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A Runners’ Guide to Kyoto for Cherry Blossom Season

Great Runs is the ultimate guide to the best places to go running in the world’s major cities and destinations. We’re pleased to share this content through a partnership with Runkeeper.

In honor of the Sakura Collection, celebrating the height of Cherry Blossom season, we thought you would enjoy this guide to Kyoto’s running highlights. Formerly the Imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is a city of 1.5 million located in the central part of the island of Honshu. The city sits in a valley and is surrounded by mountains on three sides. Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities that still have an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. The central part is laid out in a grid pattern, with the main business district just to the south of the Imperial Palace. Kyoto’s greener sections are to the north. The best places to run in Kyoto are the garden-like grounds of the Imperial Palace, and nearly 30 km of paths along the Kamo River.

Here are our running highlights for Kyoto:

Imperial Palace Grounds. The National Garden grounds of the Imperial Palace are among the running highlights of Kyoto. There are several kilometers of paths, around important historic sites such as the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sento Imperial Palace, numerous shrines, a tea house, and the Kaninnomiya Residence.

Kamo River Paths. The paths along the Kamogawa River run for 19 miles and are the most popular spot for running in Kyoto. Both sides are lined with wide green areas and bike paths, with plenty of benches and exercise areas. There are crossovers to the other side of the river using bridges made of stones. We’ve mapped two routes concentrating on the west side, from the central business district.

Maruyama-Koen Park.  The park, tucked up against the base of the Higashiyama Mountain, is known as Kyoto’s capital of cherry blossoms. There are lovely paths heading by numerous shrines, and some small ponds. Be sure to see the weeping cherry tree, which becomes lit up at night. For a longer route, combine with the Imperial Palace or Kamo River paths.

Yoshidayama Park and Green Space. Just north of Okazaki park and east of Kyoto University, the area consists of Yoshidayama Hill, home to the pagodas of the Kurodani and Shinnyodo, temples, as well as the picturesque Yoshida shrine. There are shaded paths, roads, and a series of stairs crisscrossing the park and heading to the shrines. This is a great opportunity to get in some hill practice.

Fushimi Inari and Mt. Inari. One of the most significant shrines in Kyoto and a popular tourist site. The shrine sits at the base of 233-meter Mt. Inari, which has a 4 km hike to the summit that makes for a good, challenging trail run. Some of the hike is on a series of stairs, passing under thousands of vermilion gates (senbon torii). It’s lit at night, which can make for a special run. Note: People tell us it is OK to run here, but we advise asking about area etiquette and avoiding busy times.

Myoshinki Temple Grounds. A large temple complex in northwestern Kyoto which includes about 50 sub temples in addition to its main buildings (most of which are closed to the public). The grounds around the temple are extensive and usually quiet, and the walking paths make for a pleasant area for running. One can also walk along roads and paths to other temples in the area. It is 2.1 km to Ryōan-ji Temple, and 3.7 km to Kinkaku-ji Temple.

In addition to Kyoto, Great Runs has put together a list of Favorite Cherry Blossom Runs.

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in the world’s major cities and destinations. He can be reached at mark.lowenstein@greatruns.com. Twitter: @greatruns

Mark Lowenstein

About the author:
Mark Lowenstein

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in the world’s major cities and destinations. He can be reached at mark.lowenstein@greatruns.com. Twitter: @greatruns Instagram: @greatruns

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