Archive for January 25th, 2010|Daily archive page


In bike, japan, travelling on January 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Lots of bikes in Osaka, more than in Tokyo? I don’t know, but every other shop is a bike shop, even if they are selling shoppers and long wheelbase cruisers. Everyone rides here, and there are more dispensations for cyclists, proper cycle lanes on the pavement and loads of bikes locked up on every corner, so many that you think its just another bike shop, until you get closer and see that they are just locked there, no shop in sight.

Found out that Osaka, the industrial heart of Japan? is home to Shimano, Sugino, Sakae, the town of Sakai is also where¬† a very large bicycle museum is located, didn’t get the chance to go, was on a wild goose chase of a frame hunt and it closed before I could get to it.

Also discovered that though I will use the pavements and the cycle paths (when in Rome and all that) I want to be on the road, I miss the thrill of dicing with traffic, of weaving in and out, of being one with the mass of regimented movement. Riding the pavement and bike paths isn’t the same, it feels like cheating and its not really for me. It feels too pedestrian, too restrictive, even though with the long straight roads you get here, you can to a certain extent keep the speed up, and not be as stop start as you would be if your riding the kerb in london.

Osaka, city of a hundred bridges, so many of them, so many rivers, and canals and tributaries that flow in, through and out of the city. I’ve got to cross a big one to even get into the center of town. But there’s something joyous about riding over bridges, reminds me in the tiniest way of london, especially on the roll back, even though I get lost like a lost thing in a lost world, as I try to navigate the railway tracks, underpasses and neon lit roads, which all look the same, because the map I bought for this city I’ve left in Tokyo and I’ve got to live with a shitty tourist one, that doesn’t show enough detail, doesn’t show enough of the city, and is prone to ripping every time you fold it and put it into a pocket.

But Osaka is probably more neon garlanded than Tokyo. Whole fashionable shopping streets, neighbourhoods of covered arcades, signs on the tippity top of buildings, dripping in flashing multicoloured light, making (if I haven’t said this before) the night like day. Riding in it is a swivel rubbernecking visual feast. Eyes too big for my head. Wanting to see it all, but to do that you’ll need to walk and its too much fun being on the bike. Rolling alongside the crawling cabs, lining the pavement as they wait for fares.

Once the sightseeings done and the roll home commences, remember the hostile hostel has a curfew in effect so I’m heading back from about ten thirty/eleven, I’m constantly surprised by the people, the men, women, couples, friends riding back from wherever to who the fuck knows where. I shouldn’t be as I mentioned up post, there are more bikes and more people riding them than in Tokyo, but still in my head I’m set in London mode where its just me and the forum bodkins that ride all day e’rday, and roll back late at night from some assignation somewhere on the other side of town.

Here you get people rolling back on bikes with tracknuts so you can carry two, girls on bmx’s with their friend standing behind them, balanced on the balls of their feet, hands pressed on the riders shoulder. Girlfriends perched side saddle on the rack at the back of the ubiquitous shopper, or toes pushed onto the bolts where the trackstand attaches to the frame. Cycling as communal activity, I have no idea how far they have to go, whether its just to the nearest metro/rail station, all the way to the edge of beyond, or just round the corner, but it does warm the cockles of me little south london heart.

hostile hostel?

In japan, travelling on January 25, 2010 at 3:45 pm

so I’ve moved from Osaka to Kyoto, from one hostel to another. I’ll post up some bits about osaka in a little bit. But right now I’m in a noisy lounge/common room, at K’s House in Kyoto, listening to the young backpackers from around the world, using english as their communal language, describe their lives, bond, and chat shit, over beer, whiskey and various other alcoholic beverages. And it feels vibrant and exciting, and interesting, and what travelling should be like. Exchanging stories of where you’ve been, where your planning on going, what you like, dislike, love, hate, can’t stand, can’t do without.

Its a far cry from the International Youth Hostel I was staying in, in Osaka, nice facilities, but who new Shin Osaka, wasn’t actually in Osaka, but on the outskirts. Its a bit like staying in a hostel in Newcastle to find out that actually its in Gateshead. So add in the extra ten/twenty mins to get into the center of town, with the curfew (a gotdamned curfew in this day and age), doors closed at 12,¬† so if you missed it, sat out until 6 before you can get back in, but then vacate your room by 10 so they can clean it till 4. Only use the showers between 6 and 9 or 4 and 12. And the rules just kept mounting up, and up, and up, just oppressing the free westerner in me. It made me want to rebel.

It felt like going back to school after drinking shots till noon in university. I’m pretty sure it had a big impact on my feelings towards Osaka. I’ve just arrived in Kyoto and spent the last four or so hours just riding aimlessly around, without a care in the word about the time, I’ve got a key, I’ll be quiet when I get back, I won’t make a mess, or wake the neighbours, and it frees me to just explore, to search and see whats out there without worrying about a time constraint.

I want to be free, to do what I want, any old time!!!

K’s House treats me like an adult, and though the young westerners are loud, and raucous and want cheap alcohol, for me I can relate. The silent, taciturn japanese in the other hostel (unless of course they are mumbling to themselves, whilst watching the tv, scare me slightly. You know the one crazy person on the tube, whose gaze you catch and you know it’s just going to go downhill, imagine eating/blogging/drinking – cause you can’t in your dorm – in the same space, knowing that once your eyes meet it will be all kinds of wrong) didn’t feel the place with life and vigour, maybe it was their age. I’m not exactly setting this place alight right now, but meh, right now I’m documenting not participating. Maybe it was the fact they were just passing through, maybe they were quiet because westerners were there, who knows. I just know I won’t be heading back to any hostel run by that organisation on my forthcoming travels….