Dale and Peter are an Australian couple living in Osaka, and like me they enjoy getting out and about, exploring the lesser-known parts of the city, and discovering interesting things. They contacted me through this blog and invited me to join them on a cycling tour around the harbour area.
Osaka Harbour is a fascinating place, not least for the astonishing scale of the bridges that link the various islands that have been reclaimed from the sea (a process that is still continuing). Anywhere else, any one of these bridges would be considered an engineering marvel.
I discovered you can rent a bicycle for the day from Sakai City’s tourist information office. They have a great range of different styles of bike to choose from, and I chose this sporty model:
The rental is amazingly cheap – only 300 yen for one day (from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and Sunday was an “eco-promotion day”, so I only paid 240 yen!
After picking up the bike, I set off and met Dale and Peter, and their Japanese friend Yunori, at one of the Yamato River bridges. All three of them had neat folding bikes that you can take on the train.
We set off in the chilly sunshine of a February Sunday morning. On our way through Suminoe ward, we passed this warehouse full of Konan pallets.
Soon we came to the first of the day’s big bridges, Shinkizugawa bridge. Linking Suminoe and Taisho wards, it is a balanced arch bridge, the longest of its kind in Japan.
Here’s the view from the midpoint, looking east towards Tennoji, and onward to Ikoma mountain:
The best thing about this bridge was the descent at the other end. A spiral loop that descends through 3 full circles. 1080 degrees of freewheeling, like a theme park ride. Check out the spectacular ugliness of the Nakayama steel works on the other side!
Cycling through Taisho ward, we came across these structures. In Ireland we used to call them “gasometers” – their purpose was to maintain the pressure in the city gas system. I love the delicate beauty of the metal tracery.
After passing IKEA, the next big bridge was Namihaya o-hashi. This amazing structure is 1573 metres (1 mile) long and sweeps around in a curve along its length. This picture (not mine – I got it from Wikipedia Commons) gives some idea of how impressive it is (and how high, if you are cycling up!)
It’s quite a long hard slog to the top.
(You can see IKEA at the foot of the bridge).
But it’s totally worth it once you reach the peak, catch your breath, and take in the amazing views all around.
This beautiful rib arch bridge is Chitose-bashi.
This red cantilevered steel-truss bridge, Minato-bashi, is one of my favourites. It spans the main entrance to Osaka port, and carries two car decks; the Hanshin expressway on top and a non-toll road underneath.
Arriving in Minato ward, we found these old red-brick warehouses of the Sumitomo company.
Looking south across the water we could see these giant cranes and the World Trade Center, the (joint) highest building in Osaka.
As well as having the lowest mountain in Japan, Tempozan is also home to Osaka’s aquarium and this giant Ferris Wheel.
For the next water crossing, there is no bridge. But there is an Osaka city ferry (one of 8 in the harbour area) which carries pedestrians and bicycles free of charge.
(My more observant readers may notice that there is in fact a bridge overhead, but it is the Hanshin Expressway and not accessible to cyclists.)
Our intended destination was Yumejima (dream island), the most recently completed of Osaka’s artificial islands. (There is at least one more under construction. I imagine that if Osaka and Kobe continue to expand out into the bay, the two cities will eventually meet in the middle, with only shipping channels kept open to allow access to their ports.)
However, time was running short; I had to return the bike to Sakai tourist office by 4:30, so we didn’t make it to Yumejima this time. And, truth to tell, it probably isn’t such an interesting place in reality (despite its appealing name). Judging by this photo it’s just one big container terminal.
Instead, Maishima was our last port of call. The bridge to Maishima, Konohana o-hashi, is quite unusual; it is a suspension bridge with a single central main cable.
This is the cyclist and pedestrian access to the bridge:
Remember this place?
All in all, I cycled 54 kilometres and really enjoyed the day. Thanks to Peter, Dale and Yunori for the day out, for all the planning and the good company!