As autumn is taking over Hokkaido, they have started the koyo (autumn leaves) programmes on Japanese TV. It's quite amazing to see the number of Japanese TV programmes or magazines devoted to autumn leaves or spring blossoms.

This drives a real "season-watching" tourist industry throughout the country. Without it, domestic tourism would probably drop sharply, as many people travel to various parts of Japan almost only for the blossoms and autumn leaves. This is good business for the hotels, restaurants (which typically offer seasonal dishes, like mushrooms in autumn), and the transport industry. I suspect that these all lobby the media to "advertise the beauty of the seasons" in their area to bring in customers.

What I am wondering is what causes this Japanese craze for nature. In Western countries, people do not travel 1000 km to see autumn leaves. In fact, the media hardly mention them. So why does this kind of business work in Japan, but wouldn't work in Europe or North America ? My hypothesis is that it is due to the extremely high percentage of Japanese people who live in completely urban areas, with little greenery around them, and without even a garden to contemplate the passing the seasons. This is particularily true for Tokyoites, who have to travel over 1 hour by car or train to get out of the urban sprawl. 1/3 of the Japanese live in cities with over 400,000 inhabitants, and many of these and smaller cities are in fact stuck side by side with each others, in big metropolitan areas like the Greater Tokyo or Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe-Amagasaki areas.

So, is Japanese's obession with the seasons and nature caused by the vast expand of sterile concrete blocks they live in ?