One thing that is difficult for an American to grasp when visiting Japan is municipal divisions. Most of America is unincorporated, middle-of-nowhere spaces. Once you enter a town or city, you are then technically “somewhere” more specific than the state you are in. In Japan, every piece of land is part of a village, town, or city. Throw a dart at a map of Japan, and as long as you don’t end up in the ocean, you’ll be in some specific municipality, even if the dart lands somewhere in the mountains. Saroma is no different. The map below shows the town limits of Saroma, and the neighboring towns that share the same border.
This makes it hard to compare the two towns. Saroma has strictly defined borders, and thus a nearly exact count of population within them. Palmer, on the other hand, might have a defined population within city limits, but a fairly vague number for the greater Palmer area. It’s this greater area that really should be compared with Saroma. If one simply looks at the official populations of the two municipalities and makes assumptions from there, it is difficult to see why Palmer has a McDonald’s, a Dairy King, a Taco Bell and two huge supermarkets, but Saroma has no fast food restaurants and only two modest supermarkets.
To help one visualize Saroma and the population density within Saroma that determines these sort of economic factors, I’ve made the following map showing the area and shape of Saroma’s boundaries superimposed over a map of the Palmer area.
Imagine that within that red line, there are 6,002 people. That is the population density of Saroma. If the Palmer city limits were this size and shape, I imagine the population would be closer to 15,000.
Some quick facts:
Saroma: 414 km² (156 mi²), Pop. 6,002.
Palmer: 9.7 km² (3.8 mi²), Pop. 8,201 (2008 estimate)
Map data from Google and Yahoo.
added April 12th: Butte centered size comparison map for my mommy.