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Japan: Arriving in Osaka

Being able to visit so many iconic cities, and countries, whose culture and popularity are hugely well-known, was one of the incredible pinch-me advantages of this trip.  We would see the landscape change from countryside, to small towns, to creeping urban sprawl right into the belly of the built up central district.  The excitement that we’ve hit another “bucket-list” marker builds and builds until we yell-repeat to each other “I can’t believe we’re doing this!  I can’t believe we’re here!”.  

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Japan has always been on my list to visit, and yet I never thought I would be able to do anything more than a 2-week holiday.  We wanted our final country to be an incredible one, and it had delivered, no, it had Astro Boy’ed rocket smashed any of my expectations and left them in the dust.

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On our way to our hotel, we made a quick detour to Osaka Castle, which was quite close to the centre of town, well on a bike, we were there in no time.  Built in the 16th century and surrounded by a massive stone walls and moat system, it is one of Osaka’s famous attractions.

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Have to do an obligatory posing photo, so we know we’ve made it!

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Even the garbage collector really got into the historical atmosphere.

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After hanging out on the steps of the castle’s forecourt, we made our way back down into the city.

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Seeing the canal of the Dōtonburi dining district made us giggle like little kids.

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But we wanted to see one thing most of all.  The running man sign, or the Glico Man sign (yup, that’s a pin on Google Maps), one of the oldest neon signs in Dōtonburi.  That really meant that we had made it to Osaka!

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We had ridden in at 7 am and had spent all day riding around all the sights, too excited to stop exploring.  But it was time to check in, and it would be great to shower and stretch our legs off the bikes.  Just a couple kilometres more and we had arrived at our hotel.  We locked the bikes straight out the front.  We had booked to stay in one of the cheapest hotels, Hotel Sunplaza 2 ($31 AUS a night).  Upon entering our room we discovered why the room was so cheap.  I could touch both sides of the wall, without much stretching, and I’m only 165cm/ 5’4ft.  When we unfolded our futon mats, they took up the entire room wall to wall.  The toilets were down the hall and the showers were downstairs on the ground floor.  We were out exploring the city most of the time, so it was all the space we needed.

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It was not in a pretty part of town, but it was close to heaps of subways stations and only 3.5km from the city centre, so we did walk in and back quite a few times. The kitchen alley was so much fun, specifically the Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street, which is lined with specialty stores of all kinds of cooking utensils and kitchen items. Osaka is called the “Kitchen of the World” where lots of chefs, restaurants and the general public come to buy kitchen gear. Stores stocking tools from knives, and pots, all the way up to huge extractor vents, all congregate in Doguyasuji.  We didn’t buy anything but there was alot of time spent “just looking”.

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Who am I kidding?  We totally bought some things.  Some little ceramic sauce bowls, some rice bowls, and some delicate chopstick holders, which I don’t regret at all, at all!  Even though I then had to be very careful not to lean or drop my bike on the pannier bags.  We couldn’t buy any souvenirs on our trip, simply because of logistics and space.  In fact, Days of Light, and all our posts and photos had become our mementoes of our trip.  But Japan being our last country, we relaxed a little, knowing that our panniers and ourselves were close to being home.  The Japanese ceramics being so beautiful and cheap, ¥110/$1 AUS for a rice bowl, we couldn’t resist.  We packed them carefully in newspaper, in our Trangia cooking pots… which we didn’t end up using a single time in our whole two months in Japan.

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Another Japanese obsession is the walls of dollar toy machines, filled with knick-nacks.

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Yes, this is what is missing in my life, a lady with a spaghetti bolognese dress.

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Or this guy.  Touchable!

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Or pancakes from this store,

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We had a few days in Osaka, until the arrival of our friends, Jono and Laina!, to meet up for dinner, and where else but the Dōtonburi dining district.

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With the first snack being takoyaki!

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