At the far end of the platform at JR Otsu station is a large globe, and I always wondered what it was. So the other day I walked out to the end of the platform and had a look. Apparently (this was unknown to me beforehand), Otsu is sitting right on the 35th parallel! The sign beside the globe explained that Otsu City is on the 35th, and named other famous places around the world that are also on the 35th. These include: Cyprus, the island of Crete in Greece, Baghdad, Tehran, Tibet, and in the USA, Oklahoma City and Memphis, Tennessee. The 35th also marks the border between North Carolina and Georgia.
When I read these names and thought of some of the cities, quite a few things clicked in my mind. First, when I think of Baghdad, I think of Arabian Nights and the desert and I think- that’s why Otsu is so hot… its on the same parallel as Baghdad! Then I think about Memphis and the fact that Memphis is famous for jazz… as is Otsu, host of a half dozen jazz festivals every year! But then I think of Tibet… and my image is of cold, snowy mountains… and I can’t find any comparison to Otsu!
What caught my eye about this whole 35th parallel thing was that no one seemed to know about it, or really to care. Back home in Canada, the 49th and 60th parallels are a big deal. The 49th marks the border between Canada and the USA, the 60th marks the border between the provinces and the northern territories. My hometown is Nanaimo BC, located on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. By geographic chance, Vancouver Island extends below the 49th. Nanaimo lies at 49 degrees north 35 minutes. Just south of Nanaimo is the city of Ladysmith. Ladysmith is a small, quaint seaside town, home to numerous cafes, antique shops and cute boutiques. Ladysmith also lies smack dab on top of the 49th parallel, and they are proud of that! As you enter town ,there is a giant welcome sign cutting across the side of the highway at an odd angle. Rather than saying ‘Welcome To Ladysmith’, the sign says ‘Ladysmith on the 49th Parallel’. In town, you can find a variety of shops named after the 49th: 49th Parallel Grocery, 49th Parallel Bakery, 49th Cafe, and so on.
Edward, SSE Otsu