Oct 4, 2021

Mini-marathon around Chofu, Tokyo

Mini-marathon around Chofu, Tokyo photo

World-class sports facilities and venues including Tokyo Stadium and the eye-catching Musashino Forest Sports Plaza perhaps made the city of Chofu a natural choice to host events as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Events like the Summer Games have long inspired the armchair athlete to action. In this spirit here at team City-Cost we were inspired enough to pursue a sporting endeavor of our own in the host city, as a means to get some exercise as well as take in some of Chofu’s sights, attractions and local atmosphere.

In fact, the city of Chofu, located just west of the Japanese capital’s Shinjuku district, boasts an impressive sporting resume having stepped up to the global stage as recently as 2019 when Tokyo Stadium -- or “Ajista” in local parlance (a combination of stadium sponsor “Ajinomoto” and “stadium”) -- hosted matches as part of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

Chofu’s history of hosting a big sporting bash goes back much further though, maybe before facilities like Tokyo Stadium and Musashino Forest Sports Plaza were even a sketch on the architect's notepad. 

On October 21, 1964 Chofu welcomed marathon runners competing in the Summer Olympics hosted by Tokyo. The Game’s marathon course, a fairly straight dash from central Tokyo and back, reached its turning point here in Chofu. The point is marked by a stone pillar topped with a symbolic dove which can be seen today. On the post is written “1964 TOKYO マラソン折り返し点” (marathon ori-kaeshi-ten (turning point)). (On the day of the marathon in 1964 the actual turning point was a large cone placed in the middle of the road.)

Nearly 60 years ago then, the world’s best runners turned up in Chofu to compete on the global stage. Nearly 60 years later, the city was no doubt equally excited to see members of team City-Cost lace-up their running shoes to become the latest contributors to the city’s rich sporting heritage!

While far from ready to tackle a full marathon, a much lighter mini-marathon offers the active a great way to take in some of the sights and sounds of Chofu, including its Olympic connections, past and present. The city is relatively flat (for the most part) and is home to a number of wide and / or quiet pathways that make for excellent running … or jogging … or something even more relaxed than that!

Below is a breakdown of the mini-marathon course we followed to take in the city of Chofu. Total distance - approx. 7 - 8km: 

Koshu-kaido to Saiko-ji Temple (Approx. 1.4 km)

Our Chofu mini-marathon starts on the very road that guided runners into the city in 1964 -- the historic Koshu-kaido.  

Today the busy thoroughfare appears thoroughly modern as an escape route heading west out of the capital and into the mountains of the Mt. Takao region. During the Edo Period the Koshu-kaido was one of the “Gokaido,” the five major highways that connected the capital of Japan with its outer provinces.

Join the Koshu-kaido just a few blocks almost directly north of Chofu Station. Like so many before, head west and stick to the sidewalks on the left as this is a road busy with vehicular traffic.

After around 600 meters the course forks left leaving the Koshu-kaido to follow a quieter route to the temple Saiko-ji.  

Take some time to have a look around the pleasant grounds of this temple which, according to records, is estimated to have been established in the late 14th century. In season, pretty lotus flowers bloom in the grounds. Before passing through Saiko-ji’s impressive main gate you will find a statue of another distinguished temple visitor, Isami Kondo who was born in Chofu. 

Kondo is known throughout Japan as the commander of the Shinsengumi -- a band of tough samurai charged with protecting the interests of the ruling shogunate in the mid-19th century. The commander is said to have been welcomed into a private house in front of Saiko-ji Temple while stopping for a brief rest on his way to the battlefront in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. 

Saiko-ji Temple - Tokyo Stadium (Approx. 1.3km)

From Saiko-ji rejoin the Koshu-kaido just two blocks to the north. Heading west like the marathon runners of 1964, cross over to be on the right hand side of the road. The sidewalk broadens on the approach to the impressive Tokyo Stadium. With the stadium on your right, keep a look out for the 1964 Tokyo marathon turning point pillar, tucked into a cleft on the sidewalk.

Mini-marathon around Chofu, Tokyo photo

(1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics marathon turning point pillar, Chofu)

Climb the steps up to the pedestrian concourse between Tokyo Stadium and Musashino Forest Sports Plaza. From here you can see the Koshu-kaido stretching off into the distance as well as enjoy impressive views of the two sports facilities. On a hot day this is also a good spot to catch a refreshing breeze.

*NB: Should you be ready to call it quits already, rather than head back to Chofu Station, easier access to trains back into Tokyo is from Tobitakyu Station around 200m south of the stadium area. 

Tokyo Stadium - Nogawa River (Approx. 3km)

Mini-marathon around Chofu, Tokyo photo

(Pleasant jogging along the banks of the Nogawa River, Chofu)

From Tokyo Stadium we took a route which approximately followed the elevated Chuo Expressway heading northeast. Down here the runner can get a good feel for the atmosphere of local life in Chofu, away from the fanfare of global sporting events and other city attractions like Jindaiji Temple.  

The Nogawa River will likely come as a surprise. Quiet, serene, natural, green … it’s something of an oddity to be located in one of the world’s great urban sprawls. It’s here though, and the runner should be pleased to see it. In drier conditions narrow trails down by the riverside can make for fun running. Those nervous about off-road conditions can use the pleasant (and paved) footpaths that follow the river higher up along its outer banks.  

Our course takes in a section of the river heading approximately east to west but those feeling up for a bit of extra distance might want to add an extra up-and-back section in order to enjoy the river environment further. 

*NB: Following this course means joining the Nogawa River near the Chofu Wholesale Center (Jindai Nigiwai no Sato) where you can buy drinks and snacks, and would make for a nice place to sit down and eat … maybe next time, when you’re not in the middle of a run.

Nogawa River - Jiyu Hiroba Park (Approx. 1.4km)

Mini-marathon around Chofu, Tokyo photo

(Jogging on the pathway beside Jindaishokubutsukoen-dori)

From the river area take the broad Musashisakai-dori and head north. This is the only significant uphill section of our mini-marathon course. The sidewalks here are spacious though, and the running is pleasant among Chofu’s leafy, well-to-do suburbs.  

It’s a gentle climb of around 1km to reach Jindaishokubutsukoen-dori on the right. Just before this there is a convenience store, should it be required.

Jindaishokubutsukoen-dori cuts approximately west to east through the gardens of the same name -- Jindai Botanical Gardens (although you’re not actually running through the gardens).  

Befitting the location, sidewalks alongside Jindaishokubutsukoen-dori make for nice running under the shade of cherry trees and flanked on either side by plants and flowers (in season). The path is a little narrow and winding so be aware of other sidewalk users, which could include cyclists.

At the eastern end of the path is Jiyu Hiroba Park made distinct by its perfect, grassy hill at the top of which awaits refreshing breezes and views to Tokyo Skytree on a clear day, apparently. A good spot to take a rest, if needed. 


Jiyu Hiroba Park - Yumori-no-sato Onsen (Approx. 1.5km)

Look out for the narrow lane heading south along the eastern edge of the botanical gardens, across the road from Jiyu Hiroba Park. We’re following this toward Jindaiji Temple. The lane is leafy, cool, and quiet, making for a fine way to bring the runner toward the end of the course.  

If you still have the legs for exploration, then a wander (not a run) around the grounds of Jindaiji Temple rewards. Otherwise, we hang a left just before the outer grounds of the temple and follow the quiet lane as it loops east past a school before joining the larger Mitaka-dori. 

We follow Mitaka-dori south before turning right into a quiet lane just before the highway.  

Yumori-no-sato Onsen, our goal, awaits after around 300m, tucked into a residential area on the right hand side. If you’re coming directly from Jindaiji Temple itself, Yumori-no-sato is around 300m south of the temple's Sando approach. 

Inside the onsen, as well as a number of baths (indoor and outdoor, and a foot bath), the weary runner will find a restaurant serving Japanese cuisine and a snack bar area (with resident rabbit at the time of visiting).

For information about Yumori-no-sato Onsen and other locations featured on this mini-marathon course visit the Things To Do section of Guide to Chofu, Tokyo: https://www.city-cost.com/guides/tokyo-chofu_things_to_do 

Chofu mini-marathon course map

(Be sure to follow public footpaths and traffic rules when jogging in Chofu)

This article was supported by Guide to Chofu, Tokyo, presented by Chofu City

Guide to Chofu, Tokyo

Discover a different side of Tokyo just 15 minutes from Shinjuku



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