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Well I'm officially overloaded on Shrines and Temples. Luckily, I managed to go an entire day without visiting one today! I think I may have inadvertently glanced at one, but I didn't mean to!
Osaka was sort of the logical next step before moving South. It's just 25 minutes or so from Kyoto, and is actually distinctly different from other places I've been. It seems to have a much more Western or cosmopolitan feel, though that may just be due to the area I'm staying in. There's sort of a central corridor between two stations where most of the shopping seems to be, there's large covered corridors and shops for miles. Just a block away from the covered shops on a large road are the bigger, luxury retailers. I stopped by Rolex after window shopping some Mcclarens.
I checked out an underground shopping mall where apparently everything is closed on Thursdays, as well as the main station with another few hundred shops around it and a skypark with a nice city view before finishing with a simple park at sunset, the best way to end any day!
I think what makes the downtowns of Japanese cities so much more vibrant and centered is that instead of being mixed use, they seem to be entirely retail/office/bars. That means all those 6 story buildings I mentioned earlier? Each floor is literally a different shop or karaoke place or bar or store. In the US, we tend to only have things on the ground floor in many areas, with apartments above or neighboring apartment buildings. But by forming these sort of mega-areas, it means 6x more bar and restaurant density. Imagine the mission in San Francisco stacked on top of the Marina on top of SOMA, that's basically what it's like.
The effect is ultimately a way cooler feel. Instead of wandering blocks between bars in SOMA on a Thursday, Osaka was pretty crowded even at 10pm tonight; it makes the neighborhood feel way more vibrant. The bar I went to last night was literally next to and below the bar I went to tonight. Who knew!?! And obviously with stacked buildings you need stacked signs, and that's where the famous lights and billboards come into play. Definitely feels very alive. Anyways, just a few urban planning thoughts as I depart my last big city. Onwards and southwards!