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Rules considered to cope with increase in Imperial Palace joggers

32 Comments

The first of a series of meetings was held in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward last week to decide on a system of rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of the increasing numbers using the jogging course around the Imperial Palace.

Ward authorities organized the meeting in response to a growing number of runners, cyclists and walkers using the 5-kilometer course for exercise. So far this year, there have been more than 100 complaints from pedestrians about joggers who bumped into them, NHK reported.

The meeting was attended by ward officials, joggers, cyclists, walkers, as well as police and self-governing bodies in charge of the area. The aim is to draw up a system of guidelines to ensure a safe and courteous environment for all visitors who use the course, NHK said.

The course starts near Sakuradamon and continues around the inner moat of the palace. Along the way, joggers pass by the Imperial Palace Public Square, Takebashi and the cherry blossom-famed Chidorigafuchi, then the British Embassy, the National Theater, the National Diet Building, and back again to Sakuradamon.

The number of joggers has increased dramatically this year, even in winter, say ward officials. Joggers say etiquette and the size of the path require them to run in single file in a counter-clockwise direction, but not everyone does. Furthermore, many joggers, who are engrossed in listening to music, are often oblivious to the sights and sounds of approaching pedestrians and cyclists until it is too late.

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32 Comments
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I can just imagine the meeting of the Central Planning Committee: "OK, first we'll get everyone all worried about being 'metabo'. Then, as soon as they get worried enough to actually do something about it, we'll have yet another opportunity to slap more rules on everyone!"

Seriously, though, a single-file path doesn't sound like much of a jogging path to me, so it's no wonder the joggers are not diligently "following the rules". My biggest beef with the joggers is simply with the number of people who cannot go out in public these days without wires hanging out of their ears. You cannot get anyone's attention these days, whether it be asking someone on the train to move slightly to the side in order for you to sit down, or alert some cyclist or pedestrian that what he's doing at the moment is d----d deadly dangerous.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

One of the big problems with this area that on certain parts of the course the pathway/sidewalk is too narrow to accomodate even normal pedestrian traffic, forget about adding joggers/runners to the mix. There are areas where the sidewalk could be widened but no doubt a simple solution like that will take years to come about... Also a lot of running clubs meet up to run at the same time (sometimes groups of 50 or more) this is unrealistic in an area like this, then add to the fact that they are timing themselves trying to be competitive it is a recipe for disaster.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've walked around the Palace a few times. Not sure what they mean by "single-file path" because most of the joggers and cyclists I see are on the sidewalk. It a pretty wide one as well that can easily accommodate people going in both directions. For the most part I have no problem with this, there are a few narrow spots (especially around back) but most of the the people I see are pretty aware of what's going on around them. However, I have been bumped a few times from behind a few times, usually it's by some running as part of a "pack" and it's always one of those "excuse me shoulder brushes bumps" by somebody who doesn't want to use their pace with the group running on the outside. Now, I always try to look back every now and then to see who's coming up behind me. It is a sidewalk not a dedicated jogging path so maybe a few (more) signs to indicate that would help, but other than that there's not much you can do unless you're willing to have to police stationed all around the palace start issuing warnings to the over zealous types.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As a runner I am wondering if the problem isn't clueless pedestrians walking in the middle of the path oblivious that they aren't the only ones out there. God knows I have had to ask people to move more than a few times while running. In the middle of the path either chatting away or in their own little word not paying attention. And of course it would be too much to ask of them to go up on the left like cars. I go in the morning now to avoid the walkers. Others runners always run to one side so you can pass easily. Blame the runners, the cyclists, the cars... Never ever seems to be the pedestrians fault...

3 ( +5 / -3 )

Japanese people's lack of spatial awareness is at the root of the problem. Whenever I step outside, I'm forced to deal with pedestrians who go right into my path and don't care about it. Very rarely do people yield for others. I sense this the minute I arrive at Narita airport -- everyone is on a collision course with each other.

Japanese kids from an early age need to learn the concept of right of way and that blocking someone's path, like standing in the middle of an exit, etc., is inconsiderate behavior.

Other big cities have joggers and they don't have problems of people running into each other.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Jeff Lee is absolutely right, that is the fundamental cause of the problem however, having big shoulders with 100 kilos to support them helps.

In the case of the Palace walk the best solutions is to kick the joggers out to a sports club with a running track and kick the cyclists back onto the road where they belong and leave the Palace walk to the walkers to bump into each other.

Try Komazawa Koen; plenty of space with dedicated tracks / lanes for walkers, cyclists and joggers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

many joggers seem to think that simply 'exercising' puts them above other mere mortals who should get out of their way..

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Someone once told me a story. Here it is. You can take one Japanese and one non Japanese and blindfold them. Put each at the far end of a soccer field and tell them to walk. Tell the non Japanese to stop walking. Within two minutes the Japanese person will run into the non-Japanese. My brother when he visited here called it really bad radar.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@JeffLee & Harry_Gatto -- you must realize that according to the Japanese mindset their space is their space and your space is their space, too...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Sounds like a tempest in a teapot to me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fortunately the roller skaters haven't discovered the course yet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The only two rules needed would be to disallow clubs to run there and to disallow competition runs. As there is always police around and other "guard"-men on their jiji-chari it should be no problem to enforce. The main reason that it has been so popular with runners in the first place is that there are no crossings and subway stations are close by.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So far this year, there have been more than 100 complaints from pedestrians about joggers who bumped into them

Only 100? Maybe the rest were knocked cold and couldn't complain.

Lemmings are lemmings, nothing can help. They can only go straightforward and bump into everything in their ways. Trees, rocks, whatever it is and sometimes they fall down in cliffs. They simply don't have the eyes or brain to sidestep anything. They either aggressive or stupid. Though these two things don't exclude one another.

I walk through the park every day and see joggers from the near university, pushing over old ladies, children. They run in their way, they feel the power of their momentum and know they will be the winner.

Not always. Sometimes they bump into me too. Last time a lovely young jogging university undergraduate bumped in me for good, despite I kept off in due time and pulled to the side of the lane. That was big, she fell and performed an attractive somersault. I thought she understood what happened because she stood up, bowed and apologized, but only to bump into an old lady a minute later and pushed her over.

I can't believe this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I run it most days now. The section from Takebashi to Hitotsubashi is the worst, where the path gets so thin that runnnig single file is a must. Sure it is annoynig when you get three people walking abreast at this point but I do something radical - I slow down and sometimes stop and walk past then start running again. It isn't a designated jogging track, I don't have a right of way, it is just convenient for people to run as there are no places to stop for traffic lights. 5km is a good length too.

It is becoming a problem though as more and more people are using it, but nothing a feww good "Manner Posters" couldn't fix!! ;)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

JeffLeeDec. 25, 2011 - 09:08AM JST

I think you spot on, I noticed an interesting thing too, which I think must have something to do with either aggressive behavior, arrogance or simple miscalculation.

Walking in the street, Ikebukuro, Akihbara or Ginza when I see they approach me in a collision course and politely step aside a half way and even turn my upper body to yield for them, the collision is a sure thing, they won't return my politeness and expect me to get out of their way full. They notice me, though. When I stop, in most cases they realize I won't move anyhow and they step aside and don't bump me.

I run tests on them many times in the street where I live. I walked by the wall and when a Japanese walker came in my course, close to the wall, I stopped. They stopped too and looked at me unfriendly. I bowed and politely signaled with my hand and arm to yield way by me. They didn't move in 8 times from 10. They were looking at me more unfriendly and were waiting for me to step out from their course. It didn't become skirmish as I was very friendly and polite, but they never gave up their course.

Either a lack of spatial awareness as you mentioned, or aggressiveness, maybe behavioral problems or simply the lack of understanding, tolerance and social integration. I myself in the dark with this strange phenomena.

We have a lot of foreigners in my neighborhood. It never happens, because as we getting closer to each others we take note of each others and both of us yields way.

That's because we make a moment of short eye contact , a thing that Japanese hardly do when walking in the street. So I suspect the problem of social integration.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If there ain't a problem do not create one.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think THEIR IS A PROBLEM this is what the article is about, joggers etc..causing problems, right??

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I used to jog around the palace 25 years ago, no big deal. Now, even at night, even in the rain, even in the winter at night in the rain, they run, and most of them have some sort of "We are superior." attitude. I don't get it, what's the deal here ? Saying that, I'm well aware of the selfish sense of space here: many a time have I stopped to let others by for courtesy's sake, and every single time J-folks have barreled around me thinking I've stopped for god knows what unimaginable reason when their way, their way, is impeded. Many a selfish jerk here.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

tmarieDEC. 25, 2011 - 09:02AM JST As a runner I am wondering if the problem isn't clueless pedestrians walking in the middle of the path oblivious that they aren't the only ones out there. God knows I have had to ask people to move more than a few times while running. In the middle of the path either chatting away or in their own little word not paying attention. And of course it would be too much to ask of them to go up on the left like cars. I go in the morning now to avoid the walkers. Others runners always run to one side so you can pass easily. Blame the runners, the cyclists, the cars... Never ever seems to be the pedestrians fault...

I think you make some valid points. But in this particular case I don't think the "path" in question is really a "path" at all. It's a public sidewalk. So, much like when driving a vehicle on a public road, when you're running up behind somebody (sometimes at a pretty fast clip), especially somebody who appears to be meandering and not paying attention, then you probably should exercise a bit of caution and slow down until you can safely pass by them. Sometimes you just have to assume the worst (i.e. the person in front of you is gonna do something rash) and act accordingly so as to limit the potential of any kind of accident occurring. They might not be able to see you, they might not even be trying to see you, but you can most definitely see them so you need to be ready for the unexpected in my opinion.

I have no problems with people running around the palace. Most of them are pretty cool about it. It also adds a little atmosphere to the place. But, some of the groups are a little aggressive and do seem to believe that their might (i.e. numbers) automatically makes them right. They are training so they wanna maintain their pace and keep their heart rates elevated. Slowing down and sometimes even stopping is not only a rhythm killer, it's not very fun. But, there are better and safer places for them to jog where pedestrians will be less likely to get in their way. Jogging on sidewalks is OK, but I just think you need to be a little more careful.

I'm not really a runner so maybe that's why I see it this way. Maybe a possible solution would be to make a designated "jogging" lane like you sometimes see for bicycles. Different colored bricks and overhead signs. At least then, both groups (joggers and pedestrians) would know where they should be.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Who thinks listening to music while jogging makes you blind? I'm thinking they're going to ban listening to music while jogging.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Why are people suggesting that runners shouldn't run there?! It is a public place and they have the "right" to be there just like those walking. As mentioned, spatial awareness is the issue. How many times have we all complained about Japanese pedestrians? It seems rather unfair to ban the runners while the walkers are allowed to be there.

Agreed that people in Japan need to be taught to look around and be aware of others. It IS rude the way some of them carry on. When I run I often run into large packs of older people who walk five abreast, chatting and not paying attention. It is a public path and not only is that behaviour rude, it is also dangerous! Perhaps such things need to taught in school are the parents here don't seem to be teaching their kids to stay to one side and be aware of your surroundings.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I am taking a jogg tomorrow and will wear blind folds. My friend is going to video it. We will post it on YouTube for all to see. Should prove the radar thing.

2 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan needs to pick either left or right and have pedestrians keep to it. In most countries that have motor vehicle traffic, pedestrians who have completed the first level of schooling will instinctively move to the same side that is mandated for vehicular traffic. When someone is gaining on them from behind or approaching from the front, they move to the same side every time. This is also true in crowds. People in Japan simply do not do this. They attempt to dodge in utterly unpredictable patterns. I cannot understand why they do not. Banning earphones on the footpath under question would help but first of all Japan needs to teach pedestrians, joggers, bicyclers, anybody moving by any means in a public venue to KEEP LEFT.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Simply the depth in which this is being discussed shows how deeply into Japan and how much of us it has become :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am sure someday these Oyaji's are going to decide to have license for walking!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A few Manners posters of cute kittens in running shorts passing cute gerbils with kitchen aprons should do the trick. Forget anything else, much less impossible-to-impose new rules.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Even if Japan announces new rules, when nobody is there to enforce it (or even remind the people), it will just be ignored.

Me and my wife had several near-accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, specially in blind turns. The pedestrian or cyclist just goes through the zebra crossing, even though the traffic light is green for the vehicle (pedestrian light is turned red). What's even more annoying is the fact that with Japan's current laws, no matter what the traffic light is, it's the driver's fault.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In civilized countries, if you are about to walk in front of someone and interrupt their stride, you pause and give way, and the other person usually thanks you. Here, if you are first, you are first. I have great fun with this phenomenon. Just the slightest brush against their trailing leg trips the buggers up. And then you get the best part, the "does-not-compute" dirty look. Ho ho ho. (Off you go mod!)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

And then you get the best part, the "does-not-compute" dirty look. Ho ho ho. (Off you go mod!)

The weird "you have broken my zen" look... taxi drivers are a classic for them!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

CapnSinbad has hit the nail right on the head, down town Tokyo is FULL of selfish jerks, just walk around Shinjuku or Shibuya, let alone these so called joggers, I am happy they are trying to keep in shape but how about keeping their mental stability and sense of morals in shape too??

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@tmarie

It is a public place and they have the "right" to be there just like those walking.

I think the issue is the place not about rights. Even two people walking abreast on the stretch between Takebashi and Ichibancho will cause problems for anyone running. But the idea of taking a walk is to stroll and enjoy the view whilst chatting to somone - that would be easiest if the person is constantly next to you, and not in and out in order to make way for joggers and runners. So who's rights are the most needy? The right to enjoy a stroll with friends in a public place, or the right to run around the Palace? I walk there, and I run there, and believe it is going to be difficult to do both unless they widen some of the paths. Some ugly colouring on the path to delineate walking vs running would help (along with some graphics on the path). Seems easy to make the situation slightly better, but doubt if it will ever be perfect!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why not move the old folks who live in the palace to a rest home and turn the whole area into a park? There'd be plenty of room then for walking, running, biking in a much nicer environment. It seems a shame to reserve such a big and beautiful area of central Tokyo for a few useless anachronisms.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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