Tokyo Marathon Expo 2024

I visited Japan with my sister as she was running the Tokyo Marathon. The Marathon Expo opened on Thursday, February 29, 2024 in the Big Sight Convention Center. We take the scenic Yurikamome Line (The U Line) from its origination at Shimbashi Station (Stop U1) all around the Tokyo Bay Waterfront to the Big Sight Station (Stop U11). Much of this train system runs above ground so there’s lots of interesting scenery to take in as it moves along the Japan harbor and across the Rainbow bridge.


Seen along the journey on the Yurikamome Line:



Crossing the Rainbow Bridge:


The Expo itself was a crazy experience. They separate the runners from the guests and while the runners wait to retrieve their running bibs, the guests are granted access to the Marathon Merchandise Asics store. This was like a Black Friday store opening with people rushing the merchandise racks, grabbing everything in sight only to realize the only sizes on display were XL and 2XL. And not Asian sizing but US sizing! When the Expo Store workers started opening up boxes with smaller sizes in the back, we all mashed up against the door's opening, grabbing garments being thrown to the crowd. It was like a mosh pit. I managed to get XS, S, M jackets for my sister to choose from and she ended up with the XS size jacket. An experience to remember!


Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple - Away from Crowds

On Tuesday we had planned to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove but chose a quieter option, the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple. This temple was recommended to us by the chef at Teppan Tavern Tenamonya. The grounds feature unusual stone statues, erected to commemorate those who died without kin. Off the beaten path, the grounds were serene and befitting a solemn place of worship and reflection. There is a smallish bamboo grove heading uphill - probably not as extensive as the popular Arashiyama but we had it all to ourselves and took our time enjoying the beauty and serenity without tourist crowds.


Kyoto Adventures


Kyoto Adventures


Kyoto Adventures


The cost to enter is 500¥, less than $4 (which is the same entrance fee to Arashiyama). From our hotel in Kyoto, the journey took us less than an hour for less than $4 USD and we avoided the crowded Arashiyama station.


Visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine - Kyoto

On Monday we visited the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine with its famous red tori gates. It is recommended to visit early in the morning, but we weren’t that organized so we arrived mid morning. We traveled by subway and the journey took 35 minutes and 180 yen one way (that's less than 2 USD). The weather is cool with occasional rain. The cascade of tori gates makes for a unique walk.


Many people were visiting but we got away from the crowds at one junction, heading uphill towards the shrine area vs following the tori gates down. Another strategy is to wait for the groups of people to pass (like traffic, the crowd ebbs and flows) in order to get your photo of the gates alone.

Kyoto Adventures

Kyoto Adventures

You can hike all the way to the top but with my back issue knew I couldn’t/ shouldn’t do so. In this area away from the crowds we encountered a bamboo grove with giant tall stalks reaching to the heavens. It was an amazing sight. Strong winds shifted and swayed the thick bamboo trunks emitting groans, creaks like an old person’s bones. With sparse crowds here we took in serenity and calm.

Kyoto Adventures

Most people follow the red gates up and down, then leave. The park has so much more to offer - a small Japanese garden, a shrine part of the way up, the bamboo grove and a hike all the way up to the top then a descent down the same way or another way. A friend also recommended this site at sunset although it will turn dark on the return down and is a little spooky.

Kyoto Adventures

There are little stores and various food vendors in the streets leading up to the Shrine. We enjoyed matcha lattes in a cafe, overlooking the beautiful gardens.

Some travel guides may classify this site a "tourist trap unworthy of your time", but I really enjoyed it even with the crowds. I suspect during high season (cherry blossom, summer time, fall) the throngs of crowds would detract from the experience and I feel the best strategy would be to visit either very early or around sunset.


Japan Travel tip - Google Maps is crucial to navigate the myriad of transport options available. By choosing public transport mode of travel, the app will display several options complete with total travel time, walking distance, subway station details (train departure platforms, train departure times, entry and exit routes). During our first days in the country, it was stressful getting our bearings and getting accustomed to learning the public transport system but by the end of our trip in Japan, we were very comfortable navigating public transport trains and buses, even in Tokyo.


Japan Trip Summary

I just returned from a 12 day trip to Japan with my sister who ran the Tokyo Marathon. Here is the summary. I plan to post day by day details in the coming weeks.


Even though we were away for 12 days, I have to note that flying from the US, we lost a day for travel each way. So we really had 10 full days to explore Japan. I was also dealing with a back / piriformis issue that hampered my walking so we didn't see as much as I had planned, but that's ok, it just means we have to return to see and experience more!

Here is the day by day summary:  

  • Friday, February 23 - travel day, flying to Haneda airport. 
  • Saturday, February 24 - continued travel day, arrival into Haneda airport. We stay overnight at the airport hotel, the Royal Park Hotel, conveniently located in Terminal 3 (International Terminal)
  • Sunday, February 25 - we travel to Kyoto via Shinkansen Bullet train. We have accommodations reserved at the Kyoto Miyako Westin. It is raining so we opt to explore the hotel with its numerous amenities including the relaxing Onsen Spa. 
  • Monday, February 26 - sightseeing at Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. Explore the GION area including the Yasaka Shrine in Marurama park. Dinner at Teppan Tavern Tenamonya 
  • Tuesday, February 27 - sightseeing at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple. In addition to the unusual temple grounds, the site includes a quiet version of Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. No throngs of tourists. Back in GION area we enjoyed a 90 minute massage at Hiyoshi Massage. Dinner at Gion-SUI, a wonderful 10 course chef’s tasting menu. 
  • Wednesday, February 28 - we travel back to Tokyo via Shinkansen Bullet train, settle into our accommodation, the MONday Apart Premium Nihonbashi. Close to the Tokyo Metro, the room includes a kitchenette and laundry, perfect for our stay in Tokyo. 
  • Thursday, February 29 - We’re here for the Tokyo Marathon and the event Expo opens today. Located in the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, we take the scenic Yurikamome Line around the Tokyo Bay Waterfront. Dinner at Dante Teppanyaki 
  • Friday, March 1 - We make our way to the Tokyo Marathon start line, near Shinjuku Chuo Park. Then to Ginza shopping area to experience the flagship Muji and Uniqlo stores. 
  • Saturday, March 2 - Explored the Jinbocho bookstore area of Tokyo and came back with unique art prints from Hara Shobo, a wonderful print shop. 
  •  Sunday, March 3 - Tokyo Marathon day. My sister is running the marathon and we spectate. The course runs a block from the hotel so we are able to see the elites sprint by before catching the others. We walk to Ginza area to catch runners at the 32 km mark (around 20 miles in) and then again towards the finish line at 42km mark. 
  • Monday, March 4 - Knife shopping on Kappabashi street and the recommended Tsubaya store. Ramen counter lunch at Himuro Asakusa Shop (cash only). Then to Tokyo Sky Tree observatory. Dinner in Ginza at Sushi No Midori 
  • Tuesday, March 5 - TeamLabs Planets interactive Art exhibit. Didn’t know what to expect, but the experience was unique and enjoyable. Also visited Tsukiji temple in the Ginza area. Cat cafe MoCHA Akihabara visit. Dinner at a Shabu-Shabu (hot pot) restaurant near our hotel 
  • Wednesday March 6 - travel day back to the US


Daily Observation - Blue Hour Sky

I took my evening walk late - taken at dusk, with enough light to illuminate and highlight the fast moving shelf of clouds above. Blue hour light brings out the vivid yellows and reds of the remaining leaves on the lone pear tree. A slender crescent moon rises above skeletal branches, coming in and out of view as the veil of clouds roll by.




Daily Observation - Squirrels

I'm back after a short hiatus - I'll fill in the blanks from the past month later, but for now, will tend to some daily observations.


This morning I watch the squirrels scamper around the yard, bounding with their fluffy tails, forming a wave of fluid motion. They navigate their obstacle course of trees, flying from skinny branch to seemingly skinnier branch with effortless grace. They cause me to smile.


Summer 2023 fun


Not today's squirrel, but one from the Morton Arboretum who was keen on posing for me back in August - quite the character! Taken with my iPhone 13 Pro, a case where portrait mode works quite well!


The Daily - October 2-4, 2023 - The Stop Over in NC

I'm taking my first leg of travel to London. First stop, Charlotte NC.


10/2/23 - Monday

Managed a 20 minute bike class, had coffee with Louie on my lap before wrapping up my packing and leaving for the airport. Jill did me a big favor and dropped me off. We talked a little bit about Janice and Joe - Joe is definitely getting better and hopefully able to leave the house soon. His girlfriend Jenna is staying with the family and Janice is adjusting. The cats are adjusting to their little kitten too! Flight to ORD was uneventful - here is the approach into the airport:

Wheels Up!

My flight to CLT was packed and I was seated next to a very large man but it was all ok. Teresa picked me up.


10/3/23 - Tuesday

Swam at the local recreational center - they have 8 lap lanes. Did 30 laps at a decent pace. Enjoyed today’s coffee outside on the garden bench by the koi pond and that was nice. The weather here is cool in the morning, a bit warm in the afternoon (80’s) then cool again as soon as the sun sets.

Extended Layover

Went to visit mom and dad from 10 - 4:30. I took dad on a walk. He’s very slow but still able to shuffle up a decent incline on the walking trail. I retrieved their lunch and we enjoyed time together. Watched the season finale of only murders in the building with Teresa.


10/4/23 - Wednesday

I guess I didn’t sleep that well because I was wide awake at 5am (4am back home). I did a 45 minute strength class followed by a 20 slow flow yoga class outside that nearly killed me in my upper body. Did a final load of laundry. Picked up mom at 4pm and we left shortly afterwards for the airport. We had access to the American lounge which was nice.

With Mom

Boarded the flight around 7:40 - mom’s first time in business class. The flight left on time for Heathrow. I ended up eating the meal (I chose the sea bass) because i just can’t pass it up! I realize how lucky I am to be able to fly business class. It’s really an alternate universe up here, buffered from coach.



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