The guard shuffled toward me. No running, no running, he whisper-shouted, waving an orange baton in my direction. Clad in a navy-blue suit with a crisp white shirt, his face wore a genuine look of concern.

I slowed to a walk and replied, No running, no running. I nodded my head apologetically.

The entrance sign said “no sporting competition,” which was, apparently, lost in translation. I was not competing, just going for an easy run, but alas, the sign meant no running.

I’d arrived in Tokyo less than twelve hours earlier and was still adjusting to the time change. It was early morning at the Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine, which honors the Emperor Meiji, the 122nd emperor who is credited with rapidly transforming the country from a feudal state into a world power, and his wife Empress Shoken. It is considered one of the most important shrines in the country.

Paths meander around and to and from the shrine under a canopy of native Japanese trees. Nearly one hundred years ago, more than 100,000 trees were planted there. The Meiji Jingu forest is considered sacred and spans 172 acres in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. It was not only a beautiful and quiet space in the otherwise bustling city of 9 million people, but a seemingly idyllic place to run.

I resigned to walking, respecting the custom. My heart rate slowed. I breathed deeply, looked around and felt an overwhelming sense of calm. After a full day of international travel and a fitful night of rest, maybe slow walking was what I needed. I’m a runner who rarely enjoys slow walking, but this was why I’d gone to Japan after all—to experience the practice where it originated.

Read the full story at REI Co-op Journal.

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