Blog

"You really love something? To show up is to put yourself out there, to accept vulnerability and choose courage. Some days can feel like magic. As runners, all we do in training and racing is to prepare for those great moments, to help them come more frequently, and so they are ours to embrace when they happen".

From Honolulu to Tokyo - 18 Days in Japan

Finally, I got to sit down and go through the pictures from our EPIC trip to Japan. The huge amount of pictures I took perfectly reflects the amount of fun, yet crazy adventures that Nate and I had while travelling and exploring Japan.

I must reveal my secret by saying that I have been a big fan of Japanese culture since I was a kid. Watching anime, listening to J-Pop were some of my favorite things to do; Five years ago I started learning Japanese and now my home is Hawaii where I’m surrounded by Japanese speaking people. Whoaa! What a coincidence!

When we first arrived in Tokyo, I was a little overwhelmed. People. Tons of people...all in black suits were filling the metro station. Tokyo train stations are known for their massive crowds. 

We made it to the hotel and headed for a run next morning. The weather was perfect! Crispy and chilly. I finally got to unpack my warm outfits which are useless in Hawaii. On a run, we saw lots of tall buildings and Starbuck coffee shops which seemed to spring up like mushrooms after the rain in Japan. You can see Starbucks almost on every corner. We got to visit one and enjoy a tiny but extremely cute sized cup of coffee. Yes, it’s true, portions in Japan are much smaller than in the US, so Nate and I had to hold off our wolf appetites until we returned back to Hawaii.

I was very stoked about my upcoming Half-Marathon which was 4 hours away from Tokyo in the city of Ichinoseki. Nate was also running the 10K, and as he said after finishing the race, it was the most competitive 10K he had ever done. I was also pleased with my two-minute half-marathon PR, and after the race I was happy to meet the best runners in Japan, Eri Okubo and John Maina.

ichinoseki_polina.jpg

After the race, we were taken on a super peaceful and slow canoe ride where we saw some beautiful nature and got to feed giant lake koi fish.

Two days later, we arrived back in Tokyo for sightseeing, running, shopping and trying local food of course! We got to explore two of the busiest stations in Tokyo. I was blown away by all the colors, people, stores, and lights. So many things to see and to do that at first I thought my brain was going to explode from all the excitement! We decided to embrace the Tokyo spirit and play some video games at a huge six-store "Sega" building. Video games and slot machines are extremely popular here, not only for teenagers, but also for older people. We saw a couple of old ladies having a kick playing video games...something you won’t see in the US!

On our exploring walk around Tokyo we also noticed some strange but epic food choices: black burger, jellyfish ice-cream and tons and tons of sushi, of course. I never thought I would enjoy eating raw sushi for breakfast! We stayed in one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo close by a tower, which reminded me of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

It’s a very tall and visible tower, so every morning on my runs I could see the tower from far away and could navigate myself without getting lost.

After leaving Tokyo, we took a train to the mountains where we stayed for two days. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and we couldn't see Mt. Fiji, but we got to walk along a short trail from the Owakudani ropeway station to the volcanic zone, with sights of steam vents and a big sulfur pond. The smell of rotten eggs filled the air and wasn’t pleasant, but most of the tourists for some reason were trilled about eating blackened eggs for lunch!

The next day after a hilly 12-mile run, we headed to Kyoto. Kyoto has always been my dream destination, and the city was even better that I expected. Cold, thin air, clean wide roads, beautiful gardens, temples, and stellar places for longer runs. In Kyoto we visited a Sagano Bamboo Forest and explored it for awhile, amazed by the size of the bamboo.

We wandered around the village a bit, then trekked up to the top of the mountain to visit the Kyoto Monkey Park where monkeys run wild throughout the park. There were various rules that we were given when we first entered the park. Rule #1 was, "Don’t look a monkey in the eye!" Soon, we realized that the warning was no joke when a screaming monkey started chasing me after I tried to take a close-up shot of it. Monkeys: some of them don’t like posing for pictures, just like us :-)

It was a long but super eventful day. Next stop: Osaka! We stayed in the tallest hotel in Japan which had an amazing view of the whole city.

We found a local Tokoyaki bar which is a place where they serve an octopus ball snack that I absolutely love. It thrilled me to see Nate giving it a try. He wasn’t a big fan of the local Japanese snack, but oh well…trying new things is a big part of the travelling experience.

On our last day in Osaka, we didn’t have anything planned. So, we just took a walk enjoying our last few hours in the city.

Looking back at the whole Japan experience really bolstered my faith in the human spirit as, even in a different country far away from home, I was able to experience the support and encouragement of other runners. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy being in this sport so much...Runners help each other and set each other up for success. Running is selfless, and I’m happy to glorify God through it. A huge thanks to my crew: Nate Carlson, Lanikai Juice, Hawaiian Ola, ITakeBioastin, Runner’s Route and EPIC bars. I am so blessed to have such a supportive team surrounding me and my endeavors.