Never to rural to download

By Amelia Newcomb | October 09, 2008 | Japan

Last week I visited a rural town on the northern tip of Japan’s southern island of Shikoku. It was the kind of town that is often referenced as people talk about the hollowing out of Japan’s countryside as young people leave for the city. Getting there means traversing what some might call death-defyingly narrow and curvaceous roads. Two thousand people share the river that runs through town and the cedars that blanket the towering mountains on all sides. They know each others’ goings on.

It’d be easy to think life is pretty remote up there.

Naturally, it’s not.

Cellphones are a given, and not a cellphone call in our party ever dropped out. I can’t make that claim in my town 14 miles outside of Boston. And then there’s Internet access. We talked at one point to a Mrs. Ni (pronounced knee), who kindly opened her tiny home to us. In the course of conversation, I asked about her family. Grandchildren? Of course, she said. In fact, she had just gotten a picture of them this morning. “Let me show it to you,” she said.

I expected her to grab an envelope as she reached into another room. But instead, there on the kotatsu – a low table that provides heat to your legs and feet as you sit at it – was a late-model computer and a printer. I may have barely been able to stand up in her traditional home, which had clearly hosted her family for many, many years, but she had the latest technology. In fact, the entire town is wired with fiber optic. Mrs. Ni produced a charming photo of her three grandies, printed on high-quality paper and already encased in a protective sleeve, and I cooed in proper admiration. “I just downloaded it this morning,” she said proudly.

View All Posts By Amelia Newcomb

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