15 November, 2006

The Reality of Disparity

Today I’d like to really go into the current situation of the local economy and disparity. First of all, however, I need to note that though I say “countryside” or “rural” economy, the actual value of currency is more and more lost the further you go from the urban areas. The traditional style of self-sufficiency is still fairly strong in these areas, where they grow fresh healthy vegetables and catch lively fish. What one cannot get or grow by himself are often bartered. So even though I say disparity in terms of money digits, the weight of the same money isn’t exactly the same.

Going on – the biggest point about a lifestyle like this is that very few of them if not none consider themselves to be poor. Many of them – again, if not all – actually live happier than many of us in the urban areas so deeply drowned in materialism. If you can have good food and live slowly and relaxingly in the grand nature where materialistic stress won’t bother you, you can be happy even if your income isn’t that big.

But, the local economy that I have been writing about lately is more about the suburbs, or the local cities as we call them. It isn’t about the remote peaceful villages. It is about the cities that aren’t quite even a tenth big as Tokyo but has a fair size of population with modern buildings.

Yes, long preface. From this point on is the real writing.

As I have written a little while ago, my family runs a cafe on one of the commercial streets (we call these “shoutengai”) located in the center of one of these suburban cities. The huge shopping mall built along the national route nurtured the car society, tearing away consumers of the “shoutengai” because the shops can’t accommodate enough cars. Also, because there is no train station located close by the shopping street there is no way but to drive to enjoy shopping there – which means that more people will merely pass through or never even get close to the local “shoutengai”.

In such shift in the social mainstream, younger generations may enjoy the same sense of shopping as in urban areas but not the senior citizens. For many of them don’t have cars they have hard times shopping. Some retail stores adopt a business system called “goyoukiki”, which in fact is an old neighborhood system, asking around such citizens what they need and delivering their needs. As far as we can see, there have been efforts made. But then there are always people who take advantage of such systems, and in this case these hyenas are called convenience stores.

They are like small versions of shopping malls because they have a wide selection of goods and fresh food nowadays. It is always the big chain businesses that take advantage of everything... not that I am whining.

Of course, it is a good service for those users and is indeed proving itself to be popular. The weight of capitals these big businesses have, have so much more – devastating – impact in the suburbs. It seems like more and more shutters are being closed in the “shoutengais” and the vicious circle is growing larger and larger.

So is the national government working on this issue? That, I will dig into in the following entries.

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