Japan visit 2012 (part 1)

(originally written May 28, uploaded July 20)

Usually, when I visit my in-laws, I take the train from Tokyo. This time though, I flew in to Sendai Airport, which had been flooded in the post-earthquake tsunami last year. (Japanese folks have taken to referring to the disaster as 3/11.)

As we drove in, we passed a number of FEMA-type emergency housing trailers, where people who had lost their houses in last years earthquake/ tsunami are currently living. Apparently the earthquake damaged some condo complexes (Japanese condos are called mansions, hilariously enough) so some of those have been abandoned as well. There’s enough work to be done rebuilding things as it is, so these damaged buildings haven’t yet been torn down. They just stand there, projecting a ghostly emptiness.

Though it’s in the temperate zone – Sendai is at about 38°N instead of Vancouver’s 49°N – there is a distinct tropical feel to the place. Part of this may be the persistence / virulence of the greenery here – it sprouts out of every nook and cranny, like facial-orifice hair on very elderly gentlemen. :)  Seeing this, one immediately understands the inevitability that jungles would overrun the ruins of abandoned-but-not-all-that-ancient civilizations.

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With too many people crammed into too little space, it’s still common to see rice fields in the sorta-rural enclaves between towns. Although this makes no sense from a purely economic standpoint, it makes sense from a geopolitical one: while they could probably generate more revenue from land by developing it, Japan already imports about one-third of its calories!  Becoming ever-more depending on food imports would be a bit of an Achilles’ heel…

There remains a tradition of giving fruit as gifts in Japan, which is what sparks the insane food price inflation the country is infamous for.  While I saw a high-end general-purpose mango for 1200 yen ($15 Cdn), gift mangos, blemish-free and beautifully boxed, retailed at the bargain price of 12,600 yen ($150) per pair.  Yowza!

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