I can feel the heat like it was yesterday. It was August and the heat and the humidity were overwhelming. So I got up early, left the hotel, and crossed the busy boulevard to the walls of the Imperial Palace. A God lived there, or so the Japanese believed at one time. Some still do I suppose. That is the thing with powerful beliefs…as long as a few dwindling faithful still believe, they carry their own type of truth…sticky and hard to dislodge. And when the belief fades for good, something is lost.
I didn’t really think about that, I knew it was allowed, they had told me at the hotel front desk, the pretty Japanese ladies. “It is very popular to run there sir. You will enjoy it.” I so I broke into a slow trot as I let my muscles stretch out and reassert themselves after a long night. The sun was up so it was already getting hot. And I could see everything. To my left, always to my left, the iconic grey stone walls punctuated by the occasional white tower and gate.
There were a few runners, hardly a crowd but I wasn’t alone. There were two types; big westerners; muscled and powering through their runs, and the locals; smaller and quick. When they passed me it was like I was standing still and always they gave a flick of the hand, the international runners greeting. The westerners betrayed no sign of noticing anyone else. By the look of them they were from security details…the embassies were close by. They were not selected for being friendly.
It was a little over 3 miles around. Easy for me at the time, even with the heat. At each gate we passed the armed guardians of the Emperor. As I approached the first gate I expected them to be either indifferent, (they must see thousands of runners per day), or stone faced. I was pleasantly surprised as without exception they all waved and some even gave verbal greetings as I passed.
It was over too soon; but the camaraderie of the local runners, the friendliness of the guards and the overwhelming sense of the history in this place made me forget the heat and the effort. Reality set in, and I had to be ready to head out by 8am, this was work trip after all. I headed back to the hotel, grabbed a bottle of water from my lady friends at the front desk and went to my room to wash up and get ready.
About an hour later, I hurried into the hotel restaurant to wolf down some breakfast. I grabbed a plate of toast and bacon and some orange juice. The orange juice tasted like it always tastes on a hot morning in a strange place and I drank several glasses. My travelling companions saw me and slid in next to me, having already eaten and impatient to head for the train station.
“It’s about time. What the heck were you doing?”
I thought about it for a minute and realized they wouldn’t understand. “Nothing, Just taking my time.”
© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved
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