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After this generous dosage of sightseeing, we set off for Osaka. We merged into the stream of traffic, every now and then turning into side streets, as bikes were sometimes disallowed on the main roads. After reaching Osaka, we got completely lost – my sense of direction was out of order. It took us a few hours to find a tourist information office. When asked about the way, locals would serve us totally incomprehensible information, waving their hands around and talking a lot. Finally, we found the right place, received some helpful directions, and took some maps. I also learned where the Shimano factory was situated – it was one of the key destinations during our expedition. Since we had an appointment there, we wasted no time. At the factory we were given a very warm welcome. Before we visited the site, we were invited into a room where a detailed account was given of the company's past and present. Constructed in 1921, the factory was named after its founder (the Shimano family still owns the company). From the very beginning it has been headquartered in Sakai, 20 km outside of Osaka. The first product manufactured there was a freewheel – this is how Shimano made its debut. The company has established a stronger position in the global market relatively recently, when mountain bikes became fashionable. Shimano is also a renowned manufacturer of fishing tackle. Some fishing reels that I was shown – called multiplying reels – simply amazed me. Firstly, they were made of titanium and secondly, they featured microchips that practically made it impossible to come back from a fishing outing with empty hands. All parameters, including bite indication, were displayed on a built-in LCD screen. I was shocked!

Then we went on a factory tour. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in production halls – trade secret. We saw almost the whole site, save for areas with strictly controlled access, e.g. design department. However, I found out that around 100 people worked there, developing computer-assisted designs of equipment that would be launched in 3-4 years. In another room, parts and accessories from various companies and groups were tested in extreme conditions, e.g. while covered in mud.

STX group products were manufactured on that day. I saw very few people in the production rooms. All the work was performed by robots, which – by the way – were manufactured on-site. Only three top quality groupsets (DuraAce, XTR, Deore XT) are manufactured under human supervision. After finished goods are packaged, they are transported to an impressive, fully automated warehouse.

In the end we were given some souvenirs. Now we only faced a 20 km section from the factory to the airport, which was constructed quite recently on an artificial island made of landfill, some 50 km from the centre of Osaka. As was the case with Narita, we experienced certain difficulties. In short, we were not allowed to cycle to the airport. Between the island and the shore there was a 5 km bridge with a highway, from which bikes were banned. There was neither a separate footbridge nor a bicycle path. However, there was a 1.5 m wide hard shoulder, so we decided to use it to reach our destination. After pedalling for some 500 m, we suddenly heard a loud voice coming from loudspeakers: "Bicycles stop! This is a road only for cars". We looked around – what was going on? The eyes of a few cameras set up at the bridge were pointed at us. I had a weird feeling that I travelled in time towards a future in which my every move was followed by electronic eyes. Ugh! I quickly shook the vision out of my head. Still, we were forced to turn back, or else the police would make us do it. We stopped by at a hotel situated next to the bridge entry, and asked for help. At the beginning the Japanese could not understand what we wanted. They kept telling us that we could leave the bicycles and go to the airport by train. Finally we explained that in an hour and a half we were to set off together with the bikes. The Japanese came to the conclusion that we had no other choice but take a taxi – it would cost us 80 dollars plus another 16 bucks for accessing the airport area by car. I thought I'd hit the roof when I heard it. Eventually the hotel staff asked permission from their supervisors, and agreed to give us a lift for free. We were only supposed to pay the airport fee.

Before boarding the plane, we ended our stay in Japan making yet another payment – so-called departure tax totalling USD 25 per person. When I sat down on the plane, I felt an incredible sense of relief. Our problems were finally over. The only thing left was to fly back home. The Finnair aircraft took us to Helsinki, from were we flew to Warsaw. Then we packed our belongings on a train and headed for Poznań! Those three hours on the train seemed like infinity. At that point we really missed our families. They waited for us at the railway station with a big banner. Thus our expedition came to an end. After almost a year of preparations, we finished the 35-day journey around Japan, having covered a distance of 3000 km.