Japan, May 2014: Day Ten

After yesterday’s excitement of Universal Studios, we deserved a day of rest and relaxation. Deciding on a leisurely trip to the local castle, we headed off on the subway for Osaka station. Once at Osaka we planned to swap lines and make a beeline for the station closest to the castle entrance; however, I couldn’t help popping my head above ground like a startled meerkat to see exactly what we were missing between trains.

What we were missing was Yodabashi Camera – an electronics store, like Bic Camera – that sells everything you ever wanted and more! Choosing this as our first destination of the day, we thought it best to find breakfast on the 8th floor and work our way back to the station in the basement. After Hawaiian pancakes, we made our way through an amazing golf shop, as well as four floors of toys and gadgets. When we next looked at the time, over 3 hours had passed and we were still miles away from the castle!

Making a swift exit, we jumped on our train (with an American chap from LA) and navigated our way to the castle grounds. Once in the park, our plan to grab some food for a picnic rapidly became a desperate search for any shop within a few miles of the place. Fortunately Google Maps now shows all the local combinis and there was one less that half a mile away. The plan to give our feet a rest was also dead by now. We walked for what seemed like an eternity, out of the park and into the city, where we found the 7 Eleven we were looking for before returning to the park to sit and eat our bag of random foodstuff.

The planned picnic in the shadow of the castle became sitting on a rock, eating rice balls by a taxi rank outside the historic grounds. Don’t get me wrong, we were enjoying the day once we’d say down.

As we ate, my ears tuned into the distant sound of thumping single cylinder 4-strokes and screaming motocross-esque 2-strokes. It sounded like someone was having fun and after a few minutes I joked that Red Bull were probably sponsoring someone to jump the castle or something stupid. The revving continued to the point that we thought there was DEFINITELY something going on and we were missing out.

I’ve never seen Emma walk so fast. We marched to the top of the castle grounds from where we overlooked the massive man-made freestyle motocross jumps that had been prepared for the X-Fighters competition sponsored by Red Bull. Apparently this was quite a big deal and like most things we do on vacation – we’d stumbled across it by accident.

We sat with some of the crazy locals (homeless crazy) and watched the action below. Whereas in the UK, these mental people can usually be found on a park bench with a can of Kestrel in their hand, in Japan an ACTUAL kestrel in your hand is the preferred past time. I’m yet to decide whether a drunk crazy or bird of prey carrying crazy is better – but the chap certainly cared for the bird and it didn’t seem to bother anyone.

By now the bikes were up to speed and flying through the air. In an effort to get better shots than the other photographers lined up in our area, I moved along the castle wall and bumped into a couple of US Army guys based in Okinawa. They’d heard about the X-Fighters coming to Osaka and flew in this morning. Emma and I continued taking snaps as the sun lowered in the sky, turning the once brilliant white castle an amazing golden yellow. It was a truly spectacular backdrop to an extreme sports event.

After the bikes had stopped, they started to sound check a traditional drum orchestra. We sat in front of the castle as drums and gongs echoed around the city. It was quite surreal and you could imagine it was like this over 400 years ago when Osaka Castle was built.

With the drums still beating, we made the long walk back to the station – passing a sound check for a Jazz Festival also being held this weekend. I managed to plan the trip to miss everything apparently.

There was time for some more washing before packing our bags ready for the morning. Thank you Osaka, you will be missed!