News of yet another undertaking or project somehow related to that dreaded year –2020 – has become an everyday occurrence in Tokyo these days. However, if you look beyond the initial National Stadium controversy, not much in the way of actual new sporting facilities have been announced.
Instead, we've been getting a plentiful lineup of new hotels, shopping malls and so on, most of them touted as readily accessible for everyone (with more than one eye on the aging population, of course) and easy to navigate for even the most wide-eyed of tourists.
Luckily, someone finally remembered the link between 2020 and sports, and decided to insert this aspect into the ongoing redevelopment of the areas around Toyosu. This 'Bay Zone' is set to see quite a few humongous glass-and-steel apartment blocks, but also excellent transport infrastructure and ample opportunities for getting sporty.
These ambitious (and healthy) plans include the Shin-Toyosu Brillia Running Stadium, opened in early December 2016. In order to get a better idea of what's going on out by the waterside, we went to take a peek at the start of this year.
The sleek facility is partially run by Dai Tamesue, a former Olympic hurdler, who was quite influential in steering the local development plans in a body-movin' direction. Its interior makes ample use of wood, giving it a rustic feel, is completely barrier-free, and boasts a 60-metre track that meets international standards.
It's also the home of Xiborg, a prosthetics company that makes artificial limbs for both athletes and non-athletes, and the Slow Label NGO, which creates inclusive performance art and contributed to Japan's segment for the closing ceremonies of both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.
The changing rooms inside have large showers that are wheelchair-accessible and also boast a mist function
When not rented out to groups, the facilities can be used by anyone and at any time. The entrance fee is ¥800 per day per person, with students and the disabled paying ¥500; this gets you access to the track, lockers, changing rooms and showers. There's also a parking lot nearby (free for up to two hours) – useful if you're just looking for a quick training session. Serious enthusiasts will want to know that hurdles, stopwatches and other gear can be borrowed for free as well.
Slow Movement at Roppongi Art Night (Photo: Yukiko Koshima)
To accommodate Slow Label, the ceiling features silk tissue hooks for aerial performances and swings. Word has it the troupe trains here too, so you might run into one of their sessions if you're lucky. And those looking to watch their performance in a more planned manner will want to note the date February 11 – which is when Slow Label will be performing 'Slow Movement – The Eternal Symphony, 2nd movement' here (free, but register through their website by January 31).
Xiborg's office. They research and develop prosthetics here, and do so by letting athletes wear their designs and actually run on the track so they can measure data and make adjustments on the spot
You can also try on prosthetics meant for professional athletes – we found them to be very springy and bouncy, but whether they make you run faster is still a matter of controversy
There is one part of the Running Stadium that isn't accessible yet: a 5km promenade and running track that stretches along the banks of the Shin-Toyosu area. Supposed to have been opened in November simultaneously with the nearby Toyosu market, it now sits unused while Tokyo's powers that be debate the fate of Tsukiji's replacement. We hope a conclusion will be reached soon, as this jogging course sure looks too tasty to just be left to rot.