Running at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo
I spoke with the Japanese Emperor on the phone. Ok, maybe it was his assistant. But desperate times call for desperate measures and yes, I called the Imperial Palace (Google it! The number pops right up!). The taxi driver had long ago turned off the meter and we were stopped in an alley way. His face was a deep crimson color and his dismay was evident. We were lost…and at a loss. He spoke no English and my attempts at using Google Translate had failed.
I had set out with the intention of running a few laps around the Imperial Palace, but over an hour later, it was clear that the driver was confused about my destination. I called the palace and asked if there were anyone there who spoke English. The voice on the other end (had to be the Emperor, right?) immediately switched to English and a smile exploded on my face. I explained the situation to my savior and then passed the phone to the driver. Head nodding assured me that he had finally understood. Five minutes later, he pulled alongside the palace curb and we parted ways.
I had no idea how popular running is in Japan. In the mornings, at lunchtime, and in the early evening, scores of Japanese head to the city's parks for exercise and space. A popular running course in Tokyo - when you can get there! - is around the Imperial Palace, which is about a 3 mile (5 kilometer) circuit. This is the Emperor's actual residence and there are daily tours, but I was more interested in running around the massive complex, with its moat, courtyards and impressive gates. I ended up mingled in with a pack of three Japanese men who were running my pace. We silently ran three loops together, stretched as a group, and then all nodded and said goodbye. There was no need for words.