June 07, 2012

Off the beaten track


In chapter 30 of Serpent of Time, Ryô and Kuwada travel from Kudoyama to Mt. Kôya on the Nankai Kôya line.

I describe such a trip in chapter 2 of The Path of Dreams:

[Connor] skipped his stop and rode the Midosuji to the end of the line. At Nakamozu he transferred to the Nankai and continued south. Past Nakamozu the metropolis ended. Past Sayama the suburbs ended. The sleeper communities appeared farther and farther apart, tiny villages tucked into the corners of the terraced mountain valleys.

Heading south out of Osaka is like cruising north from New York City on the Taconic State Parkway. In twenty minutes or less, you can venture out of Tomorrowland and find yourself smack dab in the Middle of Nowhere.

The remoteness of these rural train stations is a testament to Japan's population density, 130 million people crammed into the same area as California, and then squeezed all the more into the Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka/Kyoto megalopolises. It's a near-perfect power law distribution.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Nankai Kôya line is blessed by having a great big city at one end and a great big tourist attraction at the other. Many rural lines are far less fortunate, and have the bad habit of turning into gaping money pits.

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