Personal Space

Kamogawa River, Kyoto, Japan

123 million people living on a chain of islands less than 1/2 the size of British Columbia, Canada. This is Japan…kind of…

When many Canadians think of Japan, they think of a country jam-packed with people, factories, and office towers everywhere. Japanese cities are very densely populated but the countryside is not. Once a visitor leaves the city there are farms, mountains, lakes, parks, shrines, temples, and lots of open spaces. I lived in two large Japanese cities – Osaka & Kobe – and city life was certainly crowded. However, on the weekends I would venture off to such places as Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, north to the Sea of Japan and west to Hiroshima and Miyajima and soon the country opened up and the crowded areas quickly became fewer and fewer.

Living space and land space are restricted in Japanese cities compared to Canadian cities, and they do not have the empty, open spaces to sit and relax and watch the people go by. City life in Japan is geared towards work, not relaxation. Cities are places where people work and when work is done then people return home. Relaxation occurs in the home or temporarily in the city restaurants and bars.

Kawaramachi, Kyoto, JapanThe biggest crowds occur during rush hour, and to be frank even after living there for over 17 years I never got used to it. I used to ride the trains during rush hour and the packed trains were something I never looked forward to riding. The busy parts of the city are also very crowded – in Osaka, it was Umeda and Namba and in Kobe it was Sannomiya – and again being a Canadian I did not find the crowded places particularly pleasing.

However, despite the crowds it is relatively easy to quickly escape the hustle and bustle of the city life for the gentle, peaceful quiet of the countryside. On weekends I used to take the kids venture off into the rural areas and nearby smaller cities to explore the historical attractions. The temples, shrines, gardens and castles are great places to escape and forget about the city crowds. It is surprisingly easy to leave the city and discover the beauty of rural Japan, and in my opinion these are the best places to “re-charge your batteries” and if you are into photography the best parts of the country to take photos and videos.

The contrast between city life and country life is stark, and as a visitor it is very interesting to observe these vastly different surroundings.

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