Some nights I come home from work, throw my bag into the corner, slip into my tight running pants and go for a jog. I don’t do it often enough but afterwards I’m glad I did it. It’s usually dark, since the sun rises and sets early here in Kyoto.
My path takes me eastwards, straight through the quiet quarters of downtown Kyoto towards the river, Kamogawa. I run past my neighborhood shrine exuding peace and calm, I run past a tapas bar exhibiting a whole ham in the window. I run past my barber shop. The boss always talks to me in a thick accent where I don’t understand a word and then the old lady who works there says it again, and then I understand some of it and reply and we laugh. I run past bars and restaurants. Clouds of aromas envelop me, make me hungry and thirsty. Grilled fish and meats, sweets. Groups of people sitting together, meeting after work, drinking, eating, chatting, laughing, sweating.
When I reach the river, I turn northwards. I cross Shijō, the main axis of the city, where countless stores are offering their luxurious goods, and where each year the Gion Matsuri is held. On the other side of the river is the entry to Gion, where the Geisha live and work. Golden light is spilling out of the riverside restaurants over the canal and onto the foot path. I imagine the conversations of the people sitting in the windows, chatting and laughing. I am delighted by the traditional clothes of the waitresses and am reminded of different times.
Around Sanjō it’s always crowded, and I have to slow down to not bump into people. A little later it’s just me again, with maybe a few loving couples sitting on the riverbanks. Someone might be sitting in the darkness playing the guitar or a flute. Some nights I see bats hunting.
When I weave myself through tourist groups, a feeling grabs me and one thought always goes through my mind. I live here! Look at me, you may be in fancy outfits enjoying your night out in Kyoto, but I am in dirty gym clothes, wasting my night with heavy breathing! Can you see? Do you understand? This is my home! I’m not particularly proud of the feeling but still I am proud.
I don’t know if the city will accept me and let me stay here, or if it will spit me out in a year or two. But for the moment I am happy to run along the Kamogawa.