Tokyo Bay at Dawn – the hard way

December 21, 2006

Tuesday was the last day of two quite hectic weeks.  I had spent the previous week with my team preparing a presentation for the Comparative Politics class, and that night the YLP kids had one of our regular colloquia with a special guest star (usually one or another eminent Japanese, who comes along to inspire us to be ‘Young Leaders’).  So, at the end of a long day, I found myself standing among the fruit and veggie trays of the Green Market that comes to our residence on Tuesday evenings, at around 10pm, looking for some apples.  And I was there with Hasan, from Uzbekistan, and Chic, the Philippino policeman.

‘So, Jeremy, you are coming for a run wiz us tomorrow morning.’  That was Hasan.

He said it as a statement, not a question. 

I had earlier agreed with Gulnara, a central banker from Kazakhstan, that tomorrow was definitely the day to sleep in, after all the hard work we had done.  I was actually looking forward to staying in bed, away from the Tokyo cold and nasty books.  So Hasan had taken me by surprise.

‘Um, what?’  was all I could manage.

‘Chic and I, we go running on Wednesday mornings.  You will come wiz us?  Come on, it will be fun.’

It didn’t sound like fun.  Tokyo has turned icy, especially near the bay where we live.  The thought of not only going out into the cold, but exercising too – and in the early morning.

‘Um, well, ahh …’

‘OK, we see you then.’

‘C’mon, you’ll enjoy it,’  Chic chimed in.

So it was that, at 7.30 next morning, I received a phone call.  Snug and warm under my blanket, I pretended to sleep.  A second call.  No, this can’t be happening.

7.35:  the doorbell rang.  ‘You’ve got to be yanking my chain,’ I thought.  I answered.  It was Chic.  Still fuzzy-headed, I could only hear vague (but pleasant – Chic is an ace guy) exhortations to get up.  So I promised I’d be down in ten.  Wandered to the bathroom.  Splashes of cold water.  Then clothing:  thermal undershirt, Nike running lycra, covered by shorts, then green woolly jumper, then windstopper jumper, then long Sydney Swans socks, joggers, then scarf, then beanie, then gloves.

I was ready.  I walked down the stairs, slowly waking up (and cursing that I’d left my camera back on my desk), and met them out in the Tokyo freezer.

We began a slow jog down to the water’s edge, passing the maritime museum and a couple of boats.  The sun was quite beautiful, and I was reminded of the cold Spring mornings when I would walk in to Treasury at 6am in order to grind out the Daily Media Report (no boats then, though).

Then stretching.  Because I’ve been missing my Aikido so much, I’ve taken to stretching my legs in my dorm, morning and night.  So I was surprisingly limber.  After five minutes, my legs had that relaxed, heavy-but-springy feeling.  I was awake and ready!  The only thing I was worried about was the pace.

However, that wasn’t a problem.  The guys didn’t go too fast, as we quick-jogged around the water’s edge on concrete pavement (concrete everywhere in Japan).  We went past the shopfronts, past Tokyo’s only beach (about one-fifth the size of Bondi – you can imagine the scene on summer weekends) and around to what used to be a battery point.

After Admiral Perry and his black ships arrived in Tokyo Bay in 1867, the Japanese were quick to realise just how open they were to attack, and began to make amends.  One of their responses was to establish a series of nine battery points in Tokyo Bay.  If you’ve seen Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour, you’ll know the general idea.  One of them is very near to where I stay.  It is a large rectangle, probably 30 metres wide by 60 metres long.  The centre is depressed – I suspect this is where the ammunition was kept.  Around the edge – which is around 5 metres deep – I could see a couple of gun placements.  No guns, unfortunately – they really took this Article 9 ‘No Armed Forces’ thing seriously after the war, it would seem.

So, we rounded the battery, and began heading back.  We had probably jogged for about two kilometres.  I was feeling great.  I hadn’t run for about a year, but my attempts at conversation were met by short answers as the other two concentrated on running and breathing.  They must have been in worse shape than me – can you believe it??

Anyway,  we finished up a way short of the dorm.   On the way back, they explained that they went running each Wednesday and Saturday morning.  Hasan, who is known for frequenting Roppongi’s nightclubs on Fridays, doesn’t fail to back up on Saturday morning, he enjoys his runs so much.  So I told them I’d join them in future. 

And I slept in THIS MORNING.

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