One of the drawbacks of having an amazing public transportation system is that no one really knows the distance between any two points. If you ask anyone in Osaka the rough distance between, say, Umeda and Namba (the two most important districts in downtown Osaka), most people will answer that it takes ten minutes to get from one to the other on the Midosuji Line. Well, how about the distance between Osaka and Nara? Forty-five minutes on the Kintetsu Line, comes the quick response. Distance equals time travelled: if you live in a Japanese city, that makes perfect sense. Likewise, if you use airplanes very often, it also makes perfect sense – 9 hours flying time to Vancouver is all you need to know. But what if you’re wistfully trying to get back into shape and decide to take a brisk walk now and then from Umeda to Namba – how far will you have walked? Beads of sweat form on the interviewee’s forehead (manga-like thought balloon: ”Why is he asking me that? What is he accusing me of?”). Osakans are city folks; no one has a clue.
For the record, I had to look it up online: just over 4 km, if you walk the length of the Midosuji (御堂筋), Osaka’s main boulevard. Like New York, Osaka’s straight, broad avenues (筋) run north-south, its streets（道) run east-west; the main streets, the main avenues, that is. The dozens of blocks in between are so twisted they put bonsai to shame. It’s when you get off the beaten path that you realize how old this city really is.
To be continued.