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Friday, December 10, 2010

THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD (Part 21: Honorable Mention--Japan)

The following continues my serialization of Chapter 6 from SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS. (My updated editorial comments are italicized.)


Japan has 3,000 islands, the highest life expectancy (81.25 years--Did you know that the U.S. actually dropped this year?  Obesity?) of a developed country, second biggest world economy (replaced this year by China--although we tend to forget that the European Union has a larger economy than so called #1 USA) and tenth ranking world population. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area on the globe with 30 million people. The country is a constitutional monarchy with an emperor, plus an elected parliament.

My ancestors came from Japan. I’ve been everywhere (well, not quite to all those islands) in that country and, save for the regrettable fact that I don’t speak nor read the language, I feel comfortable with the lifestyle there and safe in any city there.  The food is fabulous, science and technology leading edge, culture everywhere prevalent with all those temples and such, Mount Fuji imposing (especially when covered with snow), Shinkansen (bullet train) efficient and, unlike Europe, there are almost no strikes. The Fall colors are magnificent and the Spring Sakura (cherry blossom) season dazzling. I regularly in 
April spend a hanami (picnic) with, perhaps, a sake, Kirin beer and Kentucky Fried Chicken lunch. I try to make the meal as hybrid as possible around local imbibibles (with an American touch). The Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming was drawn up there and Hokkaido is the site of the 2008 G8 summit, focusing on the global environment.

There are hurricanes (called typhoons there), earthquakes and tsunamis. Anyone who is not a native Japanese is referred to as a gaijin, or alien. Even though I look Japanese, I cannot be accepted into their society. I can imagine how much worse it must be for a Korean or any other nationality. Conversely, if you are obviously not Japanese, anyone in that country will go way out of his way to help you find your way, even though very few speak conversational English. Visit Japan, certainly, but move there? Probably not.  (Although immigration without citizenship  should not be a problem.)

I've flown into Japan more than a hundred times and Shinkansened and JR'd to every possible corner of the country, including Wakannai and Kagoshima, the North and South limits, although further south is Okinawa, the almost equivalent of Hawaii (same population, climate, lack of industry with a military presence, etc.), where I tried to form a working partnership, including Miyakojima in our Green Enertopia consortium.  Kagoshima has some redeeming virtues, Okinawa less so and there is no hope for Wakannai.   In particular, the annual Chrysanthemum Festival (right photo, and, yes, Sakurajima was erupting when I was last there) is something worthy of viewing.  More recently I've focused on Hokkaido from where my father's father, Kenjiro Takahashi, came and Northern Honshu, particularly Akita, probably home of his parents.

NEXT:  The European Union.

The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 40 to 11,410, while world markets were mixed.  Gold dropped a buck to $1387/toz, while gasoline prices in the U.S. rose to a 2-year high, with petroleum just under $88/barrel.


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