This blog is currently being brought to you from a house about 50 yards from the river Go in extremely rural Japan as you can see from the picture below which I took this morning. For those curious souls who want to know where in Japan this the answer is - find Hiroshima and go north about 130 km. and if that isn't much use then it is approximately under the 4 of the "34" in this map.
Being stuck in the middle of nowhere, and a foreign middle of nowhere at that, not to mention having been without any internet for 3 days (travelling and tourism), I was fascinated to start reading blogs again and see what I missed. About the only thing that seems likely to be of long term importance is the Bali attack, everything else looks like the usual hurricane in a teacup. I mean if you start from the assumptions that the MSM hates Bush and conservatives, reflexively opposes policies that they espouse - even if they supported them when espouses by someone else, and sees no reason not to blatently twist the words of anyone they disagree with then about 99% of all the comments on US blogs can be predicted in general terms. With some slight changes of MSM gods/devils the same can be said for Europe too.
Perhaps in Japan I can get a sense of perspective - although distance is not always a palliative - about events elsewhere. Although the scenery is fantastic and the sense of peace palpable, the rural idyl is easily pieced once you take a closer look. Rural Japan, for example, is the beneficiary of pork to a degree that would make the average French farmer or Louisiana politician choke on his subsidy application. Although the rules have broken down slightly, for the last 50 years the pact between rural Japan and their politicians has been we vote for you, you get the cities to pay for our roads and other amenities. The results are displays of concrete, in terms of bridges, tunnels, cuttings, embankments, dams etc. that are utterly boggling. Trust me the inhabitants of Shimaneken aren't worried about typhoons washing their roads etc away. On the other hand though, while there is corruption in the quid pro quo sense, there isn't the sort of corruption you see where shoddy materials get substituted for the real thing. I'm very glad that I haven't had to pay for it but the work is generally speaking top quality and earthquake proof. One reason why other countries suffer more in disasters is that stuff is rarely built to spec; we know that earthquake death tolls in countries such as China, Iran and Turkey were higher than they should have been because many buildings were built below offiical standards (I'd also be curious to know why the various causeways in Mississippi/Louisiana collapsed), and, despite some unexpected discoveries in the Kobe earthquake, I think it is fair to say that this is not the case in Japan.
I need to stop and go to bed, so I'm going to leave with one final point. Gasoline prices in Japan do not seem to have risen as much as they have in Europe (or the US) over the last year or two. Petrol now costs about ¥125/litre and some 18 months ago it cost about ¥105/litre which translates to a roughly 20% rise in price. Petrol in France has easily risen 30% over the same timeframe and it could be worse. I have no idea why this is so, it could be exchange rate issues, but it is one thing that makes Japan seem to be cheaper that it used to be.