4 Running Routes in Kyoto, Japan

Known for its splendors of nature and endless pathways, Kyoto embraces visitors with a promise of endless fun and adventure. What beats having an endorphin boost and adrenaline rush from a smashing run to start off or end the day?

Here are several running routes for you to consider, suitable for all running enthusiasts and levels of cardiovascular fitness.

1. Paths along The Kamogawa River (Kamo River)

One of the main running highlights in Kyoto would be running along the Kamogawa River. Spanning around 23 km, the river stretches from the North to the South of Kyoto, in the middle of its urban region. It covers numerous tourist attractions such as shrines and temples, including the Pontocho area which offers a glimpse into the past life of a Japanese, marked by traditional elements such as geishas and theatrical performances. It is no wonder the Pontocho is one of the most popular destinations in Kyoto, which you can always explore after a run.

Credits: Japan Wonder Travel Blog

Furthermore, the river banks are lined with lush greenery and a myriad of amenities, from bike paths to benches as rest stops for walkers, cyclists, and runners alike. At night, you can see lanterns illuminating the river's surface and the surrounding streets with a gentle glow. Having such timeless, romantic scenes of Kyoto would make running less of a chore by distracting you from the fatigue you experience during a hard run.

Credits: endless_tree @ Instagram

In terms of running routes, there are endless possibilities. One example would be running from a convenient start point such as Kiyomizu-Gojō Station and ending at the Kamo Bridge which is near a family mart for you to rehydrate and refuel.

is route covers around 3.7 km in total but if you would like more mileage, you can run back to the station, or run loops between the station and the bridge by crossing the Stepping Stones. Of course, you might want to have a short break at this point. Coming in various forms such as turtles, boats, and omusubi rice balls, these stones add a unique flair to the city’s landscape.

Credits: aagnanoseptella @ Instagram

If you are looking to do a half-marathon here, check out the link below for a detailed view of a possible route.

https://youtu.be/VkeU7rsHmWg

2. Route from Chion-in Temple to Shogunzuka

If you are looking for a burning lower body workout, you should tackle this hilly trail from Chion-in Temple in Southern Higashiyama up to the Shogunzuka viewpoint, which is at the summit of the eastern mountains of Kyoto (fun fact: this was where Emperor Kanmu supposedly surveyed the valley where he ultimately built the ancient capital city of Kyoto).

Chion-in Temple (Credits: japan365days.com)

Shogunzuka Seiryuden Hall, one of the attractions at the summit (Credits: Wikiwand)

In fact, this route is a popular two-hour long hike that measures around 3 km for the whole round (around 1.5 km from the temple to the viewpoint which is half a round). Interval sessions up and down the slopes are the key to activating those glutes and leg muscle groups that are essential in building anaerobic endurance and speed for longer runs.

A segment of one of the many slopes (Credits: 4corners7seas)

Fortunately, for runners who are new to hill work, the total vertical ascent is around 150 meters which is typically considered beginner-friendly. For intermediate or advanced runners who are already used to highly intensive speed work, 150 meters is still no chicken feet, especially after several repetitions of tackling the slopes.

Once you reach the summit of the mountain, magnificent sights of the city below will greet you, from the whole basin of Kyoto all the way down to the skyscrapers of Osaka. Take it as your reward for completing a solid workout session!

3. Route around Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Bask in the vast greenery of sprawling bamboo stalks around you as you jog your way through this 6km to  7km route. Mostly flat with only a few gravel paths, this course is easier for tempo runs during which you would want to stick to the same pace range. The minimal slopes help tremendously in this sense. Also, the dearth of traffic junctions is ideal for long, steady-state runs as this prevents you from having to stop too often. Thus, you would be able to effectively train endurance both physically and mentally.

While there are many route ideas along this bamboo forest, the following route offers picturesque views that help make your run less mentally draining.

Credits: Metrotrekker

Starting from Saga-Arashiyama train station, run along Sagatenryuji Kurumamichicho and follow the path that leads you past the grand Tenryūji Temple.

Credits: naoxiexie @ Instagram

You can run rounds around the temple before heading to the adjacent bamboo forest which can easily add to your mileage without you feeling as fatigued (given that you’ll most likely be too busy admiring the place).

Credits: qftravelinsider @ Instagram

Afterward, if you are up for it, run along the path leading to Jōjakkō-ji Temple where you would find cobblestoned slopes and steps, cloaked in the moss of different shades of green.

Credits: masayuki.nakamura__ @ Instagram

To complete at least 6 km, run back to the Saga-Arashiyama train station, through the same route that you just took. Feel free to explore surrounding paths as you never know what attraction might await you at the end of it!

4. Stadium at Kyoto Prefectural Yamashiro Sports Park

The running track is one of the many well-maintained amenities at this athletics complex. With regularly smoothened lanes and the typically low congestion levels in lane one, interval sessions, or time trials for a race distance that you are training for, would be a breeze.

Credits: Wikipedia

To warm up, you can jog from Uji Station to the stadium, which is roughly 2.7 km, before you blast into your high-intensity running workout. During the workout, do breathe in the fresh crisp air from the surrounding canopy of trees to carry you through each set of heart-racing activities.

Japan has long been known for its delicious desserts and matcha dessert is a traditional Japanese dessert made from green tea powder.

If you enjoy a sweet treat, be sure to follow our coverage on the best Matcha dessert in Kyoto that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning palate. 

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