Hagi with it’s 56,000 people is a very little town in Japan. There are many villages and hamlets scattered through the mountains and along the coastline that have smaller populations of course but Hagi has played a pivotial part in Japanese history and life, so it outshines it’s size.
Korean pottery styles were adopted here in 14/15th centuries and today the city is crammed with potters spinning bowls and shaping earth.
It was also where the plot was hatched to introduce western technology and trade to Japan. The plot headed by Yoshida failed when the US commander Perry gave him up to his enemies. Yoshida’s dreams were realised but only after he died and his friends went on to be Prime Ministers and Members of the Cabinet.
Today this beautiful city that is an island bounded by two rivers and the Sea of Japan is so quiet. The samurai castle was ripped down as were the giant busts of Lenin in Moscow. In the back streets you can still find real samurai houses and whole neighbourhoods whose walls date back to that era. People live in restored houses from that time. Its old Japan in many ways.
I made my way around the town on a hired bicycle. The traffic here is non existent and it’s as flat as a tack. You can cycle around the laneways and see shrines and traditional housing. Shoji screened houses that Prime Ministers and warriors have lived in. Little steams flow along streets where coloured carp glide. The city is criss-crossed with the canals and streams that people bring into their gardens and homes to watch carp and water movement.
Riding a bike down these lanes and thinking how impossible this would be in other countries like Australia where Big and Fast is the name of the game.
The Japanese environmental fingerprint must be very small with their tiny cars, bicycles and mass transit systems.
Why do we need Big and Fast ?
I’m not sure that we will answer that one before its too late.