Sunday, March 7, 2010


October 7, 2007

I hadn’t heard the phrase “inaka” (countryside) until I got to Kanoya. Once I got to Kanoya, I heard it quite often. Rachelle said it a lot, usually whenever we couldn’t find anything. No movie theatres. “Well, this is inaka.” No big clothing chain. “Well, this is inaka.” Buses that come once an hour. Well, you get the idea....

Of course, in my mind, inaka equated to a rural area, which meant cows, a couple of barns, and one streetlight. Kanoya, roughly the size of my hometown of Victorville, was a little more developed than my mental image of “the countryside.” We are probably one of the bigger cities in our area, with several schools, stores, restaurants, karaoke parlors, pachinko parlors, and even a famous attraction: the Kanoya Rose Garden. (Don’t look for it in your Lonely Planet guide; you won’t even find Kanoya. However, to our little city it's a big deal.) Therefore, I resisted the term “inaka.” “We are not inaka,” I said. “We are the suburbs,”

But the term “inaka” has grown on me the longer I stay here. The meaning of the word is starting to shift. What makes Kanoya “inaka” as opposed to a “suburb” is access to the city, or, in other words, a train. Kanoya is one of the few places in all of Japan that doesn’t have a train station; the whole eastern half of Kagoshima Prefecture has no access to trains. In California this is no big deal, but in Japan it severely limits your ability to get around.

Yesterday, I went to Kagoshima City. Just to get there, I had to first walk to the bus stop; then take the bus to the town of Terumizu; then catch the ferry from Terumizu to Kamaoike Port; then take the bus from Kamaoike Port to Kagoshima’s Chuo Train Station, where all the action was. It took me nearly three hours.

As I was walking around Kagoshima City, I couldn’t help comparing it to Nagoya. The difference was that, in Nagoya, when I wanted to go to the big shopping area, I sat in the subway for fifteen minutes. And in Nagoya, when I wanted to see the Art Museum, I took the train: ten minutes. When I wanted to go to the garden, I walked. Everything was close and easy.

Not now.

“I went to the bookstore here,” said Rachelle, in Kanoya, as we were walking in a department store. “I asked for English books. They led me to the TOPEC.” (The English Proficency Exam for non-English speakers.)

I shrugged. “Well, this is inaka.”

No comments: