Why you Should Cycle Osaka City at Night


Riding through the city at night is a very different experience. With much less traffic you get a chance to wind through the neon glow and see a unique side to the iconic sights of the city.


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The Flow State

Getting into a flow state while riding is something cyclists often talk to each other about. It is one of the pleasures of riding and I think cycling at night is conducive to getting into the flow state.

Cycling in the evening and especially at night is meditative and when you think of Osaka city meditative or relaxing probably aren't the first words that come to mind.

But, after hours the city calms and with less traffic and pedestrians to contend with, you can really focus on the ride and fall into the trance that comes when spinning the pedals.

The cycling path along the Oo river near Temmabashi, Osaka seen while cycling at night.

In certain spots you might find yourself clicking through the gears and accelerating with power and precision while other times you might slow down and breath in the crisp evening air as you zigzag through the city.

Riding around Osaka at night is a calming experience that gives you a chance to do some thinking, reflect, or simply spin the pedals and find your flow.

Less traffic

Osaka is busy and the city can be a hectic place to ride during the day.

After the workday finishes the roads get much quieter making for a more relaxed ride and also the ability to cycle through spots that are too congested during peak hours.

Cycling path on Nakanoshima island, Osaka seen while cycling at night.jpg

As the traffic empties and the roads open up you can start attacking sections and thinking of parts of the city as road bike routes with different segments.

Make the most of the open roads and feel the thrill of putting your bike through its paces as you navigate turns, obstacles and push yourself up inclines.

Moving around the city is also much faster at night so you can cover more ground and take in the different architecture and characteristics found in the various neighborhoods.

Harukas in Tennoji seen while cycling at night.

Be an observer to evening revelry

Cycling is one of the best ways to see Osaka's colourful nightlife and to explore the social subcultures that permeate the city.

You can pass restaurants and bars sometimes stopping to peek in to catch a glimpse of the social scenes unfolding inside.

A local restaurant in Nipponbashi, Osaka seen while cycling at night.

You can soak up the distinct bar and club atmosphere of the buzzing streets in Namba and Shinsaibashi, the counterculture hip-hop vibe in America-mura, the chic and stylish restaurants of Minami-senba or the raw feel of the neighborhoods in Shinsekai, Nipponbashi and Tennoji.

It's interesting to see the different styles, vibes and characters that make up the different parts of the city and to get more of a glimpse into the lifestyles of local Japanese people.

Osaka has a reputation for food, fun and humour and the restaurant and bar scene is one of the best places to experience Osaka culture.

Backstreets of Nipponbashi seen while cycling at night.

Ride around Osaka Castle

If you want to cycle around Osaka castle, doing so at night is arguably the best time.

In the later hours there are few to no people and the roads and paths wrapping around the castle become the perfect place to fly around on the bike and take in the beautiful view of the castle.

Osaka castle seen from a castle park path while cycling around at night.

The castle is lit at night and looks stunning. You are free to cycle around the park grounds on the outside of the moat or enter the castle grounds on one of the bridges crossing the moat to the center.

They leave two or three of the main entries over the moat open at night so if one of the gates is closed keep riding around and try the next one.

Beautiful Osaka castle viewed while cycling at night.

The different roads, bridges and paths that surround the castle and its park are perfect for cycling and night time is when you can really enjoy the ride.

You can do laps of the outside, traverse bridges, ride up ramps and get up close and personal with the castle.

You can really feel the presence of the iconic landmark at night and appreciate the history and culture of Osaka and Japan. The castle proudly stands near the centre of the city and is a constant reminder of the uniqueness of Japan.

Osaka castle seen from close at night while riding bikes.

Discover landmarks at night

Aside from the castle, there are other landmarks in Osaka that come alive at night and show a different side than what's visible during the day.

The Tsutenkaku in Shinsekai is a great example of a cult Osaka sight that you should try and see at night too.

The tower gleams in neon and is an unmistakable example of the economic boom that followed WW2 when Japan really was building their new world and identity.

The Tsutenkaku tower in Shin-sekai seen while cycling at night.

Night photography

Exploring Osaka by bike at night gives you one of the best chances to take some pictures and capture some of the soul of Osaka.

Whether you’re nearly Instagram famous, a blogger, point and shoot holiday snapper or a serious photographer, Osaka offers brilliant night photography opportunities.

The dotombori river seen while cycling at night.

The neon glow, the thousands of small bars and restaurants and the massive consumer and restaurant culture make for captivating scenes at night.

You'll no doubt stumble upon a lively small bar or restaurant down a side-street that would be nearly invisible during the day.

We travel for these spontaneous moments and there is no shortage of them in Osaka at night so get your camera ready and fire away.

An entry to a local bar and restaurant in Namba seen while cycling at night.

Night Cycling Route

This is an example of a shorter ride that goes through the following areas:

  1. Start on the Oo river in Sakuranomiya
  2. Head to Osaka Castle
  3. Then south to Tennoji
  4. Through Tennoji park
  5. Past the Tsutenkaku tower and Shinsekai
  6. North through Nipponbashi
  7. Continue through Minami (Namba, Shinsaibashi and Minami senba)
  8. Continue to Higobashi, Yodoyabashi and Nakanoshima
  9. Return to Sakuranomiya along the Oo river

Details of the ride:

  • Distance: 23km
  • Elevation: 556m
  • Traffic conditions: Best after 9pm
  • View on Strava >

Tips for Night Riding

Riding at night is fun and we want you all to enjoy the buzz incident-free. Below are some tips to help you stay safe on the bike while cruising the streets after dark.

Be seen

The most important thing when riding at night is being seen. Wear cycling gear with some hi-vis materials if you have it but if not just try and wear some bright clothes to help you stand out.

It's also important to check your batteries for your lights to make sure your lights are as bright as they can be.

Focus

Just because there is less traffic that's no reason to switch off and cycle around without taking proper care. Your vision is worse because of the dark so make sure you are scanning the roads for potential dangers and obstacles.

I find pedestrians can be a danger at night mainly because they don't have lights and can suddenly change directions without checking what's coming behind them. Take care as you approach pedestrians and expect them to do the unexpected.

No drunk biking

While it can be tempting to stop at a cafe, bar or convenience store and quench your thirst with a cold one mid ride please don't.

Riding bicycles after drinking alcohol is illegal in Japan and dangerous. If you've got plans to meet friends after your ride make sure you return your bike or lock it up for the night then head out.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people in Osaka that ride after drinking and I can assure you there are a lot of accidents too.

Final thoughts

Osaka is amazing during the day and at night. If you are on a bike or plan to rent a bike while in Osaka we recommend experiencing both and seeing the different sides to the city.

Cycling at night in offers a unique experience and if you get the chance to do it while here I recommend giving it a go.

How about you? Have you ridden at night in Osaka? If so, let us know about your experiences and any tips you have in the comments below.

 

1 comment

  • A very interesting post Ian. Keep up the good work!

    Eamonn Gunning

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