After cuddling cats in Onomichi we take another shinkansen back to Osaka, Japan’s second largest city with over 2,5 milion inhabitans. We arrive early in the evening, around dinnertime, by the time we have navigated out of the (HUGE, ENOURMOUS) train station and assebled our bikes we are starving. It takes a while to find the right restaurant and by the time we’re fed we figure we might as well go have a beer because we’re in town and it is Saturday so why not.
After two beers we’re suddenly sleepy and drowsy and above all, very lazy, and we still need a place to sleep.
Minor detail: we don’t have a place to sleep yet, as we are now so confident in our camping skills and safety of Japan that we just didn’t really think twice about the fact that we have to camp in the middle of one of the largest urban areas in the world.
No biggie. We’ll just look online for a hotel, right? Or maybe this is a good night to crash in one of the internet cafés again. Surely there must be plenty of those.
There are indeed, but they’re all at least 40-50 euro per night for two people, and the cheapest hotels are not so cheap now, last minute, and we’ve just blown our budget on dinner and beers (priorities, right?) It is approaching midnight and we still haven’t found a place to sleep. After looking at the map and the astounding lack of parks in this city, we decide that our best bet is to cycle towards the river that runs straight through the city. On the map it looks green, and we’ve seen lots of campable grassy fields along other rivers in other cities, so off we go.
I’m not even surprised anymore
It takes a while to get there and when we arrive we notice that the cycling path along the river is closed (OF COURSE), so we haul our bikes past the fence, go up the embankment and down the other side. Indeed there is a large flat area, but there’s also a guy playing trumpet in the middle of the field (which is just….weird?! but at this point I’m not surprised by anything anymore) and some people on motorbikes hanging out under the bridge. Bad vibes all around, so we go back and cross the bridge to the other side of the river.
This side looks less dodgy, and there are no midnight trumpet players. Just sports field after sports field after sports field lining the river, which is good news because they’re soft and grassy and make for good campsites.
The bad news is that tomorrow it is Sunday which means everybody will be out for sports so we’ll probably be waken up by soccer/baseball/rugby practice, but it is after midnight now and we really need to sleep. While pitching the tent on the side of a rugby field I mention to Antonio that it looks like there is some kind of event tomorrow, a running race perhaps, because the cycling path is lined with flags and first-aid posts. Oh well, we’ll figure out tomorrow.
The next morning we wake up by a team shouting 15 meters from our tent: rugby practice has started. When we get up, sleepy faces and hair sticking out, everyone tries really hard to ignore us.
Also the Osaka Marathon is in full swing, with a steady stream of athlethes running 50m from our tent. Try that in Europe, camping next to a marathon course.
We quickly cross the rugby field and race course and follow the river Northeast, then another river Southeast to Nara. It’s a short-ish day, but because we’ve slept in and watched the marathon for a bit it is late when we arrive, and we find a campsite in a little park in a village just outside Nara, so that we’ll only have to ride into town tomorrow to have our rest day there.
Fun fact: on the map you’ll see clearly that we didn’t take the shortest route from Osaka to Nara. That would be only ~35km. Many cyclists have made that mistake before, and I’m glad we could learn from them, because that route takes you over the steepest road in Japan and I am pretty sure we would have died.