Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

So This Is Life in the City...

I have now officially been a "city slicker" for almost two months. That's about how long it has been since my quiet, country town of Aso (motto: "Everyone is from here, but nobody lives here") merged with the towns of Tamatsukuri and Kitaura to become Namegata City. Actually, not much has changed.

Come to think of it, what has changed? They didn't waste any time changing every single sign in the area that mentioned the names of the three towns. Aso city hall is now "Namegate City Hall, Aso Branch". The local community center is the "Namegata-Aso Community Center", which means the much, much better hall over in former Kitaura (motto: "If you blink, you'll miss everything but our BITCHIN' culture hall!") is now probably "Namegata-Kitaura Culture Center". (Hmm...does that mean I can use it at a discount now that I'm a local?) Other than that, and the snap mayoral election with only a month's notice, the only other noticeable change has been our tap water, which now has a distinctive smell of sulfur that wasn't there before. Apparently Aso's water supply has been switched from the excellent treatment center in Sawara to the much more iffy one in Tamatsukuri, since it is now "local" (i.e. the government saves money).

There hasn't been any noticeable change in the water rates, though, and that's actually a good thing. When Itako absorbed Ushibori to become Itako City a few years ago, people living in Ushibori suddenly had their water rates go up 30%. There are definitely dangers that lie in this incorporation fever that's sweeping the area, as this case clearly shows. It also shows how such joining of towns can be very one-sided when one has more influence than the other. In this case, Ushibori was simply no match for Itako, which was larger, richer, and had both a long history and a nationally-famous name. There was never any doubt in anyone's mind that Itako would simply swallow Ushibori and spit out the bones later, just as Kashima did when it assimilated Ono village and became Kashima City.

The same thing happened when Kamisu and Hasaki finally ended their tumultuous, decades-long courtship (which was originally supposed to include Kashima) and merged earlier this year. Hasaki's long history and unique dialect just simply couldn't win out over Kamisu's big bucks, swelling upper-middle-class population, and arrogant, pushy attitude. Like an ambitious yuppie couple moving into an old neighborhood, sweet-talking everyone into selling them their property, and then becoming the local bullies, Kamisu simply conquered and annexed its venerable neighbor, made the whole lot Kamisu City, and proceeded to treat Hasaki like a bramble-filled backyard it would rather forget. The people living in former Hasaki are definitely not happy about it (especially the town government and educational workers that are in serious danger of having their jobs twisted apart if not replaced altogether by Kamisu's unbelievably cavalier attitude toward the merger). Now there is even talk that a beautiful new, high-tech city hall is going to be the former Kamisu administration...on the side of the city bordering Kashima, i.e. on the opposite side from Hasaki. That clever bit of urban development pretty much carves in stone precisely the attitude the new Dark Overlords have toward the Hasaki element of their subjects.

Because of these problems, everyone is wondering what is going to happen when the last three towns in the Rokko District of Ibaraki Prefecture, Hokota, Taiyo, and Asahi, join together to become Hokota City. Hokota is the largest, oldest, and most populous of the three, hence the use of its name, but Taiyo (which has lots of popular beach resorts) and Asahi (one of Japan's #1 watermelon producers if not #1) both have far more bucks. There are already rumors circulating that the people of Taiyo and Asahi are screaming bloody murder since the new city is planning on imposing Hokota's more expensive and much more draconian garbage laws on everyone. It's doubtful Hokota's well-meaning but underfunded (though quite corrupt), rural administration would be able to stand up to determined opposition from either of its two new, wealthier provinces.

I guess, for these reasons, I should be thankful that Aso, Tamatsukuri, and Kitaura have been going out of their way to be equal partners in this new project called Namegata City. Still, it has been a chaotic mess so far, and the people are still wondering if anything is really getting done...other than quickly repainting all the signs.

Wow. It's hard to believe that, only a few years ago, the map of Ibaraki looked like this (look at the lower-right corner...the "legs", if you will...):


  • Nice legs.

    By Anonymous Jeff Nicholson, at 7:32 AM  

  • We will not be vasals! We have a castle under construction and an army is in training at Kashima Jingu.

    No more shaddy deals by swishy politicians in smoke-filled rooms. We will not obey men with money but no balls and no honor!

    At the right moment, we will pounce like white tigers, our cold steel will flash, and we will return to our castle with our trophy - a bucket full of their noses. We demand respect and if it is not forthcoming, we will exact revenge.

    By Anonymous Byakkotai, at 4:25 PM  

  • Captain, he's lying!

    By Anonymous Some swishy sailor, at 7:40 PM  

  • No garbage laws! Free dumping for everyone!

    I thought that was already being practiced here.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:47 PM  

  • That's not dumping. That's called "open-source recycling". Basically, when you buy a new appliance every two years, you dump your perfectly good, old one near a beach or park so that the gaijin can collect them and use them for free. Everyone is happy!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:45 PM  

  • we students love open-source recycling! :-P

    By Blogger YD, at 8:21 PM  

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