Osaka is very different from Tokyo. Same busy-ness but you feel immediately another sense of energy. Almost an hysterical one. While Tokyo is more self-controlled, Osaka people are loud, outgoing and very communicative. Once you pass the surprise of the contrast with Tokyo, you're actually completely trapped into that wild flow. It's radically attractive.
I stayed in the Hotel Chuo, advised in my friend Madjid's site on travel tips to Japan (in french). The hotel is located in what is known as a rather sketchy area. But with the sense of safety at work in Japan, it really doesn't matter. At 2500 Yen a night (20 euros) for a comfy room with TV and of course free Internet access, 2 metro stops away from the trendy shopping district, the wildlife world of Osaka is yours to be drown into.
Hopefully for my savings account, I had to move to Kyoto soon after to start working intensively on shooting gardens.
Just half-an-hour away from Osaka by local train, Kyoto welcomes you with an energy again strikingly different.
It's not quite the quiet town with only traditional houses you imagine but it's seductive all the same. It's much more laid-back, rythmically spread into calm upper residential districts, temples touristic zones and arty-bars-shopping areas. Kyoto is a city much like Paris in some way, more conservative and traditional culture-oriented. And I understand now why so many french people have decided to settle here. It's home to the famous artist-in-residence Villa Kujoyama that I'd like to apply for - again.
I got the chance to visit it through Fabrice Planquette, a sound composer, friend of Etienne, who's in residence there at the moment. The building of the villa is a wonderful concrete modern architecture, unusual for the area. The artist studio is so well designed and thought for - mixing concrete material and the surrounding nature. The grant is worth getting if only just for working in the building itself.
Then, the people of Kyoto make the other reason why I think it's important not only to travel there but to spend some time of your life in this place where you learn every second about humanity.