Show and Tell Hawai'i

Hints of home, during a Tokyo visit

March 19th, 2009

TOKYO — Most folks travel to destinations hither and yon, for a change of pace —and place. Last thing you’d want to do is think of home, when you’re away, enjoying leisure time.
From rail to environmental concerns, a recent Japan trip pulled some Hawaii chains. While the turf and the temps were vastly different, Japan’s ways and means touched some local nerves for me.
Take rail.
While Honolulu readies and still debates the value and worth of rail, Japan is light years ahead in moving bodies efficiently and on the clock; the bullet train or the subways and trains in general come and go when they’re supposed to, with rare delays. There’s a jumble of separate lines, but the fares generally are as low as 130 yen (about $1.50) or 160 yen (about $2) and you move quickly in clean cabins that are jammed at morning and evening rush hour.
The system, while confusing and challenging for newbies, works. O’ahu won’t ever have that web of trains and subways going every which way; there’s no need for that kind of network.
But our city still is in the baby steps phase, with a long overdue rail system that might constitute no more than five or six stops on a typical Japanese subway system. Thus, we have ways to go.
Japan’s railway largely is above ground, occasionally tunneling through a mountain, and awfully quiet. I spotted numerous bike parking lots at rural stops, clearly an indication that folks pedal then hop onto a train to commute. We’re still fumbling with what buses will link certain communities to a station or where car parks will be provided.
Then there’s the matter of saving a major natural attraction.
I only saw Mount Fiji, Japan’s highest mountain, from the skies, en route to Japan from my Japan Air Lines seat. Its peak was clad in a white dress, peeking above white clouds.
Residents and visitors adore Fuji and that’s become a problem. Hikers and climbers bombard the site, raising environmental concerns. There’s talk about charging entrance  fees for climbers, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
Simply put, overcrowding is resulting in damage to the environment. So there’s talk that  Mount Fuji, located in the Shizuoka and Yamanishi prefectures, could benefit from user fees, which will provide funds to repair trails, collect debris, improve the site and even provide personnel for first aid stations.
It’s not yet a go, but the user fee for a popular attraction seems right on.
Sounds a lot like Hanauma Bay — a nature preserve that is a favorite of residents, and visitors — where crowd control is a major concern, where entrance fees help maintain the environment.
What do you think?

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