One of the things that is most apparent up here in Hokkaido, in comparison to my previous life in Tokyo, is the severe reduction in the number of earthquakes and/or tremors. Since living in Tokyo I would say that I have experienced, on average, one or two a week; obviously this number will have been slightly skewed by the events of March 11, but I would say that this is a fairly reasonable estimate. Since I have arrived in Hokkaido there have been a grand total of 2 tremors, neither of which can have registered as much more than 3 on the Richter scale. Whilst I have absolutely no qualms about the larger number and size of the Tokyo earthquakes, I find it interesting that there is such a large difference between the two. Also, in the extremely unlikely event of a large earthquake here in Touya, I find it encouraging that I am living in a house that actually has a table large enough for me to hide under.
There are many many things that the Japanese do better than the Brits, but nowhere is this more evident that in the production of manhole covers. Whilst we English settle for boring charcoal coloured, plain patterned atrocities, the Japanese decide to adorn theirs with gilded images of beauty from the surrounding area. As well as being infinitely more pleasing to look at, they also have the considerable benefit of informing any passerbys exactly where they are. This may not be of immediate use to the locals, but to a Gaijin who is hopelessly trying to figure out exactly which small district he has wandered into now they have been an unexpected lifeline.