 33 kilometres and turn right towards the Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所). Unlike its cousin in Tokyo which is inhabited by the current emperor, this palace is open to the public. However, you can only enter on a guided tour and you must book in advance. The park grounds that surround the palace are completely open to the public and are a really nice place for a stroll when the weather is good. The runners pass along the front of the Imperial Palace twice as they turn back on themselves and then turn right (south) towards the Kyoto City Hall just after the 35-km mark.
My Recommendation to Supporters: Due to its proximity to the finish line (not for the runners themselves who have to loop around and back on themselves) the area around the Imperial Palace and City Hall will be very popular with supporters. You can cheer your friends or loved ones twice as they turn just after the Imperial Palace and come back along the same road. Moreover, it is this section (30-35km) and arguably the previous one (25-30km) where the runners will be most thankful for the support as they fight the mental urge to throw in the towel.
Being very central, both of these places are very accessible via the subway lines. Once the runners have passed, spectators will either take the subway or walk to the finish line near Heian-jingu.
Part 5 (35 to 42.195 kilometres) will cover the last part of the race as the runners double back on themselves as they turn in front of City Hall, head out towards my personal favourite temple, Ginkakuji, past Kyoto University and towards the finish line right by Heian-jingu.