The Best Place to Run in Kyoto

With the many stoplights and Japan’s unbending rule to follow traffic signals (NO jaywalking like NYC), you need a park—a big one—to go for a run. My first stop, via recommendations online: The Imperial Palace, which just happened to be across the street from our apartment. However after one quick lap around, in less than 20 minutes, I needed more. And found myself at the banks of the Kamo River.

Kamo river Kyoto Kamo river Kyoto is good for running

Just five minutes away from the palace and central to all the tourist spots in Kyoto, the Kamo River (which means duck river…and there are many resident ducks) is the ideal place for a run. The banks are 19 miles long, plenty to get your fill if you’re looking for an hour or more of pavement-pounding.


And the bank itself is beautiful. It’s a bit wild, the riverbanks left unpaved—it’s what I imagined the Seine in Paris looked like 500 years ago. The water is shallow, 1 meter deep or less in most places. Children hop across boulders to cross from one bank to the other; men stand in the water to fish; couples picnic on the grassy banks; ducks and herons and deer wade through the water.

Kamo-river-Kyoto-heron Kamo-river-Kyoto-deer

If, like us, you’re a tourist who doesn’t mind being a little sweaty and grungy, you can also plan in time for tourism. Time out your run and finish at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. You can grab a bite to eat at a nearby boulangerie, and take it into the gardens to picnic on the park lawn. For us, it was the perfect way to spend a spring day.

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