There is a Japanese myth that tells of a country, a nation of cars. It is a country where automobiles capture the imagination of the young, and the ethos of that people is melded with the machines. To the Japanese this country is across a vast ocean, but like in most stories of this kind, it is actually themselves.
Japan has become a car society, and they are willing to sacrifice greatly for it. They are willing to pave over more of their country, and die in greater numbers than that far away country to appease the auto gods.
Of course the fabled country in Japanese myth is the United States, but let's compare. Japan has 377,835 km2 of land area. They are number 61 in the world. The US has 9,629,091 km2 of land, number 3 in the world. Japan has 949,101 km of paved road, number 6 in the world. The US has 4,209,835 km of paved road, number 1 in the world.
That means that Japan has 2.5 km of paved road for every km2 of land. The US has 0.43 km of road for every km2 of land. Japan is willing to pave over their rice fields for their cars, even though their food self sufficiency is only 40% (An exaggerated, terribly over optimistic figure).
They are also willing to sacrifice their people in greater numbers. For every billion vehicle-kilometers, 10.3 Japanese die for every 9 Americans, even though Japanese travel less then half the distance annually that Americans do, 24,000 and 57,000 miles respectively.
This ridiculous situation grows worse by the day, especially at this time of year when they are crazily spending up every last yen of their budgets on road work. This also effects me, because the country is planning to build two more roads, one an elevated highway, and the other a road to service it, that will pass uncomfortably close to my home. This while the population shrinks and ages at a rapid rate. Its population could drop by half this century, meaning year by year the burden on each person of maintaining these roads will grow and grow.
It's time Japan rethink its automobile fetish. It will need all of its people and resources to maintain their people in the years to come, but what it does not need is more roads.