June 28, 2008

Ashiya Bike Trip

This morning, after playing basketball at Canadian Academy at the regular Saturday morning pick-up game, one of the guys pointed me out to a friend of his and said - "Mike actually went biking with those crazy guys!"

(Once again, the "crazy guys" part would have been real good to know before setting off on my mountain biking adventure! Actually I love those guys; it was really great!)

Today, I decided to set off on a different kind of biking adventure. I had heard that there was a nice path along the Ashiyagawa River in Ashiya and thought it would be fun to check it out. Ashiya is 3 stops away from Sumiyoshi on the JR Kobe Line in the direction of Osaka. Although it was overcast and misty and the weather called for some rain, its supposed to be like that all weekend.

So, I set off with my new best friend (my bike), up and over the red Rokko Island Bridge. It was my third time over the bridge by bike (once for the mountain biking and once with Jacob on the quick there-and-back trip).

That plops you in a fairly industrial area that you have to bike through to get into Sumiyoshi. I didn't really know where I was going, but I knew the direction of Osaka and headed that way. I soon came to the Sumiyoshigawa River and eventually came to the Okamoto area near Settsu-Motiyama. Since this is the first stop after Sumiyoshi on the way to Osaka, I knew I was heading the right way. We had explored this area a little bit before.

I had packed up some books and magazines, and found a good little coffee shop to hang out in for a while and relax. Okamoto is a neat area chock full of alleys heading up into the nearby mountains. I explored the neighborhood for a while, and then continued on in the same direction. There are some great houses in the hills, and some nice shops and bakeries. The Hankyu line train cuts right through the town.

I also met this cat. I call this "Cat Near A Hot Tin Roof."

I continued along, and through Konan Yamate (the next stop on the JR line - still heading the right way!), and into Ashiya. Ashiya is a classy nice area. They call it the Beverly Hills of Osaka, but I'm not sure that really fits. It is pretty upscale though; nice houses (especially up the in mountains), nice cars everywhere, and some fancy shops. Eventually I came to what might was the Ashiyagawa River.
(Interestingly, virtually every river bed bottom in Japan is poured over with a layer of concrete; I understand that this is because of extreme political corruption with ties to the contruction industry.) I followed the path along the river up the hill, until I came to the train station and could go no further. So I figured it was not the right river and headed back into town and hit the basement of Daimaru Department Store for some snacks. The basement of Daimaru is amazing. Baked goods and every type of food everywhere you look. Lots of free samples. It was a worthy stop.

Not realizing that I had found the Ashiyagawa River and gone the wrong way, I kept on biking through Ashiya. I explored some of the hills and found a nice little park to bike around. Eventually, I ended behind some guy with a backpack on a bike who was dressed in athletic clothing; not out shopping, it seemed. I followed him. Jackpot. He led me to a wide river, which I soon learned was actually called the Ashiya Canal. I saw some speed boats on the water; then I realized they were pulling water skiers. Good find. Crazy!

After crossing the bridge to the other side of the Ashiya Canal Park, which was lined with trees and really pleasant, I made another good find - a map. It showed me how to get to the Ashiyagawa River; just over the next bridge. But I also realized that I was very close to a large park - the Ashiya City Grand Park - which overlooks Osaka Bay. I biked over and watched soccer for a while, and also checked out the beach. The park was really well-manicured, with pretty flowers, nice views, and lots of people out walking and picnicking. (Of course, it is right next to the Hanshin Expressway and the view of Osaka Bay includes industrial freight ships and factories. But that is Japan. The industrial stuff is just always in the background. It's gotten to the point that it doesn't really bother me. It's still nice, but in that "Impression Sunrise" kind of way.)

After the park, where I loaded up with another sports beverage (the fact that vending machines are everywhere is really nice), I headed back to the mouth of the Ashigawa River and followed it back through Ashiya to the same spot that I had been earlier in the day.

It was starting to rain pretty heavily and I was getting tired. It was time to head home. The smells of the restaurants along the road - yakiniku restaurants and ramen-ya - were really hitting me hard. I found my way home pretty well. (I only panicked for a couple of minutes when I couldn't find the Rokko Island Bridge and the rain was really coming down.) I had left a little before 1 PM and it was after 6:30 PM when I got home, so it was a pretty full day!

Minutes after I got home, I got a call from friends of ours who are moving to Switzerland and are having a little goodbye party at a pub called Hobgoblin in Sannomiya. As it happens, I have no other plans . . . .

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Wow, panicked, raining and you still made it back! That's my brother. Well done!! I love all the adventures!!! miss you!