Sunday, February 24, 2013

Running in Tokyo - and the Resurgence of Bathhouses

Tokyo Marathon 2013 took place today.  It is the 7th year since it started and it has been gaining popularity year over year.  This time over 300,000 people applied for the 30,000 places to run in the race! 

The race is especially popular partly because the course goes through some major attractions of Tokyo; starting from the skyscrapers in Shinjuku, it passes the Imperial Palace, the major shopping streets in Ginza, and goes to the Asakusa area from where you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree up close. Today was especially a beautiful day, and with cars banned from the roads, it must have been a great rare opportunity for the runners to enjoy the city from a different angle.  

The number of runners and joggers in Tokyo has increased over the past couple of years, which led to an interesting phenomenon:  The resurgence of old bathhouses that once seemed on the verge of extinction in the alleys of Tokyo.  (Note: I am referring to bathhouses using tap water, not hot spring.)  Although the bathhouses were a necessity in the old days when most families did not have their own private bath in their home, in recent years only a few (mainly seniors) went, and in many cases not from the necessity but for relaxation and chat with neighbors. 

However, bathhouses are now thriving with younger clientele!  Many people run after work near their office, and they go to a bathhouse to refresh before they go home or out to dinner.    Such bathhouses are not expensive and turned out to be convenient for the city runners.

You never know what new trend leads to a conservation of old culture!