Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Ohiogozaimasu!"

I've been to Japan about 2-dozen times at this point, but this is my first trip in over a year. The longest I have gone without visiting the "mother ship" since starting work at Sony over 4 years ago. It's nice to be back in my "second home" at the La Foret hotel in the Shinagawa-ku of Tokyo. An early morning meeting meant starting my run alongside the Meguro-gawa in the dark. This is my standard and favorite route for running in the area as it has fewer road crossings than most other options and at least some of the path along the river is softer asphalt than the standard brick sidewalks that comprise most streets in the area. It also assures that I don't get lost as it is a fairly simply out-and-back route of either 5.5 or 7.3 miles depending on how much time I have in the morning.

It has also been quite a while since I have done any city running. Obviously very different than running the hilly trails, or even the suburban streets near my home. Watching the city wake up as I travel through its varied neighborhoods has its own very unique appeal. The sights, sounds and smells both familiar and bizarre envelope my senses. Its a cold morning in the city and I take advantage of the ever present Tokyo vending machines that can be found on every corner to purchase a "Hot Lemon Vitamin" drink and suck it down before the light turns green. These vending machines mean I never have to carry a water bottle in Tokyo, just a few 100 yen coins even on a long run. The fact that they dispense both hot and cold drinks has saved me in both summer and winter. I recall one particular time on a long weekend run being caught under-dressed in downpour. Shivering, I discovered the amazing power of a can of hot corn chowder to give me the warmth and energy I needed. At the next stoplight on my route I smile at the familiar "Repeat of Hair" salon. There is an advert in the window that asks "Will you increase pheromone by digital permanent wave?" It is apparently about a lecturer coming to the salon who is an expert in this "digital permanent wave" technique. One can only guess what it consists of and how it could possibly be related to pheromones.

I continue my run enjoying the sights including the new buildings that have arisen during my absence. Tokyo is a city that is forever under construction, an always changing patchwork of old and new. This juxtaposition is perhaps one of my favorite aspect of the city. In a culture where the latest trend of the moment is as revered as the most ancient traditional ceremony, it is no surprise to find thousand year old temples nestled tightly between two giant modern skyscrapers. Tiny, quaint little parks and cemeteries clouded in the smoke from incense dot the urban landscape. The city is both clean and safe. There are always people out in the morning along the path I take. Some strolling or walking their dogs, a few other runners and people on bicycles riding to work. The Japanese rarely make eye contact with strangers, but when they do I always make sure to breathe out a friendly "ohiogozaimasu!" (good morning).

4 comments:

miki said...

That is so wonderful. You've been to Japan more than me! My last trip was too many years ago. I miss the onsens, the riyokans, and just the scent of being somewhere new.

My mother and I were planning out a trip just the other day and she said that she knew of 2 marathons that we might be able to schedule around. I told her to find me some trail ones too. Hopefully the trip actually happens!

Eudemus said...

While I've been to Japan a lot, I've probably seen less of it than most unless you count numerous hotel rooms, office buildings and restaurants as "viewing the country". One would also expect me to have a much better command of the language than I do.
That's cool that you may go. I keep saying that one time I am going to make an actual tour of the country. I think it would be cool to run a race there. There are some really good Japanese runners.
By the way, I met another "Miki" on this trip. I don't think it's an especially common name even by Japanese standards.

miki said...

You think? I'm not sure. All I know is that, unlike here, I am able to find "Miki" stickers in the stores. I am validated over there. :)

Eudemus said...

Miki, I actually mis-spoke. A quick perusal of my online corporate phone book reveals quite a few Miki's. It's not "Cheiko" or anything, but it apparently isn't uncommon.