I`m in Japan`s capital and it`s one crazy amazing place. I`ve spent the week seeing cities and feeling like a normal tourist again after finishing the hike.
I hired a bicycle in Tokushima for a day and cruised around on some wheels for a change trying not to walk anywhere. The next day i hopped on a bus to Osaka and sped along motorways and bridges to Honshu island and into Kobe. I`m sure there`s some kind of distinction between Kobe and Osaka but it all looks like one big blanket of buildings and roads sandwiched between sea and mountains.
In Osaka i stayed in a district called Namba in a cheap, friendly capsule hotel (it`s like a fancy coffin with a TV and a free breakfast) and busied myself in a huge city by seeing streets and shops. I wandered around huge shopping centres, played video games in electronics malls, listened to music in CD shops and bought absolutely nothing at all as i was happy to be amongst millions of people again.
Osaka is a friendly fun city with a lot happening but there was one thing that was very obvious about the place - it`s sexy as hell. I played a game that i`d played in Fukuoka a few years ago called Spot The Ugly Girl and only managed to see ten in thirty minutes of idle wandering through the evening shopping throng. I probably looked like a freaky lecherous wanker but i`d just spent six weeks hiking up mountains and sleeping in garages or on the floors of temples so i didn`t care much.
I had a day trip to Koyasan Mountain via a train and a cable car which is what i`d promised Muto i would do. Koyasan is home to Kobo Daishi`s mausoleum and is a small mountain packed full of temples and covered in tress. To get to his mausoleum you have to walk through a vast serene graveyard containing thousands of tombs and just as many massive trees shading the sunlight. The mausoleum itself was a simple temple full of candle lights and a place for people to pray near the entrance to a cave where he was placed after his death. The whole of the graveyard and temple area somehow seemed to breathe peace and serenity.
I had one more day in Osaka and saw The Osaka Peace Museum which described the fire bombings in Osaka and the atomic bombs that fell on Japan in World War II as well as the horrors committed by the Japanese in Korea, China and other Asian countries in the 1930s and 1940s. I guess it should have been called the War Museum but it tried to show that the past was shitty and we should use it to move towards something better. I also saw Osaka Human Rights Museum and Osaka Castle which has been burned down, rebuilt, destroyed and renovated so many times that it could be a cathedral home improvement DIY TV shows.
Osaka is on three levels. Underground there are shopping centres, train lines and platforms. Ground level there are buses, cars, shopping malls with rivers of people and more trains and tehn above ground there are hotels and offices split up by raised motorways mazing cars to wherever they need to be. I became convinced that Osaka`s public transport system was designed specifically to help people get lost and make you walk around squinting into middle distance, slack jawed, thinking, "Where the fuck am i?" Actually, that was my default expression most of the time in Osaka when i wasn`t counting ugly women.
And now there`s Tokyo. I`ve seen big Asian cities draped in neon, fuelled by drink, money, sex and petrol, populated by millions and known by even more. At least, i thought i had. Tokyo is on another level. It makes my home city look like less than a village. It`s a place where 30 million people live and work. A place with no limits. A place that never stops moving. A place that constantly demands your attention and gets it in double. Welcome to organised chaos. Welcome to the future. Welcome to Tokyo.
I`ve been here for a day and a night and i`m enthralled with this city already. I could stay here for a month and still not see it all. I`ve got a week. Should be fun.