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9Round Japan

 

Recently I was invited to visit 9Round Japan fitness center to try their newly imported from the USA, 30 minute ‘stress buster’ fitness center workout they have launched in Japan.

Personally I have never been one for circuit style / class training, simply I am generally clumsy and don’t feel comfortable following fast paced instruction and I prefer to ‘do my own thing’ during my workouts, so I cannot say I was expecting to enjoy the session nor should I expect a mere 30 minute workout to be particularly challenging. But I was certainly curious as I have wanted to try something new and thought it was worth checking out.

The format was explained to me before visiting and it was simple enough, 30 minutes of kick boxing related workouts across 9 ‘stations. Oh and bring a towel…

That’s it? Really? It has taken me more than two years to learn and master free weight techniques at the gym for my body building, so I can really expect this 30 minutes to be mostly instruction and discussion with the instructor. Easy time.

It’s wonderful to be reminded how our assumptions can lead to incredibly wrong conclusions.

Walking into the venue and the atmosphere was warm and inviting but the red paint and dark fixtures also signalled it’s time to get down to business. Not a large space but that is not the point, this workout is designed for efficiency, not for lingering.

The workout routine varies, but the menu for me was as follows.

  1. Jump Rope
  2. Medicine Ball Squats + Front kick
  3. Double Edge Bag Punch 20x + Shuffle
  4. Front Kicks on Heavy Bag
  5. 20x Uppercut + Duck Under
  6. Freestyle With Trainer
  7. 10x Knees + 10x Hammer Punches
  8. Speed Bag
  9. Medicine Ball Sit Ups

Okay, time for gloves on and let’s get started!

As you probably predict at this point, it was not so much an easy workout! By the end of the 2nd set on the medicine ball squats I was already feeling the pain (the good kind of pain!) and looking forwards to the next routine simply so I could catch my breath and switch onto a new muscle group, finally the siren sounded for brief moment of reprieve and a gulp of water until it was time for heading into the next set which would hopefully be gentler.

Gentler? Ha! Hopeful much?

After 30 seconds or so of front kicks on the heavy bag I was already thinking about the next break and pause to catch my breath. And that’s how it went all the way through the routine. Feeling exhausted towards the end of the set and final push, faster, give it more, 15 seconds. GO! Then what felt like an incredibly short break with the heart rate barely having time to drop a few beats a minute.

Despite the punishment of the session, something about the intensity and the focus that you apply, in retrospect the time actually flew past. Before I knew it, 30 minutes was done and I was finished.

No mistake about it, this is the good kind of high intensity training that pushes you to your cardiovascular and mental limits and leaves you with a very enjoyable buzz and satisfaction that you get after having completely exhausted yourself. And despite all the pain having just put myself through, almost instantly I was thinking about when I would be doing it again. It’s that good.

 

9Round is a high intensity, time efficient way maximise your workout benefits in the the shortest practical time to fit your busy schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed the workout and will certainly be going back!

The flagship gym is located at 3F, 3 Chome-15-17 Sagamiōno, Minami-ku, Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa-ken 252-0303

More branches around Tokyo be opening soon! If you would like to arrange a session for yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly via Facebook. Although the official website is in Japanese, they have English speaking staff available to help with your enquiries!

 

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Bio-hacking with Cryotherapy

 

 

 

Turning the tap to cold and blasting myself for a few minutes at the end of an otherwise warm and enjoyable shower is a habit I have adopted for some time now. And no, I can’t say I really look forwards to it all that much and yes I know it sounds a bit crazy.

So exactly why do I do this? And why on earth would I then also go visit my friends at cryosauna japan and step into a cryosauna chamber delivering an ambient temperature of -170°C ?

Well, that is the purpose of this blog detailing benefits of cold therapy and more specifically cryotherapy.

Let’s get started.


What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is a treatment administered with a Cryosauna. The cryosauna uses gas from nitrogen to rapidly lower the skin’s top layer to 0°C (32°F) while surrounding temperature drops to a range of -140°C (-​220°F) to -170°C (-274°F).  During two / three minutes of extreme cold, the brain triggers numerous organ regulatory functions that are noted to provide benefits from injury recovery, weight loss, mental boost to anti-aging.

Cold therapy treatments have been around for aeons, but Whole Body Cryotherapy originated in Japan in the late 1970’s by Dr. Yamaguchi who discovered that freezing skin surface provided immediate relief to his patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Yamaguchi and his partner’s ongoing studies concluded that faster short term freezing of the skin’s surface while inside a cryosauna had a raised the effects on the human body by comparison to a gradual cooling provided in other methods (such as a cold shower or ice bath) and thus the modern treatment of the cryotherapy was born.

More recently cryotherapy and cold exposure has become a popularized ‘bio-hacking’ method that has been adopted amongst high profile individuals from athletes.

 


The Science of Cryotherapy

So, is it really possible all these claims could be true? Well, there are numerous studies which are demonstrating the evidence and as with much emerging ‘natural’ therapies, some of which is still debated. One particularly problematic component of scientifically proving cold therapy is the inability to run the scientific standard ‘placebo controlled double blind study’. This is a condition which a control group believes they are receiving a treatment (but not) is matched with results against a group that do. With Cryotherapy there is no sugar pill to give, either the user steps into a cryosauna chamber and experiences the cold therapy or they do not. It is for this reason the science behind cold therapy has been slow to become widely accepted in the scientific community.

Regardless of this, it has not stopped early adopters of the bio-hacking community to embrace the therapy and the numerous direct experience and anecdotal evidence shared by users is difficult to ignore which is what lead me into my own personal exploration of the therapy that I share here.

 


The Benefits of Cryotherapy

There are numerous claims to the benefits of cryotherapy from a depression treatment to even life longevity. I haven’t investigated into these areas and encourage you to explore further beyond the list below, which I have limited to the most commonly noted and scientifically sound benefits.

  • Pain reduction

    As mentioned already, there have been many studies that demonstrate the benefit of cold therapy including those on arthritis sufferers where the treatment was originally developed. This is achieved primarily due to the anti-inflammatory effects and the trigger of release of endorphins in the patients. Additionally ‘topical’ cryotherapy on patients with wisdom teeth extraction showed significant benefit. This was tested in a group of people with dual extractions and applying treatments to one side.

  • Workout recovery 

    After high intensity / endurance activity. Studies have shown that speed of muscle recovery from intense workouts is significantly improved by comparison to those of a control group who were not exposed to the therapy. Cryotherapy is a powerful anti-inflammatory, this is due to cold exposure allowing improved blood circulation (vasodilation) through the muscle groups and into otherwise poorly circulated capillary veins.
    The timing of cold therapy post exercise to maximize the benefits is still debated however, generally speaking the advice is in the window of 1 hour after the exercise (allowing time for muscle repair/rebuild to take place via healthy muscle inflammation) but then within the following 48 hours of the exercise.

  • Mental Clarity 

    By the release of Norepinephrine and adrenaline into the bloodstream. These wonderful and natural body chemicals are commonly experience during a ‘fight or flight’ situation and is aimed at improving your ability to cope with the stress demands of the situation. Cryotherapy is able to artificially stimulate this biochemical response without any real threat of harm and allow us to gain a mental alertness and clarity benefits. The synthetic stresses from our desk jobs that seldom trigger such a biochemical reaction. I personally believe it’s good to experience a shock to the system once in a while.

  • Weight Loss

    Via non-shivering thermogenesis. To vastly oversimplify, this is a process whereby the body’s response to cold exposure speeds up the metabolism in order to regain body temperature and in doing so burns energy from brown adipose tissue (‘brown fat’ stored on the body that is readily consumed for fuel).

  • Skin Revitalisation 

    Achieved through the speed up of metabolism, improved blood circulation and stimulation of an increase in collagen production in the skin.


If you would like to try cryotherapy for yourself and based in Tokyo, please visit my friends at Cryosauna Japan (booking is essential!) to arrange a session.  

They are located at:

Cryomed Japan
La Muse Juban BLDG.
4F, 1-6-5 Azabu Juban
Minato-Ku, Tokyo

If you have the space for it, they can even arrange to install a cryosauna in your own home!

 

 

 

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Spartan Race comes to Japan

 

 

In the countries they are held, is hard to find someone that has not heard about the iconic Spartan Races series that are currently held in 14 countries throughout the world and that number is soon to be 15 countries as the Spartan race is now coming to Japan with the first event to be held on 27th May 2017!

A spartan race is setup with a variety of spaced obstacles of varying difficulty that must be traversed throughout the course. The races vary in difficulty, ranging from 3 miles (Spartan Sprint) to marathon distances.

The inaugural Spartan Japan event will be a spartan sprint (3-5 miles long, 20-30 obstacles).  The spartan sprint is designed for everyone but that does not mean it is a walk in the park! The spartan organisers do not announce the obstacles for the course ahead of the day, but you can expect to have a lot of fun on the day challenging yourself with the obstacles on the course, such as wall climbs, moats, mud pits to name a few.

Participation can be as an individual and all participants are time and recognised individually, however racing a team with friends is encouraged. And what better way to have fun with friends than getting out of your comfort zone accomplishing a feat of endurance together!

 

The spartan sprint is the perfect a race for anyone to try out and discover what they are made of and is an ideal goal for pushing yourself to train and get into a better shape! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and sign up today!

There will be English speaking support available at the event.


Training

The Spartan team recommend the following as minimum preparations for the event:

  • Walk/jog/run at least 1 mile per day
  • 30 burpees per day
  • 30 of the best pull-ups you can do per day

You might also like to check out a meetup group in Tokyo who train in Hibiya park every saturday to support members get ready for the Spartan race!

Location

Less than an hour out of Tokyo, the closest station is Sagamihara on the Yokohama line and the venue entrance is less than 1 minute walk from the station. There is no parking space on site.

Weather

The average weather in Sagami ranges between during May is 13.5°c with the warmest around 19.5°c

Official Website

For more information please refer to the official Spartan Japan website that is kept up-to-date with the latest and official information.  

 

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Ketogenic Coffee Japan

As part of what will be a series of blogs about ketogenic dieting in Japan, today I am sharing where you can source your ketogenic coffee supplies in Japan – how to make it!

For the uninitiated, Ketogenic coffee is a high fat, high calorie zero carb breakfast brew which is often referred to as ‘bullet proof coffee‘. I intermittent fast daily and drink this as a replacement for a breakfast meal. The calorie density is more than enough to take me through until mid afternoon without feeling hungry at all.


So, let’s get started with Ketogenic coffee in Japan!

Ingredients

  1. Butter (1tbs)
    I use trappist butter which is a fermented product made by Trappist monks in Hokkaido, seriously delicious butter and can be purchased in most major supermarkets or you can buy online on Rakuten. This butter does contain salt and a lot of recipes call for ‘no salt’ but I don’t mind the slightly salty flavour of the coffee and happy with the extra benefit of having a fermented product in my diet.
  2. Coconut Oil (1tbs)
    I use Brown Sugar 1st Organic Extra virgin coconut oil (despite the name, there is no sugar in it!) Also available in most major supermarkets or Rakuten. If you can’t find this brand generally there will be an organic extra virgin brand available.
  3. Coffee (1-2 scoops according to taste)
    One thing Japanese do love is a coffee brew and generally there is no shortage of roasters and I recommend a hunt around your local area to source some organic origins coffee beans.

 

 

 


Equipment

  1. Coffee Brewer – I use the aeropress purchased from Tokyu Hands store.
  2. Blender – I love my blender and own a vitamix, which I also purchased from Tokyu Hands, of course any decent blender can do the job here and you don’t need a heavy duty, just enough to mix the butter and coconut into the coffee.
  3. Kettle / Water Boiler – No explanation really needed here!

 


Method

  1. Boil water
  2. Brew the coffee
  3. Place butter, coconut oil and coffee in blender
  4. Blend until creamy
  5. Serve and enjoy!

 

The slides below demonstrate the process.

 

 

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Asics Meta Run

While attending the Tokyo Marathon expo this year I was browsing the always impressive and giant Asics store, I could not resist myself the urge to try on a pair of the brand spanking new Asics Meta Run ‘concept’ shoe. Like the idiot that I am, I didn’t first look at the price tag that would have otherwise turned me away before trying them out, but once you I had a pair on my feet I was compelled to make a purchase.

Not only did these shoes look understated and stylish, it felt as though they had been somehow magnetically fitted to my feet.

At a price of approximately $250 USD, this latest road running shoe from Asics sports a whole bunch of technology and product features, which I won’t go into here (you can read about that over at the Asics website). But I will say the density of the memory foam in the heel is one obvious feature that brings the comfort level up more than a few notches.

At the time of writing this post I have put around 100km of bitumen running into them and they are holding up like new and I have little doubt that these will be amongst the more highly durable shoes I have owned, at least hopefully I will get enough mileage from them to not feel scorched by the purchase price.

The bottom line is that despite the cost, I am so impressed with them that since I have had them it has been hard for me to cycle through the rest of my runners collection daily routine.

If you have the budget, I cannot imagine you would regret owning a pair.

 

 

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Kinniku Shokudou – Tokyo Healthy Eating

Serving up a superb range of nutritious high protein / low carb and entirely delicious healthy meals, Kinniku Shokudou have your post workout or healthy eating meals sorted! Located only a few minutes walk from Roppongi station, this venue needs to get onto your list of ‘must eats’ while in Tokyo.

Kinniku Shokudou (食堂) translates to ‘muscle restaurant’ and why it has that name becomes immediately obvious the moment you start to salivate over the impressive menu. Perfect for the low carb, ketogenic, muscle building or simply health conscious diner, every meal on the menu comes presented with Fat, Carb and Protein information.

Among the array of dishes which includes delicious lean (bun free) burgers, steaks and chicken options, you might also like to satiate your post workout thirst with the equally impressive drink list available. You can choose from the selection of protein shakes and low carb alcoholic / non alcoholic drinks to enjoy as you feast.

For many items you can order your meal by portion size and the large size are especially generous servings, particularly considering average Tokyo meal size standards.

  • Non-Smoking Venue
  • English Menu Available
  • Uber Eats home delivery available (limited menu)

 

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Togakushi, Nagano – Ski Trip

 

Known for soba noodles, Togakushi in Nagano prefecture, is not as famous as the larger ski resorts like Niseko in Hokkaido or Yuzawa in Niigata, but it is absolutely one of my favorite ski resorts. The view from Mt. Menou summit, with the natural snowflake twinkle filter, in the cold, crisp air, is an unforgettable scene that is so addictive, it will definitely make you want to visit again.

A 90-minute local bus ride from Nagano station will take you directly to the ski slopes of the Togakushi ski region. I went with 4 of my friends this year and we drove from Tokyo. It took us around 4 hours, which included escaping from the crazy Friday night traffic.

Unlike the larger ski resorts, Togakushi does not have major hotels or luxurious facilities, so we stayed at a lodge near the slopes. As I mentioned, it’s not a high-end vicinity so we had a 7-minute walk to the ski lift’s lowest point. Walking the snow trail slightly uphill with your ski boots and equipment can be exhausting, to be honest, but I actually consider this as the good part; as Togakushi is not the easiest ski area to get to there tends to be fewer group tours and school ski trips. Besides, not only do you get to have a good warm-up, but the trails with the white birch trees are absolutely beautiful in the snow.

 

Being a little inconvenient to get to, most of the users here have experienced the major ski resorts and ended up here – a place that they come to improve. Therefore, more than half of the skiers and snowboarders here are middle to high experience and skill level so there is no need to worry about being crashed by beginners (or vice versa.)

But no worries for beginners! There are decent schools for both skiing and snowboarding around the area for all ages and all levels. I was surprised to see many middle-aged skiers (at insanely high levels) taking lessons. This really made me think about the word in Japanese, “生涯スポーツ” (shougai-sports) meaning “lifelong-sports” which are sports and exercises that anyone at any age can enjoy easily to stay fit and healthy. Skiing is definitely one of them, and it is one of the things I would like to keep on doing even when I turn 80 years old.

Slopes at Togakushi are 30% beginner-level courses, 40% middle-level courses, 30% high-level courses, and more than 80% of the ground is compacted snow. The powder snow is relatively good even though the amount of snow is smaller than other mountains in Nagano. It is also quite rare these days that there are more skiers than snowboarders. The highest point is at the top of Mt. Menou (1,748m) and the stunning view from the summit is something you never get tired of seeing.

Although we went on a weekend, the queue to get in the lifts was less than a minute wait, which is a very important; the more we ski, the hungrier we get!

And speaking of hungry, the meals at Yanagiran (https://tabelog.com/en/nagano/A2001/A200101/20009261/) are a must try:) In order to attract repeat visitors and regulars, Togakushi must satisfy, so the “expensive-but-not-so-worth-it” food that you find at the larger resorts won’t do. Yanagiran serves homemade beef stews and freshly baked curries. The restaurant is usually packed during lunch time. If you are a cheese lover, I recommend you to go early because the local people have their eyes on the hot melted raclette cheese dishes which has a limited supply each day. This is due to the restaurant being literally in the mountains. (You need to be able to ski, snowboard or roll down the hill to even get there.)

 

Togakushi ski area does not provide “nighter,” which is the Japanese term for night skiing, so when the lifts stop around 4:30 PM, it’s time to head back before the sun goes down. Walking back again, no magical shuttle bus will arrive. In case you see one, you are probably suffering from hypothermia and hallucinating so get yourself together and make yourself warm. I actually missed a turn (even though it was my 7th or 8th time staying there) going off track by 100 meters and I had to turn my GPS on to find my way back – that is how beautiful the scenery is… Luckily, I found my way back and keeping yourself warm is no problem in the lodge we stayed in.

森の宿めるへん (mori-no-yado-Märchen) http://web.mytrip.net/my/info_page_e.Eng?f_no=5833&f_ptn1=kaigai meaning “Fairytale – the lodge in the forest” has not only a cute name, it has an atmosphere to match, including a common room with a fireplace and floor heating. The guests naturally gather in the common room after dinner and spend the night as they like. Watching the snow fall with a cup of tea by the fireplace is another reason it makes me want to come back. Or you can help yourself to the whisky behind the bar.

After leaving the Togakushi mountain, you do not want to forget trying the soba noodles which requires pure water to make. Togakushi is the perfect place to make them because of the snowmelt water. Sobanomi (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g298565-d3610498-Reviews-Sobanomi-Nagano_Nagano_Prefecture_Chubu.html) has a cozy ambience with many kinds of dishes to choose from. (First-time soba eaters, please be aware that soba can cause an allergic reaction to people who have never tried buckwheat before.)

Togakushi Shrine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Togakushi_Shrine) is another amazing place to visit with the silently falling snow, adding an enchanted effect. Around Nagano station, there is the famous temple Zenkō-ji (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenk%C5%8D-ji) and if you are an art person, I am sure you will enjoy the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g298565-d388271-Reviews-Nagano_Prefectural_Shinano_Art_Museum_Higashiyama_Kaii_Gallery-Nagano_Nagano_Prefe.html). Exhibition arts by Higashiyama Kaii who was inspired by the scenery of Nagano is definitely worth visiting too.

 

 

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Runtrip

 

“Surfers go on surf-trips to catch good waves, runners go on run-trips to find good courses.”   

This is the phrase written on the top page at a website called “Runtrip

 

I came across this website from a Google search as part of a task I was assigned a while ago, trying to find ways for us to collaborate with fitness communities within Japan. Without even imagining this website will basically build my running career at that time, I contacted Mr. Eiichiro Omori, founder of Runtrip. He himself is not only just a runner, but he has run the Hakone Ekiden (Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race) in his college years which is one of the most prominent university ekiden (relay marathon) races of the year held between Tokyo – Hakone on 2nd and 3rd of January, every year.

 

With Omori-san as CEO, Runtrip is a company running an SNS for runners where registered users (free of charge) can post and search for running courses all over Japan and even overseas. The posts include a brief explanation of the course, map, road type, elevation, amount of traffic lights, recommended time of day, street lights and running station information.

Instead of the conventional “Like” button in most SNS, they have unique “Ran” and “Want to run” buttons for the courses that are posted. Running events from casual group runs (some followed by drinks afterward) to serious time trials and races can also be found on the website as well.

Even with my short and not-so-experienced running career, the distance and level indication of the events and group runs make it easier for runners like myself to participate without hesitation and worrying if I can keep up or not. With this experience, I have learned not only to enjoy the run itself but also to make new friends and connections with people who share the same interest, which is another reason I look forward to when joining an event.

Runtrip often holds campaigns collaborating with companies like Fitbit, giving out Fitbit watches to winners to encourage runners to challenge more, and win mileage from ANA (All Nippon Airways) to “go on a Runtrip” to places away from home. My personal favorite is the “Run for Yu” campaign. “Yu (湯)” means hot water in Japanese, in other words, onsen (hot springs) and baths. Tying up with KNT travel agency, the campaign offers users to use onsen facilities as running stations with special offers at a discount price.

Unfortunately, the English version website is yet to be launched. But it is currently under process translating the contents and will be available in the near future. “Very soon” emphasizes Omori-san everytime we discuss the subject. Fit Japan will announce the news when the English version is live, in the meanwhile you Google Translation service does a reasonable job of translating the site.

Of course, if you have plans for traveling to Japan or an expat living here and looking for a group run to join, we would be happy to help you join a running event with the Runtrip team during your stay. Usually, at least one or two people are English speakers. Or, if you yourself would like to hold an event and get to know runners in Japan, feel free to let us know. Message us via the contact page, we’d love to help you organize it and enjoy the many wonderful running options available in Japan.

 

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A Trail Run in Kamakura

Kamakura is a seaside city located just south of Tokyo, in Kanagawa prefecture, that is not only well-known for its time-honored shrines and temples with the Great Buddha statue, but also for its variety of hiking courses, ranging from easy paths, that young children and elders can enjoy, to steep rocky trails that not even the locals know exist.

I recently participated in a trail/road run and hike group event held by a running & cycling station in the Minato-Mirai area, Yokohama (The Space –  http://thespace.jp). The event was held for trail running beginners and for experienced runners who would like to explore the deep Kamakura forest.

The event was guided by a local, who I seriously think knew the trails better than the squirrel we encountered. Going in and out of trails, sometimes on roads and hiking up the steep hills occasionally, this was a full day event starting from Kamakura station on the JR Yokosuka Line, with our final goal to watch the sunset at Inamuragasaki Park.

10:00 AM

Despite the snow the day before, both a perfect blue sky and the guide for the day greeted me at Kamakura station. Lockers were available right outside of the station gate to keep my belongings I wouldn’t be needing during the day. The condition of the trails and details of the course were explained, followed by self-introductions to the members – this might seem a bit awkward, but here in Japan, we’re all about being polite, so it’s conventional!

The course was meant to be 15km, and by saying “meant to be”, yes, there were a few unexpected impromptu arrangements as the day went on.

Anyway, off we go!

Starting from the historical Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, we entered the trail from the back of the shrine. Then going in from the back entrance of Kenchōji, I was fascinated by the multitude of Crow-Tengu statues that vigorously welcomed us. One interesting titbit the guide told us, there’s a Japanese soup dished called “Kenchin-jiru” which is cooked with root vegetables, tofu and shiitake mushrooms in clear kombu stock. It is said that the soup was named after Kenchōji when it was first made and eaten by Buddhist monks.

During the trails, there were a few parts where ropes and handrails (some untrustworthy) were fixed to help climbing up and down, but mainly it was a narrow trail road, just enough for one or two people to get by. The area is known for the seven “Kiridoshi,“ which are man-made passages through the rugged mountain. They were used for transportation and defense system for the “bakufu” (government), during the Kamakura era.

12:30 PM – Lunch time!
We stopped at a convenience store to have a quick bite. As introduced in our previous blog article (Cheap & Healthy Eating in Japan), it is super easy to eat clean in Japan. So, 100% fruit juice for recovery and carb-loading for the afternoon, but still keeping it healthy is no problem. This time of year (mid-February), having a cup of soup with the hot water service provided by the store or a ”niku-man” (Chinese steamed meat bun) straight out of the steamer is a great and delicious way to keep yourself warm.

 

Sidenote – Kamakura is a city with big shrines and temples, which means there are lots of cafes and yummy Japanese dessert shops. Good research, in advance, and course planning to visit them is an appetizing way to enjoy Kamakura.

 

After a quick lunch, resuming our run, the course lead us to more shrines such as the famous Zeniarai Benten Ugafuku Shrine, which worships the god of money, 銭洗い”zeni-arai” – literally meaning “coin washing”, it is said that when the money is washed with the shrine’s spring water, the amount will multiply. We also stopped by Sasuke Inari, one of the least visited, yet possibly the most breathtaking and photogenic shrine, honoring the Fox God.

At this point, I started doubting my Strava app having a glitch from the Shogun spirits being angry at us for wandering and running around their grave, but we had actually already run way more than it was planned (and we were still kilometers away from the sunset point).

To be honest, my running career is not that long. Running itself seemed and felt like torture just a while ago, but for the past 20km, the lush forest kept me so energized and the trivia our guide told us every now and then kept me intrigued (even for someone like me who never paid attention in history class).

I kept on forgetting the whole purpose of the event was to watch the sunset until the temperature suddenly dropped and bits of snow started to fall. Then, it was something that kept on bothering me until…

Around 5:00 PM

Running along the nostalgic Eno-den train tracks, we finally caught a glimpse of the ocean with the shimmering reflection of the sun getting ready for bed after a long day.

We made it just in time and luckily, the snow cloud that kept on following us (our own personal flurry is what Olaf would call it) was gone by then. I have seen the sun set from the same point in the past several times but this time was definitely my favorite by far after the 23km adventure.

If the entire west side of the scene was clear, we would have been able to see Mt. Fuji clearly, but, unfortunately, we could only see the skirt of the mountain this day. Maybe next time:)

5:30 PM

After taking in all the satisfaction of achieving our goal (and taking lots of pictures), it was time to go home. The group was divided into two; people running back or taking the Eno-den line back, either way to Kamakura station where we started off that morning. I chose to run but if you have never taken the Eno-den line, I am sure the mini journey from Inamuragasaki station to Kamakura station will be a memorable experience. The single-track train with just 4 cars (or 2 cars depending on the day and time) that goes through notable tourist spots will let you enjoy a retro time travel – a sight for sore eyes… and hopefully for sore legs too :)

 


Where you can eat Kenchin-jiru

A small Japanese restaurant, Kamakura Gozan (鎌倉五山) is located close to Kita-Kamakura station. The casual, but classic, Japanese style restaurant looks like time has stopped for a long time. The Kenchin-jiru they serve has a slightly different recipe from stated as the original but still a delightful warm dish especially in the wintertime. Reservations are not needed.

Address: 1435 Yamanouchi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken 247-0062

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Fuji-San Marathon

Fuji-san Marathon is held late in late Autumn (last Sunday in November) at the base of Mt.Fuji. The race loops two lakes, Lake Kawaguchi and Saiko Lake. The start and finishing point is in the town of Fuji-Kawaguchiko, where you will find incredible hospitality and a festival atmosphere on the weekend of the event. The whole town gets involved and along the course many of the local residents will come out to cheer you on or offer you treats to keep you going along your way.

As you can expect from a Japanese event, the marathon is organised very well and despite some early congestion on the course, this isn’t a race you need suffer anxiety about. With some steep climbs and undulations on the route, this isn’t a course to try for a PB, it’s a marathon to settle into and enjoy for the unique experience that it is.

 

For locals in Japan its an easy weekend trip from Tokyo by Shinkansen, for those coming internationally I would highly recommend booking a Ryokan in the town for the weekend and enjoying the traditional Japanese experience. If you do, book early, the township has limited capacity.

 

However you get to the race, be sure you make sure you leave time to visit an Onsen to relax yourself after the Marathon. With the cold weather and aching legs post race, relaxing in the hot volcanic waters after the race is about as enjoyable an experience as you can get!

 

2016 was my second time participating in the five events they have held, the number of participants have jumped significantly with a lot of international participants travelling to join the day.

With 2016 seeing them become accredited by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) and Japan Association of Athletics Federations, it is not hard to imagine that in the coming years this will become an iconic event of Japan that will become so popular they will need to start capping the numbers.

While not as prestigious as Tokyo Marathon, this is a race worth planning the trip to Japan to participate in.

 

 

 

For all the official information including registration information they have well written english content on their website. http://fujisan-marathon.com/en_info

 

 

 

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Tokyo Marathon 2017 – Registration Information

This article is a summary of registration options for foreigners to Japan looking to enter the Tokyo Marathon 2017.

Tokyo Marathon

**** We have a Tokyo visitors guide book available, you can download your free copy at  https://www.fitjapan.com/tokyo-marathon/

1. General Entry is open from August 1st 2016

General Entry is drawn by lottery. There are 35,500 spaces and registration exceeds 300,000 ++ entrants to the lottery. You will need to be lucky to get a space, がんばって!

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter , we will remind you when it’s time to register!

2. Charity runner registration opened from July 2nd 2016

There are 3000 spaces reserved for charity runners and given out on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. If you absolutely certainly MUST run the Tokyo Marathon and don’t want to risk missing it, this is a great option and proceeds going to some great causes that you can select at the time of application.  You may raise the donations or simply donate yourself to the value of ¥100,000 (roughly $1000 USD).

More information about the types of charities and the charity registration page are found on the official Tokyo Marathon website here.

3. Overseas Booking Agencies – To be Announced in August

Many fitness focused ‘travelling agencies’ secure spaces and provide additional services (Airport transfers, Race Day transfers, Accommodation and excursions from Tokyo etc) for foreigners travelling to Japan at the agency specified cost. You may prefer this for some additional support for your trip to Tokyo. Two that I have personally used in the past are Travelling Fit (Australia) and Athletes Journey (Singapore). The complete list of agencies will be provided on the official Tokyo Marathon website.

4. RUN as ONE – TOKYO MARATHON 2017 from August 7th 2016

The “RUN as ONE – TOKYO MARATHON 2017” program is for any overseas runners from Japan who meet the semi-elite qualifying criteria and can apply through the page found at  http://www.marathon.tokyo/en/runner/run-as-one/


 

These are the primary options for gaining entry to Tokyo Marathon for foreigners, there is also the wheelchair marathon. If you are interested to learn more about this any other information be sure to head over to official Tokyo Marathon english website http://www.marathon.tokyo/en/

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Why Gyms in Japan don’t actually suck.

 

I wrote previously about Gold’s Gym in Japan, I wrote about the rules and restrictions along with some of the good points that I had experienced.

Since then I have read many articles and forum posts criticising strange rules and regulations that Gyms in Japan impose and how foreigners struggle with them. I have also had the chance to extend my experience of Gyms here. This article is in defence of that criticism and also some points out some things that, in my opinion, Gyms in other parts of the world would benefit from implementing.

Clean

  • Indoor only shoe policy results in the environment being cleaner for everybody this way, how can that be a bad thing? The cleanliness of a Japanese Gym is phenomenal.
  • The staff clean, reset and calibrate the equipment constantly.
  • The close the Gym one day a month (while frustrating) it’s done in order to fully clean the entire venue.

The Staff

  • The trainers and staff are professional and attentive.
  • When they turn up for their shift, they casually walk the gym and greet the customers, it’s just a nice touch.
  • If you need a spot while you bench your body weight + some they are happy to oblige, not only that I have seen them rush to the rescue of overly ambitious lifters.
  • Again, the staff will also walk around the floor and clean the equipment, reset and keep the free weights organised if needed.

The Customers

  • Yes, it’s true you do see some very funny exercises that look like they are training for a new kamasutra position being performed by the odd Japanese patron, but the average local gym goer knows what they are doing.
  • No one is on their phone sitting on the equipment pretending to be ‘resting’ between sets
  • Even the serious Japanese lifter will usually either be in ‘focused’ mode, or more often than not have with smile on their face. The only grim reaper alpha douche bag’s I have encountered in my experience so far I’m sad to say are not locals.
  • Customers nearly always always clean and re-rack / return equipment correctly after use
  • Politeness when waiting for equipment or when moving around the gym. Always a polite nod and patient.
  • Honest, just yesterday I had to remove my sports watch while deadlifting, towards the end of my session I realised it was missing. While it would have been very easy for someone to ‘lift’ it (pun?), of course it was waiting at the front desk after someone had turned it in. Petty crime just isn’t a thing here.

Lastly, the major gripe you read about: No Tattoo Policy

Yes, it’s clear a Gaijin (white person) isn’t going to be a member of Yakuza, but exactly how are they meant to impose the restriction for Japanese people and NOT for Gaijin? Separate rules based on one’s race is clearly not a behaviour we want to encourage, no matter how innocuous the subject may seem.

So there you have it, a few reasons why I think the Gym’s in Japan are great. Of course I’m not saying it’s perfect, but these are things I miss when I’m not here and visiting Gym’s elsewhere that just don’t have the top notch experience that Japan is able to serve up through it’s community first attitude, excellent cleanliness and focus on excellence in customer service.