Yes, I do run, the approximately 2km area surrounding my house. I’ve been at it since around the end of February with a little shape-up as my objective. Although the two and a half years I spent living in Paris were extremely “cultural” and a very meaningful time for me as a musician, I led a very relaxed lifestyle due to my status as this “big Tokyo celebrity.” This inevitably resulted in, how should I put it… me sort of “loosening up”? Not to say I got fat, but seeing as I’d “loosened up” and I was going to be appearing in front of an audience again after three years, I thought I had to at least do something. Thus, I run.
For now I’m just going at it with a relaxed attitude, trying to at least burn off the fat I gained from the ramen I had the day before. But even though I only do that much, I still think it’s a good thing. I’m always driving my car to get around in Tokyo so I don’t normally get to walk much, and when I keep at it, my body feels lighter and I feel exhausted less often. The “keeping at it” part here is essential. It’s not like I originally liked running: I started the hobby out of necessity. I was thinking I’d be in trouble if I didn’t. So, when I wake up in the morning and I notice it’s raining, I just get so happy, you know? On those days I can justify not running with the perfectly reasonable explanation of “it’d be bad if I caught a cold.” And, of course, even if it stops raining afterwards, at that point there’s no going back on my decision anymore.
And that’s how I’m basically running the surrounding 2km area of my house every day. Thing is, the place where I currently live is kind of like China’s Qingdao — famous for its beer — or Kyushu’s Nagasaki — famous for its chanpon — only that my area is famous for its hill roads. Thus, planning my routes can be quite difficult. Lately I’m doing my utmost to try and run this flat route with no highs or lows. At some point, I just turn around and run back the way I came, and that comes up to 2km. It does get boring, though. Especially now that I’ve memorized all the nameplates along my route, there’s no fun in it anymore. However, there’s no other route that would let me avoid having to run uphill or downhill. Be that as it may, were I to change my route, I’d still want it to be as easy as possible. My philosophy is that “life needs to be as effortless as possible.” No matter what I’m doing, I’m always thinking to myself “how can I make this easier?” It’s a big theme in my life.
Naturally then, the me who’s always looking for the easy way out would rather keep walking downhill, but if I’m to ever get back home, I’m going to have to walk the same distance back uphill again. That’s a physical, geographical and geological fact. There’s no way around it. However, you do not necessarily have to actually feel like you’re walking upwards as much as you’re walking downwards. Planning a jogging route that feels much more like I’m going downhill rather than uphill is an important challenge to someone like me who lives in a hilly district, and yet, is always looking for ways to make everything as easy as possible.
That’s when I suddenly remembered Escher’s staircase. “Ascending and Descending,” his mysterious work depicting a staircase which you keep walking up, up, up, up… only to end up where you started. But if I use Escher’s way of thinking, just backwards… in other words, a hill that you just walk down, down, down, down… until you realize “huh?! I’m back home!” I realized I only need to find a reverse Escher-style jogging route like that.
And so, recently I’m running through different streets in different neighborhoods nearby while thinking about my route, but man… it sure is proving to be difficult. I have this idea that “running downhill equals easiness,” but on the contrary, I’ve found that really steep downhill slopes take their toll on the knees and the back, so they’re hard to run. Conversely, I found that running up a reeeeally lax uphill isn’t quite as bad. Presently, I’m using a route that combines a really steep but short uphill at first, followed by a really slow descend. Reaaally slow ascends followed by reaaally slow descends, and places with staircases up that are then followed by reaaally slow descends — those are the main two things I’m searching for as I make endless minor changes to my route. Right now, the uphill-downhill ratio of my route stands at maybe 3:7. One day, I want it to be like “okay, now I’m running down, down, down… huh!? I’m home!“, and the ratio will feel like 0:10. Until the day I succeed in discovering that perfect “reverse Escher-style route,” I will keep on running! Escher, hoisha, Escher, hoisha…!¹
(For those of you who don’t know of M.C. Escher’s “Ascending and Descending,” please look it up on the internet.)
¹ “essa, hoisa” (or “essha, hoisha“) is a chant similar to the English “heave-ho!” The Japanese pronunciation of Escher is similar to “essa.”