Beppu pic 2
One more pic I found waiting to be posted. Here is a picture of Beppu City, taken from above the Kannawa hot spring district. You can see some hot spring steam curling up from the chimneys. The mountain in the distance, slightly left of center, is Takasaki-yama, Japan's most famous monkey mountain. Check out how crowded Beppu is in spite of its small population (126,854 people). The city occupies a rather small area, a gentle, roughly triangular slope sharply bounded by mountains. Over the years, its hot springs have attracted a lot of tourist development, as well as people who sought the luxury of a home with hot spring water on tap. The city doesn't have very much agricultural land, another unusual characteristic for rural Japan.
Urban areas in Japan and Korea remind me of that game where you have to arrange your plastic buildings so that they fit perfectly on the board; a 3-D jigsaw puzzle with perfectly interlocking pieces and no room for grass or trees except in the properly assigned spaces.
When I went back to the States this past summer, I was immediately struck by how much green there was--not just in parks, but in urban areas. Jecheon in particular seems to suffer from a lack of green. Sure, there are plenty of mountains and rural areas surrounding the city, but within the city itself, there is not a single sizable park. Part of the problem is that Jecheon lacks a large river. Many Asian cities turn riverbanks into parkland, probably because these areas cannot be exploited in any other meaningful way. Andong, for example, has a river. It threfore has several big parks.
I found out today that a high school teacher in my English teacher's class is the wife of Jecheon's mayor. Before I knew this, I'd mentioned my thoughts to her about Jecheon's need for more parks. She promply conveyed my thoughts to her husband. Yes! A direct pipeline to the mayor! If I just casually mention, every week, one idea for improving Jecheon, who knows what kind of influence I could have on the city's future?