Monday, 10 December 2012

Japanese Freeways

The Japanese countryside is punctuated with countless concrete pillars on top of which automobile or train traffic travels day and night. The concrete pillars are quite substantial possibly to better withstand earthquakes. But what is more unusual is that the freeways are frequently above ground level even in rural areas. Why I ask? One reason we were given is that earlier attempts at freeway construction resulted in undesirable wildlife carnage. I suspect another reason is noise suppression.
The reason I have an interest in the freeways is that one is being built right through the plateau we were living on in Komatsuka and permanently cut through and destroyed a convenient walkway across the countryside. The digging of the clay plateau is being done by large power shovels as seen in the photograph. I would expect to see bulldozers performing some of this work, but in Japan power shovels exist in many sizes from the monsters seen here to tiny ones whose shovel is equivalent to a few hand shovels worth. Even our host Okano-san has one that is co-owned by a handful of other people. Another boys toy like the ubiquitous brush whacker seen everywhere in rural areas.
The freeways are toll roads and are easily traversed when your vehicle has an Electronic Toll Charge or ETC transponder system that automatically debits you as you drive through the exit gates. They are quite expensive, but some system needs to pay for the expense of building and maintaining the roadways, including damage by earthquakes.

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