Somewhere between the neverending trips to Kyoto I found time to visit my other nearby metropolis, Osaka. I don’t mean to make neverending trips to Kyoto sound like a bad thing, because there are far, far more historical and cultural things to do in Kyoto than there are in Osaka, but honestly a trip to Osaka was long overdue.
And, if anything can be said about Osaka to make it superior to Kyoto (aside from Universal Studios) it’s the fact that Osaka feels like a big city. It really felt almost like Chicago or New York walking around the tall skyscrapers and taking the subway. It’s feeling of “bigness” is something Kyoto just doesn’t seem to have as much of.
Osaka is the third biggest city in Japan. I believe it used to be the second, but has been overtaken by Yokohama. In my view, Yokohama seems more like a glorified suburb of Tokyo than it does its own city (sort of like Aurora now being the second biggest city in Illinois even though it would be nothing if Chicago weren’t 45 minutes away).
Nonetheless, Osaka really does have that “big city” feel, and nothing was more exemplary of that than when I visited Dotonburi, a vibrant, bright, neon-esque little street in downtown Osaka. I took some pictures I might get up here eventually, but there were probably more people on this street and surrounding area than I have ever seen in my life. I know that Japan’s population is dropping significantly year by year, but there was absolutely no evidence of this on that night! Part of the reason for this is because it is–of course–a giant city. I’ve learned in one of my classes that a government measure has been to centralize headquarters of major companies in big cities (mostly Tokyo). This is partially responsible for the extreme population density in the big city areas, and the long commute times for anyone working in cities. The neighborhoods around the Osaka/Kyoto area that I’ve explored are packed in very tight. Houses are small and yards also. Anyway all these people have to go somewhere and I guess it’s Osaka on Friday nights…
Anyway, Dotonburi was fascinating, and I also went to karaoke with some friends. Singing U2 was never so much fun, with the exception of a U2 concert. Also an interesting experience was a Chinese restaurant that played contemporary popular music. There was one case where the Macarena was played. And I thought…okay…a Spanish song that was popularized in the U.S. being played in a Chinese restaurant in Japan… Small world.