伊丹

Itami is a city in the Kansai region of Japan, located in Hyogo prefecture, right between Osaka and Kobe. It is best known for being the site of Osaka International Airport, which hosts most domestic flights to and from the megalopolis. However, Itami is actually located on the dark side of the airport, if you will: the terminal is in Toyonaka, and the only real way to catch a flight from Itami City is to go through a tunnel underneath the airport. The population of Itami is around 190,000, but since it blends into the sprawl of the Hanshin cityscape, it's hard to tell exactly where it begins and ends.

Itami is named for a samurai family who ruled the city in the early 1500's. In 1574, a rival samurai named Araki Murashige defeated the Itamis and took their castle, renaming it Arioka Castle. Araki then pissed off the great daimyo Oda Nobunaga, and his castle was burned. This marked the end of Itami's militarist days: it became a center of haiku poets and sake brewers during the Edo era, and later developed modern industries on a relatively small scale. In 1995, Itami was one of the hardest-hit areas in the Great Hanshin Earthquake, but it was quickly rebuilt and is now a great place to work, live, and play.

I say this having lived in Itami for three months, riding the Hankyu train to Umeda every weekday and taking my bicycle around on the weekends. There is little special about Itami, except sitting in the park by the JR station and watching airplanes take off and land, or downing liter cans of Kirin with friends and watching Kokohen. But Itami sticks out in my mind for exactly this reason: it almost feels like Anytown, Japan, a quiet place that can be infinitely interesting given enough time.

Don't go there to visit... go there for the long run.

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