Osaka walking tour

Osaka walking tour
Tohi, Japan

Tohi, Japan

Since I hadn’t booked way in advance, I ended up in three hotels in Osaka. I’d accidentally been clever, though – spotting the address was similar I’d booked three that I hoped were in the same district, albeit without checking the map to make sure. It turns out that all are on the same small block, so I only have to leave my luggage at one, check in elsewhere and wheel round the corner.

Osaka castle, reflected in a lake nearby, surrounded by trees
Osaka Castle. Rebuilt in 1931, still stunning even if not quite original.

With that in mind I got up to make sure I could run and shower before checkout, though with that at 11 in this first place that wasn’t too tricky. I generally headed for the port area, down some unlovely streets, turning without seeing much other than machinery though finding a park on the way back.

Small JCBs on the back of a truck, front wheels off the ground as it tilts to roll them off.
I lift my truck.

A slow run, but ground out. Stashing luggage, I walked north, heading for the castle park. That’s around 3 miles away, and commands a great view over the city, as it should. On the way I stopped for a sit down and a look at Ikukunitama shrine, which is a quiet spot amongst the bustle of the city. I dozed on a bench after lunch, then wandered the grounds briefly. Further north, The castle itself is a reconstruction from 1931. The original castle was built in 1583, destroyed by fire in 1615 and was then reconstructed 1620-29. The keep then burnt down in 1665, after a lightning strike, and most of the other buildings burnt during a reconstruction in 1868. Oh the irony. But it does show the perils of the construction – stone foundations for the main structure itself, towering over the moat, but the buildings were wood. Wood! Not so good in fire, and ruined by war. It’s a grand structure, and that Japanese style is something else to one raised looking at western blocky castles. Which are also majestic, mind, but the combination of moat, solid walls and imposing keep is intimidating and very Japanese.

City Museum building; large and white, with what looks like a UFO on top
City Museum.

From there I headed West, hitting the main shopping district of Dotombori, walking down Midosuji street to the apple store. I mostly wandered in for the wifi, though the new iPhone is a good £100+ cheaper here. There was a queue for it, though not a long one.

Multi coloured duck tour bus
Duck tours. Get down.

Heading south I ate and walked amidst the noise and restaurant touts of here and Namba. Frankly, it’s exhausting and by the end I was feeling a bit too solitary. An area you need to be wide awake for, and I wasn’t quite with it. Sitting by the river in 27 degrees at 4 as the day closes is pretty lovely, mind. I headed for Spotaka and got myself some special edition Waverider 15s. Red. New. Tomorrow’s long run is going to be the last blast for the Sauconys, over 600 miles in shoes I was never quite sure about is a good return. I wandered back and checked into the Hotel Taiyo, then moved my bags from the Toyo round the corner. All in all, about an 8 mile walk. The new hotel is a whole extra 500yen (£3) and has air conditioning and a bed rather than a mat on the floor, but otherwise it’s similar. I appreciated the air conditioning, though – it stays so warm that it’s a huge relief to cool down properly. I sorted out my internet life and watched the first episode of Breaking Bad – too many people have mentioned it not to have a look, so I’m right down with the (parents of the) kids now. Tomorrow a long run, 7ish start to be back to check out by 10.

Neon signs and people abound in a shopping street, under cover
Missing noise and kerfuffle. But maybe you get the idea.

On a running note, I played around with my spreadsheet. Up to today last year I’d run 1911km, this 2196. September was poor last year, though, and oddly, I ran further in 4 of 5 months last year, which hardly suggests such a gap in mileage. Last year was a big step from four years of declining totals, albeit with cycling added. The difference between last year and this is mostly from February; last year an injury layoff made it 108km to this year’s 280. So last year was better for periods of concentrated training (with longer layoffs) though I might now be getting somewhere after a dip in August. Today: 1:09:30, 12.52km.

Pale orange in the sky at sunset falls over skyscrapers
Sunset.

Reading: Jane Smiley, The Greenlanders “You may say…that the English are often this: they talk merely to talk, and go idly on great journeys merely to see the sights.”

Bye Bruce

Bye Bruce
Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan

Yesterday was a travellers’ day. By which I mean, I let myself off a lack of movement because I am travelling and sometimes I just need to do some washing and sit still. So the fact that I didn’t get up till 10.30, then did some intervals – 7x800m, managed to convince myself they were all under 3, maybe 2.50, actually only two were under 3, bah – and was back with my washing on after midday seemed okay. If a bit slow. But with my washing done and in the dryer, in walks Bruce. The day before I’d got back from my run around 1, no one around, voluble keen girl on reception said “Cleaning! Done! …Relax” (there were hand gestures, too) and I did. Today, I had Bruce. He wandered in, we swapped notes, but soon I realised he was set to transmit. A nice man, a brain damaged man, and someone for whom I cannot muster antipathy now he is not here. But at the time, crikey Bruce, stop talking. Just stop talking.

A tower reflected in the mirror glass on a building in Kyoto
Leaving Kyoto.

A bit like talking to a computer guy – of which he was one, once – I ended up determined that this would be the last topic, then found I was still there minutes later, talking. With the dryer going, and with me having fed it 2×100 yen pieces it was going for a while, I didn’t have the excuse of saying ‘just going out’, because I wasn’t. Though I was more and more hungry, after breakfast of pineapple and banana, which was excellent but NOT ENOUGH. I was also concerned that if I phrased an exit wrongly, he might invite himself along.

Of course, all this makes for an unexciting story, and it is now over in any case. But I will say that an hour and a half slowed and slowed. Eventually I escaped, determined not to stroll and search for a restaurant, even the McDonalds over the road might do me. Next to it, though, a Japanese 24 hour place, and a Japanese man went in right ahead. I watched for a mo to see if he ordered from a machine; spotting that he didn’t, I followed.

A golden car. Blinged up Mercedes.
Car accessories. With WTF.

This was a meal for a runner. The fairly standard several-bowl trayful, a main dish, some rice, some extras (and some tofu), but the rice – go to the corner, get some more. Oh, I did. Initially I thought it a little plain, but under the courtesy screen I could see the bloke opposite me pouring on seeds. Mmm, toasted sesame seeds, as it turned out, and what a difference they made. The day before’s lunch was enough for a normal lunch but its rising ‘full’ sensation came and went as the rice did its thing. After my third bowl here, the full sensation came and grew and with my only having eaten at 3ish I didn’t really need to eat again (other than in exploring the ice creams available from the convenience stores – a ‘Giant’ cornet to style thing today).

After lunch I explored Kyoto a little. The Kyoto app I’d downloaded mentioned mainly temples, and I wasn’t really up for more of those, especially as the route I’d taken to the hostel took me wrongly past the Kosho-Ji temple and when I retraced I found the right one, Higashi-Hongannji, but as I wandered the streets North of the hostel and east of my running river there were signs for temples and it seemed rude not to. As a result I ended up at Chion-Ji, and surrounded by people sight-seeing. This area had a very different feel – a lot of Kyoto is perfectly nice but just another city, but here were large areas set aside for temples, giving a much better idea of how it all used to look. I was short on time before dark, but wandered, looked, snoozed and felt I’d found some of the spiritual heart of Kyoto.

Tenoji city streets. A plaza, with skyscrapers behind
Tenoji.

As darkness set in I made my way back South by the river, stopped for the ice cream I mentioned and felt completely at home. There seemed much more space in Kyoto than Tokyo though that may be an accident of picking a nice hostel. This morning I got up and packed, answering Bruce’s friendly ‘what are you doing today?’ with a conversation-closing (to a man who came from Kyoto the day before) “I think I’ll head for Kyoto”. That made the decision for me so I made a repeat visit to yesterday’s restaurant – the only time so far I’ve eaten in the same place twice, for what it’s worth (and it is something of an accident – I had every intention of returning to the first place I ate in Tokyo, though with the slight worry that his ‘no English menu’ had meant ‘F off’ and I’d pushed past it once but would not be allowed to do so again). Kyoto is near enough that you can get a local train, 540 yen, 850 to where I wanted to be and I was there by 1.30.

Having left my bags, I explored. The streets round the hostel are noticeably poorer than anywhere I’ve been in a city so far. Not the buildings, but the fact that there are more people selling things on the street, and the few homeless people don’t even have their blue tarpaulin homes, at least not here. The vending machines are cheaper (they and convenience stores (7-11, Family Mart or Sunken) are ubiquitous, too, and more of them sell booze. I even saw a Japanese man drop litter earlier. South being unproductive, I headed North, thinking to go to Tennoji park, which I’d seen marked on the map. It turns out that it is a zoo, and not reviewed well on Trip Advisor, so all the greenery seemed to be behind fences, though apparently you can go in the park itself without paying. I could hear the Oktoberfest festivities before I saw them, though they may be a bit expensive to visit – 1100 was the cheapest beer according to the website, and that’s probably only the cheapest because it’s Spaten.

Famous Running Man of Osaka.
Famous Running Man of Osaka.

I soon found myself in the shopping district, and was entertained by a 5 floor computer shop. I could browse the gadgets for days. From there I walked back towards the hostel via a tower I’d seen earlier, and it turned out that this area is one of the attractions, Shinsekai, the old town and ‘typically Japanese’, it says here. Essentially a market and shops, with hawkers trying to pull you in to their restaurants, and a shabby chic feel to it.

Later, having checked with Trip Advisor, I saw that this was their no. 30, but North, near Namba station, were the areas of Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori, so I headed there with an hour and a half of daylight left. There was also the Video Game Bar Space Station, but that proved shut – no.1 attraction by review, possibly showing their unreliability, but I’ll try again. Both districts, loosely gathered around the river, were a bit crazy, with people heading every which way, Japanese women dressed in cosplay style and more hawkers, though here it was all much more glitzy. I also found a great sport shop, over several floors, which have the Wave Rider 17. Barely even mentioned on the internet, model 17 comes in a rainbow style which is quite loud – er, lovely. But to tempt the bargain seeker, particularly one who refused to be spontaneous and went across the road to price compare, only to find that US 10 is their maximum, they have a Wave Rider 15 special edition, right size, under £50. My new training shoe awaits; one more in the Sauconys and they’re dead, Jim.

Reading: Jane Smiley, the Greenlanders

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