Two bikers standing in front of Osaka Castle

Osaka – Kyoto

Part II of our Kyoto – Nara – Osaka saga was a leisurely day of riding from Osaka back to Kyoto. We’d agreed to meet in the lobby of the love hotel at 8, which gave me ample time after waking to soak in the tub and repack my kit. In fact, Fearless Leader Joe called not long after 7 and we agreed to meet at 7:30. Checking out turned out to be a simple matter of touching the screen on the machine mounted on the wall of the room and inserting the correct amount of money. We paid ¥4,390 each, using coupons that FLJ had found online.

While FLJ and Sanborn visit Osaka on a regular basis, I’d only been once, decades ago for wedding. So the first order of business was for Sanborn to lead us on a brief cycle tour of Osaka. The love hotel was quite close to Osakajo (Osaka Castle), so we started with that. And at the early hour of our visit, we were sharing the castle park only with busloads of Chinese tourists.

Two bikers in a cafe
Reviewing the day’s plan over coffee and scones

Photos taken, our next order of business was coffee and breakfast. We soon chanced across a Starbucks, where the counter workers were eager to hear details of our ride, how long we’d lived in Japan (and where), etc.

The next port of call was Dotonbori and the iconic Glico Man sign. By this point Osaka was waking up, and we needed to navigate our bikes through the crowds to get the photo.

Dontonbori and Glico Man
Dotonbori and Glico Man

After that, it was just a matter of finding our way to back to the river — the Yodogawa in this case. The cycling path is broad and straight, but every crossing is zealously guarded by a wicket designed to keep scooters off the path, and these required dismounting. (FLJ and Sanborn seem to have figured out how to navigate them by pushing their bikes through while still seated, but it looked like the kind of thing where I would be inviting a spill.) We rode under blue skies with mild temperatures (although with a bit of a headwind), stopping once for onigiri, until we reached the confluence with the Ujigawa.

Here, as we stopped to eat more onigiri and Snickers bars, we discovered an outdoor cycle fair in progress. As we snacked and drank water, a fellow Westerner emerged from the crowd and asked where we were riding. Gabriel turned out to be an artist who serves as designer for Muller, a local bike company. Last year he completed a 30,000km, two-year-nine-month ride around Japan. He’s a very amiable young Argentinian, and he and Fearless Leader Joe exchanged mail addresses before we continued our way up the Uji river.

Outdoor cycle fair at the confluence
Outdoor cycle fair at the confluence

We followed the bike path up Ujigawa as far as the Kangetsukyo bridge while Fearless Leader Joe spoke of his plans to launch a Kinki Urban Cycling Network to promote the construction and maintenance of cycling courses in the region. We crossed the river and then continued west through city traffic until we reached the Kamogawa. Turning north, we began retracing our route of the previous day as we headed back into Kyoto.

We made a pitstop at a convenience store along the way, and this time it was my turn to befriend a local as a Japanese man from Shiga struck up a conversation. “Where are you going?” and “Where have you come from today?” are universal icebreakers among cyclists.

As we continued along the cycling path, it became more and more crowded the closer we got to the heart of Kyoto. With the beautiful weekend weather it seems the entire country had turned out to enjoy the fall colours. Joe, in the lead again, has no bell on his bicycle and so he would shout back a request for me to ring as we approached pedestrians who were not keeping an eye on where they were going.

We left Sanborn where we’d met him the previous day, at Demachiyanagi, and continued back through the city to home. After a shower and change of clothes, we set out on foot to enjoy a dinner of okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki for dinner
Okonomiyaki for dinner

Strava put our day’s effort at 70.4km over a relaxed 6 hours 47 minutes. It was certainly a leisurely pace following the strenuous climb of the day before. The combined effort of the two days came to just 160km. And in response to Sanborn’s “Never again!” remark atop the Kuragari Pass, FLJ has already proposed another route which takes us around the southern end of the mountain.

Osaka Kyoto route
Osaka Kyoto route

Don’t miss Part I, Kyoto – Nara – Osaka.

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