Living Space: The View from a Field

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Since in Japan living space is at such a premium, a house on a large plot of land is almost always an indication of wealth. It is easy to forget that in many parts of the world people can be quite poor and still own a considerable amount of terrain. Soil quality and proximity to just about anything that might be considered civilisation are certainly considerable influences on the monetary value of the land, but for one who has become accustomed to living right up against the neighbours in a crowded 'rural' area shoved in between some mountains, the sheer expanse of space is itself utterly dazzling.
 
It should be known that the Japanese language contains no word semantically identical to the English word countryside. This word is often mistranslated as inaka, which actually means an urban area without access to the Shinkansen. It contains none of the nuance of fresh air, rolling hills, and desolate beauty that the word countryside conveys. (In fact, inaka is decidedly pejorative, whereas countryside never is.) Without such a word in the language, the concept is inevitably hazy.
 
The last time I visited the Midwest of the United States I came back rejuvenated, simply by spending so much time removed from the sights and sounds of human habitation.
 
It helps to remember that most regions of the US contain the word west--Midwest, Pacific Northwest, West Coast, and simply the West--are so called because the country started on the East Coast and expanded inward. The frontier spirit of hardy and tenacious folks allowed them to survive only on what they could wring out of a wild and hostile land by the labours of their own hands. Today their descendents largely (pun intended) shop at convenience stores and sit around the idiot box eating wings and potato chips, but there remains a culture born out of the frontier spirit. It's why nearly every Midwestern homesteader has an American flag flying in on a pole in his front yard (the rest fly Trump flags).* And it's why most of them still carry guns wherever they go.
 
Actually, I thought this last bit was surprising, because I wasn't aware of it when I lived there. In total, I spent more time in New York and California, where no one I knew owned a gun or had even touched one. Consequently I assumed that the 'everybody there has a gun' stereotype was simply a fiction created by the Japanese out of sensationalist media and Hollywood movies. Now I can say I've been to a place where the stereotype is actually true.
 
While I admit the culture surrounding firearms did make it difficult to consider setting up a second home in that part of the world, the people were at once polite and friendly--contrasted to California, where the friendliness is downright obnoxious, or New York, where people are simply rude--the dialect came back naturally, the food was delicious, and the amount of spacious land had to be experienced to be believed.
 
*I'm exaggerating. A little. 
 
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