Biking in Osaka, Japan | Journey + Leisure

Biking in Osaka Japan Travel Leisure

Most summers for the previous few years, I’ve spent lengthy days biking in leisurely loops round Osaka, Japan. I am going to go to native buddies, but additionally to eat and stroll and drink and grasp round their stunning metropolis, an intricately layered city grid that is nonetheless easygoing and open, with its plethora of inexperienced areas set towards skyscrapers.

Someplace alongside the way in which, we began getting round by bike, which is how our routine of biking from neighborhood to neighborhood within the warmth started. Coming from Houston, I at all times thought the concept of a bikeable city was fantastical, however I’ve since realized biking is one strategy to really feel like I’ve actually hung out in a spot. It’s a tiny, non-public pleasure, and until I’ve rolled a motorcycle round a metropolis—pausing at intersections and fanning myself as I heel the kickstand and relaxation beside buildings—I seldom really feel grounded.

Osaka is very large, composed of 24 wards. Two of its outstanding metropolis facilities are Umeda, the northern district the place vacationers go to buy and gawk and be seen, and Namba within the south, with its nightlife and shiny lights. Regardless of town’s measurement, it is nonetheless approachable, and you’ll slide by means of a number of districts in a single journey. If I really feel courageous (a uncommon factor), I am going to trek out by myself, however principally, I merely relish the prospect to journey with associates, wheeling from bar to bar.

One morning a couple of Augusts in the past, my buddy R. and I set out on what we might deliberate to be an off-the-cuff daytime journey alongside a well-recognized route. It was the week of Obon, a significant Japanese vacation throughout which people honor their ancestors, so there weren’t too many vehicles on the street all through the enterprise district. As I trailed R. on his bike, he used hand alerts to direct me by means of alleys and throughout bridges. Often, we might discover ourselves beside a automotive, I would nod on the passengers, they usually’d give us a shrug or a smirk or a wave.

Because the morning wore on and was a sweaty afternoon, R. and I wheeled from one neighborhood park to a different, alternating between a lighter tempo and occasional bursts of pace. We rested between a pair of shrines earlier than pedaling uphill to a tiny market within the heart of the previous city, the place we paused in entrance of a girl promoting okonomiyaki, a popular savory pancake drizzled with Japanese-style mayonnaise. Just a few miles later, we ate hunched over our bikes, feeling the noon humidity and lamenting that we hadn’t purchased further pancakes.

I had an enormous journey the following day—I used to be taking the bullet train to Tokyo, the place I’d catch the primary leg of an extended flight dwelling—and though it felt like pushing my luck to remain out, R. and I met up with one other buddy, Okay. A number of hours later, we made our approach out of a homosexual bar, hopped on our bikes, and began a sluggish glide round Doyama, the middle of town’s queer nightlife.

The streets had began to fill. The three of us dipped between buildings and finally settled in a single-file line. We handed gaggles of businessmen strolling dwelling from after-work beers and {couples} strolling hand in hand—and even a couple of solo bikers, who joined our trajectory for a time, earlier than turning off and disappearing again into town.

These had been streets I would spent the previous few months wandering, feeling a type of gravity pull me by means of them. Now, with the data that I used to be leaving, the journey felt like an finish, however so long as we stayed on the bikes, perhaps the current might final a bit of bit longer.

We stored going till properly after midnight, meandering from one pocket of town to a different, earlier than lastly parking our bikes in entrance of a fruit-juice vendor, who handed us an oversize cup all of us shared. It had been an eventful night, and R. mentioned—slurred, actually—that Osaka was a metropolis the place something that might ever occur to a spot had already occurred. In the event you tried onerous sufficient, you would cup the entire city in your arms.

After which Okay. informed him that was good, however to please shut up, after which R. squinted, deeply, and cupped each of Okay.’s arms. It was perhaps 4 within the morning, and we had been the one ones on the street, however this place felt very crowded, very lived-in. So Okay. adopted swimsuit together with his palms, and I did, too.

We biked two extra laps on our traditional circuit and stopped on the fringe of a bridge. The morning visitors wasn’t far more than a handful of taxis. The three of us leaned over our bikes, panting, taking all of it in. Then Okay. requested me if I had caught my breath. I informed him that we had been good, and we most likely had time for an additional lap.

A model of this story first appeared within the August 2021 difficulty of Journey + Leisure underneath the headline Full Circle.

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