At only 45km or so we figured that the ride from Kyoto to Osaka would be easy, but we didn’t realize just how easy it would be. We discovered during our planning that there was a bike path between the two cities, running alongside the Yodo river. I’d read good things, but was still a bit skeptical about just how smooth of a path it would be.
My skepticism was fairly unwarranted though. We biked maybe 1-2km before reaching the path and it was ultimately the smoothest ride we’d had to date. As mentioned, it runs right along the river, and is almost completely paved (save for one or two small patches at the beginning). The areas around the path ranged from plain old watersheds to gardens, golf courses, baseball fields, and other parks for kids to play in.
The only downside of the path were the barriers which prevented cars or scooters from using the path. They were fairly narrow and because our panniers made our bikes wider than typical bikes, we had to lift our bikes over them. They weren’t very tall but lifting 70lbs a dozen times is a tad annoying.
Weather-wise, our day started out pretty grey and a bit chilly, but it warmed up and we were enjoying it. That is, until about 3/4 through the ride when it started to rain. We donned our rain jackets and continued on, but as it continued to rain, the temperature dropped. By the time we arrived in Osaka we were soaking wet and cold.
Since we had time to kill before we could check in to our AirBnB, and since we had decided to axe our overnight stop in Kobe the next day, we went to the Kuromon Ichiba Market to get our fix of Kobe beef.
We had expected to drop upwards of $200 on a meal, but we were able to find a small stall that offered samplings of different kinds of Kobe beef. We paid ¥2,000 (about $25 CAD) and the meat was prepared right in front of us.
video: Beef on the grill.
I love to cook steak at home and unfortunately I don’t think any of my steaks come close to how good this beef tasted. The meat was very rich in fat and was cooked perfectly so that it melted in your mouth ever so slightly. We savoured the meat as best we could, but it wasn’t meant to last forever and we were finished pretty quickly. We were still hungry so we walked down to other stalls to grab some more food.
We grabbed some fried chicken on a stick (which was a bit better than the fried chicken on a stick we had been eating from conbinis), and then sat down to a wagyu beef burger. To be honest it wasn’t anything amazing, just a good, flavourful burger.
At this point we were still fairly cold and it was still raining, so we sought shelter in a nearby cafe which turned out to be full of smokers. We downed our hot chocolates and we made our way to our AirBnB and were able to check in a little early. Fortunately we also had a covered space to store our bikes so that they wouldn’t get rained on. We cleaned ourselves up, dried ourselves off, and settled in with some more conbini ready meals and rested up for our (relatively) short rides the next day.
Our original plan was to stay in Kobe so that we had time to go out and get ourselves some Kobe beef. Since we had already done that in Osaka, we decided to just skip staying in Kobe. We hadn’t much else on the list of things to do there, and the accommodations weren’t the best in terms of availability and price. We had also originally planned on riding straight off the ferry from Takamatsu to Niihama, but we decided that a ~90-100km ride starting at noon wasn’t the best idea, so we set our sights on a small city called Marugame, only 30km from Takamatsu.
We got up and left early so that we would have lots of time to make the 30km ride from Osaka to Kobe to catch the ferry to Takamatsu, on the island of Shikoku. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, so we grabbed some snacks to eat before the ferry ride and bought our tickets. When it came time to board, we were the first on (seems to be a thing with ferries that bikes and motorcycles go first) so we secured our bikes below deck and headed up to find ourselves a spot to sit.
One interesting thing about Japanese ferries is that much of the seating (for lower class tickets anyway) is just tatami mats. The main seating area was divided up into several areas. We plopped our bags down, plugged in our devices to charge, and relaxed. We set about exploring the ship and found it had pretty standard amenities – vending machines, a small bar for food/drinks, actual seating areas (some reserved for women only), an arcade (including pachinko games), and a giant statue of scuba hitler.
After we arrived in Takamatsu, we quickly set off on the 30km ride to Marugame which only took us a couple of hours. We stopped at a local grocery store close to our AirBnB for some dinner and then met our host at the nearby train station. Our host was an older Japanese man, and when we got to the train station he was there waiting with a sign with my name on it. We followed him back to his house where we unpacked, and he sat us down and offered us donuts and tea. We had a somewhat awkward, disjointed conversation as he tried to ask us questions in Japanese. He also had a few English questions written down which were easier to answer. It basically just seemed like he wanted to get to know us a little bit before showing us his home, which I can respect.
We settled in and prepared our grocery store food which, as it turns out, was a bit more exotic than we’d first noticed when we bought it. We had both bought a small breaded/fried meat platter which we thought was just chicken, but actually included fish with tonnes of bones as well as shrimp that had faces. Fortunately we had other food and snacks to make up for it.
For the following day we had originally planned to only go as far as Niihama (where we were originally supposed to go after Takamatsu), but we opted to increase the ride distance to around 130km and go to Matsuyama instead. This would make the following day’s ride much more palatable – only 60km instead of 120km. It meant waking up earlier and riding further with more elevation, but it wouldn’t be too bad (or so we thought).