Osaka is an immense sprawling city. As we were pulled towards it on the train we realised just how huge it is compared to the other cities visited so far (Tokyo is still to come).
It stretches out in all directions including up and down. Kyoto, on the other hand, is predominantly two-storey apart from the centre.
Osaka is high rise from the outskirts, and even Pachinko halls, their slot machines chirruping and chattering with bright flashing lights, with lower ground and basement arcades, have their own multi-storey car parks above.
Richard had decided on the train to dislike Osaka, having been diverted from the serenity of Ise (not so serene with a typhoon, 70kmh winds and 8m waves on the nearby coast), But Osaka has its own charm. As we cycled through the downtown area of Namba in the late afternoon, crossing Donbo-dori and the intersecting narrow streets full of cafes, the young and trendy of Osaka looked us over. A wide and eclectic range of fashion styles, from Peroxide Cobain to Barbie and urban street pop fusing with floral gothic.
As the news channels showed flooded roads and blown down buildings across Japan, Osaka had enjoyed another hot sunny day.
Bustling side street market stalls and Prada couture shared space, giving this area a feel of Brick Lane mixed with Kings Road, but really more like the Meat-packing district of New York. This is a place for people-watching. A girl in a cocktail dress, 15cm stilettos, clutching a Channel handbag in one hand and cigarette in the other rode past on her fixed wheel bicycle: an act of skilled coordination and balance. Skaters dodged taxis and fashionistas on fatboy bikes, the handlebars extended perilously.
We continued our exploration as night fell, tiny bars the size of a van, huge neon signs bigger than their advertised venues, a giant illuminated crab competed with a mini Statue of Liberty for attention.
A private booth in a downtown restaurant gave us sneaked views of other diners and a chance to eat with our fingers. We broke open crab claws and sucked the juices from the shell with relish.
An odd thing we've noticed in Japan is that on entering a cafe or restaurant, you are given a rolled damp towel (hot or cold, depending on the weather) and a glass of water, but when you eat, no napkins are on offer. This is compounded for a westerner eating with chopsticks. I defy you to eat a bowl of Ramen, noodles and accompanying bits & bobs, with just chopsticks and porcelain spoon and not get it everywhere! You're encouraged to slurp, but no help with wiping your chin afterwards...
The next morning, dismantling the bikes for the train to Ise area, deciding we'd try again now the typhoon had passed over, I was sorry we didn't have more time to spend in cosmopolitan Osaka.