For all of you runners out there, I do not recommend running in Japan. First of all, Japan is an island. To be more precise, it’s a mountainous island with the occasional flat spot here and there. According to some Japanese hearsay, 30% of Japan has livable conditions, while the rest consists of forests and mountains. Basically, aside from a beach, you either run uphill or downhill in this country, and I have the unfortunate luck of running downhill first and uphill last. I’m still questioning my sanity in getting a running schedule from Runner’s World magazine, but it’s too late to turn back now.
Last week, I struggled with the 8-mile run. There’s practically no shoulder to run on, and the sidewalk is maybe 5 feet wide, if that. Most buildings hug each other, and for each parking entrance, there’s a dip in the sidewalk. So much for maintaining an even tread. And the driving is different too. For some reason, the Japanese mimic the Brits, which means the driver’s steering wheel is on the right and the passenger seat is on the left. For right turns, you have to go across the opposing lane, and for left turns, you turn onto the intended street without opposing traffic. In my convoluted American brain, I ran across the road with a left-right-left glance and nearly got bowled over by an oncoming minivan. Usually those near-death experiences cure me of my Americanized brain, and if they don’t, it’s a pity.
“Hill running” in Japan takes on a whole new meaning here. It’s more like mountain running with much labored breathing and inevitable wheezing followed by cramps in every conceivable part of the body. I’ve heard that this type of running is good for me, but once theory becomes practice, I quickly begin to doubt its efficacy. What’s the joy of sweating gallons of water and suffering periodic asthmatic attacks just to say you did your workout for the day? I’m not sure, but scientific studies claim it is beneficial. I’d like them to do a couple hilly runs in Japan and then see what their studies prove or disprove. Could be a lot of new discoveries for the scientific world. I digress. All that to say mountain running will either beat you up or make you stronger. Recently the former seems true for me.
Sadly this is my last night in Japan. It has been enjoyable and fast as most good vacations seem to be. I haven’t visited any other cities besides Hiroshima and Shimonoseki, but they have been experiences in themselves. Shimonoseki has a plethora of shrines, and Hiroshima will never leave the history books after World War II. Last week I visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and saw some memorable sites. One of the few buildings remaining after the bombing, the Children’s Peace Monument (dedicated to the child who made over 1,000 cranes before she died of cancer), and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Oddly, I felt almost guilty for that fateful bombing on August 6. However, if we hadn’t bombed, how many more tens of thousands of Americans and Japanese would have died before the war ended? Who can say. I’m just glad I wasn’t president at the time. We did save many American lives, but we also killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Difficult to reconcile the two.
Well, the next time I update this blog, I should be back in Huangdao, China just before the Chinese New Year begins. Thanks for your interest in my little article, and I plan to write another post by this weekend. Peace out.