Above is an google map of Sakae Village. The place I live. To be precise, I live just about in the middle of orange road (rt 117) and train track pass through the village in the North. It is difficult to estimate scale by looking at this image, but we will get to that later.
I live in a small valley in the North of the village along with most of the other people. There are a few who live along Rt 405 in another narrow valley, but not many. All in all, we are about 2,200 people. We live and farm in about 10% of the 272 square kilometers. The rest is forest and mountain.
I recently was introduced to a cool mapping program (thanks Joe) that allows me to superimpose the outline of my village with anyplace in the world. I had fun using it and imagining lots of things. You can move my village at this link.
My village is ranked among the most sustainable in Japan – meaning if there was a major tragedy, we have all the resources we need to live here (except for guns to keep all the other people out, but that is a different story)
Before I start, I don’t want to say that we are better because we happen to have abundant natural resources and low population. We are just lucky. It has always annoyed me when people looked to Sweden as a “Sustainability Model”, yet there are many times more people in Tokyo than in the whole of Sweden. Its easy to be sustainable when no one really wants to live there (its really cold and dark in winter).
I wanted to see what our sustainable village looks like on a map compared to what is probably the most unsustainable place on earth – Dubai.
Dubai fills our village with people and streets and buildings, yet they have no were near the life-giving resources we have. As is true with any of the upcoming big cities, more people live in a single apartment complex than our entire village.
A lot of people ask me why Japan can not make money on rice and farming.
Look at this image of our village imposed over a random area in kansas. It is completely filled with fields. Remember that our village is 90% forest and mountain, as is most of rural Japan. Kansas is not a big rice grower, but California is. I was musing with a rice farmer in nearby Matsumoto a while back about how if it was California or Kansas, the entire area of the Matsumoto Valley would probably be owned and operated by only a few people or companies. The Matsumoto plain is pretty big by our standards, and there are many many many many farmers who live and work there.
Along the theme of sustainability and guns, this is our village superimposed over Tokyo.
In November I read that Fukushima is worse than they thought, and that another huge earthquake might require the evacuation of Tokyo. The first thing I thought was that I gotta get a gun (assuming my area would still be safe to live in).
A few weeks ago I visited a friend who had a great apartment in a high-rise in Yokohama. Within two years of purchasing it another apartment was built next door and she complained that it blocked her view.
Both buildings together probably house more people than my village.
What happens if they have to evacuate?
I will gladly offer my spare rooms and futons, but even then I can only house twenty people.
A big deal was made of the earthquake here last year? Last last year? I was not too impressed. Compare that to past quakes in L.A., or Tokyo (see previous Tokyo photo above)
One thing I love about our village is the open area, and a few years ago when I was hiking in the cascades with Outward Bound, I marveled at the fact that you can stand at the top of a mountain and not see any populated valley. Also that it would take days to walk out if someone was injured. I couldn’t imagine that in Japan, although my village is thought of as “wilderness”.
Above is our village in the Cascades, and in Yellowstone.
This made me want to see us in the outback, so the photo below has a blue dot that looks like a lake to the right of “Western Australia”. And just for fun, I noticed that our village fits almost completely into the Amazon River.
Below, my village superimposed onto my home town, in both map and satellite form. And also Grand Rapids (because my brother and his family live there). In the Bay City map you can see where most of the 2,200 people live – right along the Saginaw river between Essexville and the Euclid Bridge.
San Francisco and New York and Chicago fit nicely with the outline of our village, so I added them too.