Day 10 — 7 August 2010
After Hiroshima, Miyajima, Iwakuni and Toyooka/Takeno, it was a return to civilisation on the cards next as we travelled to Japan’s third largest city: the port of Ōsaka.
A massive change from the slow pace of the beach, it felt like weeks since we’d been in Tōkyō (despite it being just seven days). Arriving into Umeda station to the north of the city, we found our hotel (the marvellously named ‘Kinki’) a short walk away — I say ‘find’, I probably mean ‘discovered’ as it was concealed on a backstreet amongst a million backstreets.
Video game arcades, street-food stalls (mostly selling the delicious Ōsakan speciality Takoyaki — fried octopus balls), yakitori bars and izakaya lined streets overhung by buildings almost to the point of being completely covered. Neon lights glow, pinball-sounds ring out and the streets are full of locals (politely) hawking their wares.
These were the grimy backstreets of Blade Runner.
We were to spend the next five days in Ōsaka and I loved every minute of it. From the winding alleys to the myriad independent shops, cafes and bars: it was a city that felt more alive — and certainly more ‘real’ — than Tōkyō. I remember thinking at the time (and have said many times since) that it felt as though Ōsaka is to Tōkyō what Manchester is to London: a smaller more manageable metropolis (it’s realistic to say you could visit every district in a week) with a tangible sense of identity and a creative, independent spirit running through it’s core.
This was the first day in about four days that one of us wasn’t feeling horribly ill, so we decided to celebrate by having dinner in a bizarre Japanese/Spanish fusion bar (complete with plastic cacti) that served Takoyaki with potato and chorizo and served their beer in enormous litre glasses. As Liz and I took it easy with a couple of small beers, two young Japanese guys swaggered in and lorded it over the place, knocking back two-litres of beer each before promptly staggering out of the place, legless. Suitably amused, we headed to bed in order to prepare for a full day’s exploration tomorrow.