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View Full Version : Do the Japanese really love nature more than all other people ?



Maciamo
Nov 9, 2006, 06:19
N.B. : This thread was split from What do you like about Japan and Japanese people? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27151)



As for the nature itself, of course it's disappearing everywhere. You can't find much in the large urban areas BUT get out of those areas and nature and the four seasons are alive and well.

I did not notice that people like more nature than in Western countries, on the contrary. I found that the Japanese are not big fans of hiking in the country at weekends, going to national parks (the US is great for that), work in their garden, watch nature documentaries (the UK is great for that), or fight to preserve their bit of nature and scenery near their house. Here in Belgium about 10% of the population vote for the Green Party. In Japan it is close to 0%. Here, people get angry, and even go to court, when the local government decides to cut a few century-old trees to clear the view. In Japan the government freely destroys the whole countryside (and I am not talking only about cities) by pouring concrete all along the coast (over 80% of Japanese coasts are now lined with concrete), along rivers (only one river hasn't got concrete banks in the whole length of Japan), and over hills and mountains (to prevent landslide as they say, but go to Switzerland and you won't see that sort of ugliness). If you haven't read Dogs & Demons (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0809039435/ref=ase_maciamojapan-20/104-6066459-7917524) by Alex Kerr, I strongly recommend it on that particular subject. Japan is a country 13 times the size of Belgium (where I live now), with the exact same population density, and I haven't seen a tenth of the natural beauty found in Belgium when I travelled around Japan, from Kyushu to Hokkaido (ok, I skipped northern Honshu, which is probably the most beautiful part of Japan for nature, but still).

As for the seasons, I see references to it in commercials on French or Belgian TV or in paper ads all the time. This week I saw an ad for laundry detergent, Lenor Spring (http://www.lenor.com/en_UK/spring.htm) with cherry blossom smell. A Belgo-Dutch bank (Fortis) has all its autumn information folders with red maple leaves (momiji). The seasons are everywhere in commercials here, as much as in Japan. The Japanese do not have a monopoly of the four seasons. It bothers me when the Japanese proudly claim it as an idiosyncrasy of their country and culture. It is so not the case. What is more, as I explained in this thread (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=26303), I feel much more the seasonal changes in Northern Europe than in Japan. Being particularly sensitive to the seasons myself since my childhood, I have personal reasons to be annoyed at this Japanese attitude.


Ah, the complaining. Yes, it gets to me sometimes. It is however a matter of cultural difference - it's considered good form to complain about aches and pains, that it's hot or cold, tired or sleepy. It does NOT mean that whoever says it is more of a moaner or a complainer than anyone else.

Hah, cultural differences ! It always excuses everything. Being married to a Japanese, I think I know that it is not only for the "good form" that they complain (at least not my wife, nor her family). Within the family, where the "good form" doesn't matter, but they all do a lot of complaining and it gets on each other's nerves. That's the hardest part of visiting her family. So irritating... In comparison, within my own family, I can cite recent cases of close relatives who have been hospitalised and didn't tell anyone so that we wouldn't worry about them. This is a blend of stoicism and extreme consideration for others' feelings. Many Japanese nowadays are just cry babies. The samurai were stoic, but their time is long gone... Now it is the taihen, mukatsuku, itai and tsukareta generation. Everybody is complaining all the time for the slightest inconvenience. I find it tiresome. Perhaps Westerners have an idealised image of the stoic samurai because they represent values which they approve, but this stoicism is not representative of the cute and whiny modern Japanese society.


But endurance is more a part of Japanese life than ever. I don't know anyone around me who has a real day off - as in relax and do nothing - in addition to the demands of a job, there are community meetings, road crossing duty, weed picking, sports days, recycling events, school PTA etc.

Well, my wife complains that she misses those things, and finds it harder to stay in a foreign country where she doesn't speak the language and cannot socialise easily than in Japan where she can meet people at work and after work all day. It may be tiring, but also stimulating. It is much harder to be alone in your room. I found the Japanese I have met to be weak to solitude, because they live in a very social, group-minded country. The Japanese tend to feel very sorry and sympathise with old people who live by themselves, while in Northern Europe is is perfectly normal, even at a very advanced age. The only think for which I found the Japanese more stoic was for physical pain in some particular situations like childbirth (no pain killer) or sado-masochism (very popular in Japan, although rather soft-core).


EDIT :

Summary of reasons to think that the Japanese do not care more about nature, animals and the environment than people in other countries

1) Government-sponsored destruction of nature, relative lack of biodiversity in man-made nature (e.g. in parks), and especially disfiguration of the natural scenery through the unrestrained construction of (usually pretty useless) concrete eyesores nationwide.

2) Absence of an elected Green Party (could also be said of the USA and a few European countries)

3) Abundance of illegal dumping sites, fairly frequent radioctive leaks from nuclear plants, numerous dioxin emitting incinerators (illegal in most of Europe)... Let's also remember the Minamata disease, Itai-itai disease, Yokkaichi Asthma, Sugi allergy and other diseases or public health issues caused by careless industrial or personal waste dumping or poor government policies.

4) Japan is the only major country with a whaling policy, which it strongly defends against the will of the international community (going as far as buying votes from developing countries).

5) Virtual absence of vegetarianism in modern Japanese society, despite an ever growing trend in this sense in Western countries (esp. by animal lovers).

6) Impressively small mumber of zoological or botanic gardens in Japan (Belgium does better, despite being 13x smaller)

7) Huge national consumption of single-use wooden chopsticks causing reckless deforestation in many developing countries, when plastic chopsticks could be used instead.

8) Fear-induced respect of nature inherited from Shintoism, still well alive today, and probably part of the reason why the Japanese feel they have to protect themselves so much from their natural environment by damming rivers, placing concrete tripods all along the coast, or replacing diversified forest by sugi forest...

9) Proportionally fewer members of WWF and Greenpeace, and fewer major organisations for nature protection (they do exist, but are nowhere as influential as in Western countries)

10) "Enjoying nature" in Japan typically involves crowded asphalted paths with vending machines, shops, signs and advertisements all along the journey.

11) No vocabulary to describe the females, young and cries of common animals native to Japan.

12) The major Japanese TV channels broadcast comparatively few documentaries about nature compared to many Western countries (e.g. compared to the BBC). Despite being bigger in population and economy than any Western country besides the USA, Japan does not have its own nature channels but imports Western ones like Animal Planet, Discovery Channel or National Geographic.

13) Much more Japanese live in a house without garden than in Western countries. The proportion of people living in apartments is also higher. In big cities (where 80% of the population lives), even detached houses with a garden are extremely rare.

craftsman
Nov 9, 2006, 17:28
I did not notice that people like more nature than in Western countries, on the contrary. I found that the Japanese are not big fans of hiking in the country at weekends, going to national parks (the US is great for that), work in their garden, watch nature documentaries (the UK is great for that), or fight to preserve their bit of nature and scenery near their house.
This is all very strange because I've found almost the complete opposite. Hiking has always been popular and even in the centre of Tokyo it is very common at weekends to see groups of people in hiking boots and floppy hats on their way to a bus and long distance train.
The island where I live is a national park and despite being expensive to get to has around 200,000 visitors a year and the main activity is hiking in the mountains. Other national parks, like this one, have the problem of too many visitors and have had to prepare plans to protect the nature from the effects of over-tourism.
Now as I'm sure you're aware there aren't that many residences with gardens, but the ones that do have them, are invariably taken care of well. There are professional gardeners who do this but it is usual to only use a professional once a year as they are expensive, the rest of the time it's the owner who does it.
The status of Yakushima as a National Park and then as a UNESCO site was due to the efforts of one local man who galvanised support across Japan. It is a national crime to damage some trees here now. It was also due to the efforts of a small community in the north part that giant turtle beaches are now protected. In another thread I mentioned a cousin of my wife's who was a local politician in Chiba and who started a campaign to stop the destruction of small community parks and encouraged the planting of more trees. These are just a few examples of people fighting back and there are many more.

In Japan the government freely destroys the whole countryside (and was not talking only about cities) by pouring concrete all along the coast (over 80%), all along rivers (only one river hasn't got concrete banks in all Japan), and all over hills and mountains (to prevent landslide as they say, but go to Switzerland and you won't see that). If you haven't read Dogs & Demons (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0809039435/ref=ase_maciamojapan-20/104-6066459-7917524) by Alex Kerr, I strongly recommened it to you on that particular subject. Japan is a country 13x the size of Belgium (where I live now), with the exact same population density, and I haven't seen a tenth of the natural beauty found in Belgium when I travelled around Japan, from Kyushu to Hokkaido (ok I skipped the Tohoku, which is probably the most beautiful for nature).
I agree with you that the excess amount of concrete has a very negative impact both visually and environmentally. However, your comments smack too much of generalizations. With your rivers figure I'm guessing you mean large rivers that run through towns and cities. Surely you don't mean all rivers....do you? And all over the hills and mountains? I'm going to presume you mean all over some here. My images of Japan that are stored somewhere in my head are overwhelmingly of unspoilt, forested mountains and yes, it was a real shame you missed Tohoku and many other mountainous rural areas where the concrete has yet to go.

I feel much more the seasonal changes in Northern Europe than in Japan. Being particularily sensitive to the seasons myself since my childhood, I have personal reasons to be annoyed at this Japanese attitude.
You may have been in wrong place to see the gradual change of seasons. I'm presuming you lived in Tokyo. But your constant comparison to Europe and Belgium in particular are to me slightly odd. I've been to Belgium and it seemed to me to be a pleasant country but I was certainly not struck by the nature. I too know the seasonal changes in Northern Europe very well and I can tell you if anything Japan's is much more obvious.


Hah, cultural differences ! It always excuses everything. Being married to a Japanese, I think that I know that it is not only for the "good form" that they complain (at least not her, nor her family). I get annoyed when she complaints too much about small things (and she knows it, so it is not for the "good form" at home), and she gets annoyed and nervous when her mother o grandmother complain about small things, even by email. In comparison, in my family (in Belgium) some people have been hospitalised and didn't tell anyone in the family so that they do not worry about them. This is stoicism. Many Japanese are just cry babies. The samurai were stoic; their time is long gone... Now it is the "itai", 'taihen" and "o-tsukare" generation.
I hope you don't make your poor wife nervous about this. I was referring to the good form in complaining about the small things because it is not good form to complain about the big. This is exactly as you describe it in Belgium when a family member is hospitalised. Stoicism is not solely a Belgian trait nor is it a European trait but the world over including Japan.


Well, my wife complains that she misses those things, and finds it harder to stay in a foreign country where she doesn't speak the language and cannot socialise easily than in Japan where she can meet people at work and after work all day. It may be tiring, but also stimulating. It is much harder to be alone in your room. I found the Japanese I have met to be weak to solitude, because they live in a very social, grou-minded country. The Japanese tend to feel very sorry and sympathise with old people who live by themselves, while in Northern Europe is is perfectly normal, even at a very advanced age. The only think for which I found the Japanese more stoic was for physical pain in some particular situations like childbirth (no pain killer) or sado-masochism (very popular in Japan, although rather softcore).
There you go about Northern Europe again. Yes, old people live alone in Northern Europe and are practically abandoned by their families in old people's homes. That is the case in Britain as I am sure it is in Belgium. It's nothing to do with 'group' but all to do with 'family'.

DoctorP
Nov 9, 2006, 18:08
I seriously doubt that Mac toured every river in Japan to it's entire length to esure that it is layered with concrete!

Mikawa Ossan
Nov 9, 2006, 18:12
I can think think of quite a number of rivers not covered in concrete. Unfortunately I don't know many of their names.

Mac is surely just referring to those in the cities.

DoctorP
Nov 9, 2006, 18:23
To add one thing. The concrete in the countryside is important as it helps prevent soil runoff which endangers other areas of the environment including the rivers and oceans.

Usually if you see random concrete, only enough is used to accomplish the goal, and it does not cover the entire area. The other alternative would be to completely dig up and replace the soil with a different type of soil...not likely!

I also see hiking as quite popular in Japan. Parks are also very popular in Japan. On weekends it is quite common for families to load up and leave the city for a more nature friendly area.

Kinsao
Nov 9, 2006, 18:34
Hmm, as for nature and people going out into the countryside, or interest in nature, I suppose it depends quite a bit on where you live. I mean, I live in a quite large city of the UK, and I only know a handful of people who are what you might call 'nature-lovers' and make the effort to go out on some weekends or vacations into the country. I think people in the city tend to get absorbed in their social lives and activities here - although not to say that they don't enjoy or appreciate nature, but tend not to show it... unless they came from a country area before, and like to keep up that connection. :-) So if you live in a city people are likely to be involved in the busyness of general life, whereas if you live in a country area, you are more likely to meet people who have come to the area to look at the nature, therefore getting more of an impression that people are keen on that sort of thing. :relief:

The 4 seasons, I suppose it depends on what part of Japan you're living in, since Japan is a rather long country, I imagine there'd be quite a big difference in the distinctions/transitions between the seasons. :?

I think Mac compares Japan to Northern Europe a lot because he has done a lot of living there so can compare the two places with plenty of knowledge to back it up. :p

Maciamo
Nov 12, 2006, 01:56
This is all very strange because I've found almost the complete opposite. Hiking has always been popular and even in the centre of Tokyo it is very common at weekends to see groups of people in hiking boots and floppy hats on their way to a bus and long distance train.

My comments are based on my impressions as a "proportion to the total population". In this regard it is undeniable, for instance, that a much higher proportion of Japanese do not have a garden, and that Japanese cities have a smaller percentage of greenery than in most Western countries. I am pretty sure that if you could the proportion of people going hiking in the country frequently, it will also be lower in Japan than in Europe. On warm and sunny days most of the Ardennes region of Belgium (hilly forest in the south) are fully packed with Flemish and Dutch tourists.


You may have been in wrong place to see the gradual change of seasons. I'm presuming you lived in Tokyo. But your constant comparison to Europe and Belgium in particular are to me slightly odd. I've been to Belgium and it seemed to me to be a pleasant country but I was certainly not struck by the nature.

Exactly ! Belgian people hardly think about their country when they think about nature. YET, since I am back to Belgium, and even in the capital, I have found it to be much greener and a much better place to enjoy nature than Tokyo. Yet the greater Tokyo has 3.5 times the population of Belgium. On a side note, I suppose that like most short-term visitors you haven't been to the nicest part of the Wallonian countryside when you went to Belgium, but stuck to the cities (Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp...). Did you know that Brussels had half of the lagest beech forest in Europe within its boundaries ?


Stoicism is not solely a Belgian trait nor is it a European trait but the world over including Japan.

Isn't that a broad overgeneralisation ?


However, your comments smack too much of generalizations. With your rivers figure I'm guessing you mean large rivers that run through towns and cities. Surely you don't mean all rivers....do you? And all over the hills and mountains? I'm going to presume you mean all over some here.

I meant all, according to Alex Kerr in Dogs and Demons. If it isn't correct, complain to him, not to me. But be aware than a river is not the same as a brook or a stream. A river must be wide and deep enough to be navigable.


I seriously doubt that Mac toured every river in Japan to it's entire length to esure that it is layered with concrete!

Answered above.


It is a difficult question to answer without relying on impressions and stereotypes... What do you think about the people of an entire nation? In the end, your answer probably says more about yourself than anything else. We see in a broad sense what we want to see, good and bad. We know only what we know. My favorable impressions are based on the fine Japanese people I have known and what little research I have done. What I see in the media tends to confirm what I think I know... I love the Japanese people, and Japanese culture. BUT I know very little about it first hand.

So basically you are posting to say that you cannot give your opinion because you don't know enough about Japan ? Not a tremendous contribution to the thread...

DoctorP
Nov 12, 2006, 07:30
I meant all, according to Alex Kerr in Dogs and Demons. If it isn't correct, complain to him, not to me. But be aware than a river is not the same as a brook or a stream. A river must be wide and deep enough to be navigable.



Thank you for pointing out that you have no idea for yourself. As I stated, you personally do not know and are merely quoting someone else that as far as you know is not entirely correct. I believe that if you were to check his references it would indicate that he is talking about where rivers pass through major metropolitan areas.

If a river were indeed bordered completely by concrete, then it would be man made, and not truly a river then would it?

craftsman
Nov 12, 2006, 09:40
My comments are based on my impressions as a "proportion to the total population". In this regard it is undeniable, for instance, that a much higher proportion of Japanese do not have a garden, and that Japanese cities have a smaller percentage of greenery than in most Western countries. I am pretty sure that if you could the proportion of people going hiking in the country frequently, it will also be lower in Japan than in Europe. On warm and sunny days most of the Ardennes region of Belgium (hilly forest in the south) are fully packed with Flemish and Dutch tourists.
I don't doubt that the Ardennes are packed with tourists. What I don't understand is why you suggest that places like the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park are not equally packed (proportionately or not). And I don't understand the necessity to compare hiking patterns with Europe. Why are you so sure that going hiking frequently is more prevalent in Europe? Or even in Belgium? It's just such a bizarre position to take. Surely not just because you see more people doing it in Belgium than you saw in Japan? If so, I think you know my answer by now - you should have got out of Tokyo more. And I still don't quite get what made you think that Japanese don't like nature in the first place?

Exactly ! Belgian people hardly think about their country when they think about nature. YET, since I am back to Belgium, and even in the capital, I have found it to be much greener and a much better place to enjoy nature than Tokyo. Yet the greater Tokyo has 3.5 times the population of Belgium. On a side note, I suppose that like most short-term visitors you haven't been to the nicest part of the Wallonian countryside when you went to Belgium, but stuck to the cities (Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp...). Did you know that Brussels had half of the lagest beech forest in Europe within its boundaries ?
No, you're right I didn't explore Belgium properly and just went from city to city. And I didn't know about the Wallonian countryside nor about the beech forests. But this too is exactly my point. It is very difficult to really get to know a total country from the city, especially when based in a capital city like Tokyo.
I think your comparison of Belgium and Tokyo is an odd one. I don't want to state the obvious but is it a fair comparison to compare the nature of a country and a city? Surely you should compare Japan and Belgium. However, no disrespect to you, but I suspect your knowledge would fall short outside of the Tokyo area.

I meant all, according to Alex Kerr in Dogs and Demons. If it isn't correct, complain to him, not to me. But be aware than a river is not the same as a brook or a stream. A river must be wide and deep enough to be navigable.
Now I haven't read Mr.Kerr's book so I can't comment on the figure. It would be interesting to see how he got it and how reliable the information is though. From my perspective, I think he may have meant cities and large towns because of the rivers I've seen, I don't think his argument rings true. This was ten years ago, but I did walk every step of the way from the northern most tip of Hokkaido to the southern most tip of Kuyshu and I saw a lot of rivers - some of them actually without concrete. As I'm sure you're aware by now, I live in a national park and I can walk down to a navigable river which is both deep and wide and see no sign of concrete.
So I would go as far to say that an obscene amount of concrete is unfortunately used to 'protect' rivers in Japan, but not all of them. That would be a generalization too far, even for you, Sir

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 03:53
Thank you for pointing out that you have no idea for yourself.
No need to attack me personally.

As I stated, you personally do not know and are merely quoting someone else that as far as you know is not entirely correct. I believe that if you were to check his references it would indicate that he is talking about where rivers pass through major metropolitan areas.
If a river were indeed bordered completely by concrete, then it would be man made, and not truly a river then would it?
If you want to prove Kerr wrong, why don't you give me examples of rivers in Japan that have not been "concreted" ?

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 05:00
I don't doubt that the Ardennes are packed with tourists. What I don't understand is why you suggest that places like the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park are not equally packed (proportionately or not).
It makes a huge differences whether it is proportional or not. You cannot compare one of Japan's most famous national park (because of Mount Fuji) in the outskirt of the Greater Tokyo (35 million inhabitants), which also happens to be one of Japan's main touristic destination outside cities for foreign tourists, with the more sparsely populated and less famous Ardennes region of Belgium. It is only natural that a national park sitting just outside the biggest metropolis in the world is packed on weekends. But what is the percentage of the Japanese population that actually goes out hiking on weekends ? Imagine, if it is only 1%, it means that 1.27 million local tourists are on the roads at the same time. 1% of Tokyoites alone means 350,000 people. Brussels is by far the largest city within 2h by car of the Ardennes and its population is 1 million with the suburbs (130,000 for the centre). The 2nd biggest city has barely 250,000 inhabitants. In such circumstances it is obvious that proportions do matter.

If you want to compare Japan's natural attractions and the number of "nature tourists", compare it to a region with the same population, like Belgium (10 million inhabitants) + France (60m) + Italy (60m).

Why are you so sure that going hiking frequently is more prevalent in Europe? Or even in Belgium?
I have a pretty good intuition about things like that. Then don't forget that I did go around Japan and learn about every touristic attraction and national park in detail to write this website's Japan Sightseeing Guide (http://www.wa-pedia.com/practical/sightseeing.shtml). I am also writing travel guides about European countries, and I love statistics (e.g. about tourism).

And I still don't quite get what made you think that Japanese don't like nature in the first place?
Easy, the destruction of it. It's like for history; the Japanese don't like or don't care about history, which is why they have so little knowledge about history, and had no scruples destroying their own historic heritage after WWII (best example : Kyoto). I didn't say that the Japanese do not like nature, but that they certainly seem to care less about it and its protection than we do in Europe. Again, why is there no Green Party in Japan, when you see that it was the 2nd or 3rd most popular party at the last municipal elections in Belgium last month ? Why does Greenpeace of WWF have a lower percentage of members in Japan than in many Western countries ? Why haven't the Japanese (with the 2nd most populous developed country on Earth) started major organisations for the protection of the environment with a worldwide network ? Why don't the Japanese protest more about the government pouring concrete over the coastline and mountains, or cutting down forest to plant sugi (Japanese cedar) that gives allergies to half of the population ? Why is Japan the only major nation to support whaling ? Why do the Japanese use billions of wooden chopsticks a year when they could use plastic ones instead ? Why aren't there more zoos or botanic gardens in Japan ? Why does Japan, with a land area bigger than any EU country but France and Spain, only have [url=http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/env_are_und_pro-environment-areas-under-protection]96 protected areas under IUCN management, when Germany has 7,315 and Switzerland has 2,177 of them ? Why is it that Japanese language itself does not differentiate as much between animals as English or other European languages (e.g. turtle vs tortoise, mouse vs rat vs shrew vs vole, whale vs rorqual vs orc, or using the kanji for fish [魚] in the kanji for whale [鯨]) ? I have many many other examples in my head, but I don't have the time or energy to write them all now. Alex Kerr has plenty more of well-documented examples in "Dogs & Demons" (you really should read it).


No, you're right I didn't explore Belgium properly and just went from city to city. And I didn't know about the Wallonian countryside nor about the beech forests. But this too is exactly my point. It is very difficult to really get to know a total country from the city, especially when based in a capital city like Tokyo. [
...
However, no disrespect to you, but I suspect your knowledge would fall short outside of the Tokyo area.
Except if you are writing a guide of Japan and travel around the country for that purpose... I don't know where you have been in Japan, but I certainly have seen more of that country than most foreigners in Japan and most Japanese alike.

Anyway, I never said that Japan was not beautiful for its nature, my criticism is about Japanese people who claim that they love nature more than others because of Shintoism, their long passion for cherry blossoms, etc. But when we do compare with other developed countries, their claim sounds nonsensical, because of what I have explained above.

This was ten years ago, but I did walk every step of the way from the northern most tip of Hokkaido to the southern most tip of Kuyshu and I saw a lot of rivers - some of them actually without concrete.
How do you know ? Have you been all the way from the spring to the sea ? Kerr's claim is not that all rivers have concrete banks on all their length, but at least at one point or another (even a few hundred metres). At the time he wrote the book, there was only one river in Japan that didn't have concrete anywhere from the beginning to the end (in Shikoku, if I remember well).

craftsman
Nov 13, 2006, 14:21
It makes a huge differences whether it is proportional or not. You cannot compare one of Japan's most famous national park (because of Mount Fuji) in the outskirt of the Greater Tokyo (35 million inhabitants), which also happens to be one of Japan's main touristic destination outside cities for foreign tourists, with the more sparsely populated and less famous Ardennes region of Belgium. It is only natural that a national park sitting just outside the biggest metropolis in the world is packed on weekends. But what is the percentage of the Japanese population that actually goes out hiking on weekends ? Imagine, if it is only 1%, it means that 1.27 million local tourists are on the roads at the same time. 1% of Tokyoites alone means 350,000 people. Brussels is by far the largest city within 2h by car of the Ardennes and its population is 1 million with the suburbs (130,000 for the centre). The 2nd biggest city has barely 250,000 inhabitants. In such circumstances it is obvious that proportions do matter.

I think you missed the whole point. You previously claimed the following:


I found that the Japanese are not big fans of hiking in the country at weekends, going to national parks (the US is great for that), work in their garden, watch nature documentaries (the UK is great for that), or fight to preserve their bit of nature and scenery near their house.


So you accept the Fuji-Hakone-Izu national park is packed, well let me tell you that the Kirishima national park is also packed every weekend, the Daisetsuzan national park is packed and no doubt every one of the 28 national parks. So what does my 'intuition' say about this? It says that Japanese people like to take a walk in natural surroundings on the weekends. Whether proportionately more people do that in your tiny country is quite irrelevant. The fact is, your claim that Japanese are not big fans of hiking in the country is plain ludicrous. As of course your claim about nature programmes. BBC Bristol has a dedicated nature department which makes a lot of wildlife programmes even in Japan - I once joined a BBC crew filming monkeys in Nagano - and because of their output on British TV, you appear to be arguing that Japanese people like nature programmes less than British. Can you not see the lunacy?



I have a pretty good intuition about things like that. Then don't forget that I did go around Japan and learn about every touristic attraction and national park in detail to write this website's Japan Sightseeing Guide (http://www.wa-pedia.com/practical/sightseeing.shtml). I am also writing travel guides about European countries, and I love statistics (e.g. about tourism).

Yes, I think I got the statistics part. But please, intuition? Is that a valid reason to make preposterous claims? It is clear that you have 'learnt about' a great many things about Japan, but, without getting too personal, you seem to have understood very little.


Except if you are writing a guide of Japan and travel around the country for that purpose... I don't know where you have been in Japan, but I certainly have seen more of that country than most foreigners in Japan and most Japanese alike.

Well, no I wasn't writing a guide but was a guest of the Socialist Party of Japan and the Japanese Trades Union Congress and my goal was to meet small communities and groups of social, economic and environmental activists on a 5 month walking trip all across Japan. So statistics or no statistics, the people are out there - it's just you never met them.


Anyway, I never said that Japan was not beautiful for its nature, my criticism is about Japanese people who claim that they love nature more than others because of Shintoism, their long passion for cherry blossoms, etc.

Ah but you did say this:


Japan is a country 13x the size of Belgium (where I live now), with the exact same population density, and I haven't seen a tenth of the natural beauty found in Belgium

And it does seem to be an insinuation that Japan is not as beautiful as Belgium, does it not? If you have been to all the places you claim in Japan, either you need to get your eyes checked or Belgium should sack its tourism minister.


How do you know ? Have you been all the way from the spring to the sea ?


Steady, steady. I read a voice raised.


Kerr's claim is not that all rivers have concrete banks on all their length, but at least at one point or another (even a few hundred metres). At the time he wrote the book, there was only one river in Japan that didn't have concrete anywhere from the beginning to the end (in Shikoku, if I remember well).

So now we have a much better understanding of Kerr's statement than the previous one you made. And yes, considering the concrete used in bridges he may have a point with this.

Glenn
Nov 13, 2006, 15:44
Why is it that Japanese language itself does not differentiate as much between animals as English or other European languages (e.g. turtle vs tortoise, mouse vs rat vs shrew vs vole, whale vs rorqual vs orc, or using the kanji for fish [魚] in the kanji for whale [鯨]) ?

1) I think you should ask the Chinese about that.

2) Aren't you assuming a bit too much in the way of knowledge of biological classifications 3000 years ago? It's nice that we know this now, but I doubt the Chinese knew it when they were creating the characters.

3) 魚 doesn't always mean "fish," but also has the meaning of a creature that lives in water (according to the 新漢語林: 水中に住む動物の総称。) Incidentally, it also has the meaning of an ornamental dressing that one would wear on one's clothes. This meaning comes from the practice of government officials using fish shaped badges on their waists to prove their positions during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). It can even have the meaning of a horse with white hair around its eyes (no reason given for that one).

Kanji have a long history, so it's not always possible to say "I know X means Y on its own, so it must have that meaning everywhere."

By the way, "tele" and "homo" in English are now considered words that are mere abbreviations of fuller words ("television" and "homosexual," respectively), and they depart from their original meanings as bound morphemes ("distant" and "same," respectively). They have both already combined with other elements with their new meanings: "televangelist" and "homophobe" are examples. While not exactly the same, the creation of kanji bears some similarity to this process, so it's not like Chinese or Japanese are the only ones to do this.

Also, in scientific texts the Japanese use katakana for animal names anyway, in which case the kanji becomes irrelevant to scientific classification. If you use the kanji the words carry other meanings, whereas the katakana word is sterile and scientific. For example, 狼 can mean a person who appears sensitive and kind, but will attack as soon as they are shown an opening, whereas オオカミ only means a predatory mammal of the dog family.

By the way:
turtle -- ウミガメ
tortoise -- カメ
mouse -- ハツカネズミ
rat -- ネズミ
shrew -- トガリネズミ
vole -- ハタネズミの類・野ネズミ
whale -- クジラ
rorqual -- ナガス[イワシ]クジラ
orc (I assume you meant "orca") -- シャチ, and also the loan words キラー・ホェール and オルカ

Looks like they're pretty differentiated to me. In fact, not only that, but they look better organized as well. All of the rodents end in ネズミ, and two of the three whales end in クジラ.

Mikawa Ossan
Nov 13, 2006, 15:47
rat -- ネズミ

I always thought rat was ドブネズミ


EDIT: Sorry, Glenn! I like the point you make, though, and I agree.

Glenn
Nov 13, 2006, 15:51
Alright, that's fine. My point stands either way. I just did a quick search of the dictionary, and it had all of those different names listed. I suppose トブネズミ would be better, as it seems more accurate.

undrentide
Nov 13, 2006, 15:59
Alright, that's fine. My point stands either way. I just did a quick search of the dictionary, and it had all of those different names listed. I suppose トブネズミ would be better, as it seems more accurate.


The grey, big rats regarded as varmint are called ドブネズミ while the white ones used for tests/experiments are called ラット. :relief:

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 16:32
I think you missed the whole point. You previously claimed the following:
So you accept the Fuji-Hakone-Izu national park is packed, well let me tell you that the Kirishima national park is also packed every weekend, the Daisetsuzan national park is packed and no doubt every one of the 28 national parks.

You still miss my point. These parks may be packed, but it would be because the Japanese go to the same places justly because there are so few big national parks. Why is there so few ? Because of lawmakers policy. Who elects the lawmakers ? The people. A country's people is often a reflection of its own lawmakers and government.


So what does my 'intuition' say about this? It says that Japanese people like to take a walk in natural surroundings on the weekends. Whether proportionately more people do that in your tiny country is quite irrelevant.

OK, let's stop the discussion here you will never get my point.


As of course your claim about nature programmes. BBC Bristol has a dedicated nature department which makes a lot of wildlife programmes even in Japan - I once joined a BBC crew filming monkeys in Nagano - and because of their output on British TV, you appear to be arguing that Japanese people like nature programmes less than British. Can you not see the lunacy?

Lunacy ? I like watching documentaries about nature, and in my 4 years in Japan I almost cannot remember seeing such documentaries on the 7 main (free) channels in Tokyo (NHK, NHK2, Nihon TV, TBS, Fuji TV, Asahi TV, Tokyo TV). On the BBC, I can see them several times a week. Of course I wasn't all the time in front of the TV, but the same is true when I live(d) in Europe.



Yes, I think I got the statistics part. But please, intuition? Is that a valid reason to make preposterous claims? It is clear that you have 'learnt about' a great many things about Japan, but, without getting too personal, you seem to have understood very little.

I could say the exact same thing about you. Quite franky, I do not think that you understand Japan better than me.



Well, no I wasn't writing a guide but was a guest of the Socialist Party of Japan and the Japanese Trades Union Congress and my goal was to meet small communities and groups of social, economic and environmental activists on a 5 month walking trip all across Japan. So statistics or no statistics, the people are out there - it's just you never met them.

Just my point. Why didn't I meet them or hear more about them ? Because they are so few and far between. Btw, the Socialist Party of Japan is a tiny opposition party. I also don't see what Socialist have anoting to do with the Green Party. In Europe it is the Socialists (and even more the Communists) that have been responsible for the worst environmental destruction.



And it does seem to be an insinuation that Japan is not as beautiful as Belgium, does it not? If you have been to all the places you claim in Japan, either you need to get your eyes checked or Belgium should sack its tourism minister.



Steady, steady. I read a voice raised.

This is a good example of how writing on a forum does not convey at all the emotions of the speaker. I said that with a shrug as I couldn't care less what you think. I only reply by courtesy but I am seriously fed up of people caviling about every little details I write without ever looking at the big picture. I dislike offtopics, yet your force me the hand.

This thread is "What do you like about Japan and Japanese people?", and I answered that in my first reply. I see that the things I like are more numerous and more usual than the things you have listed. Yet, for some reason that I haven't grasped yet, you are concentrating on a small remark I said explaining why "Japanese people's love of nature" does not qualify as a reason to like Japan for me. I think you have deeply misunderstood my intent in my examples about Belgium. I usually compare Belgium to Kyushu or Shikoku because they they are the closest Japanese regions in size (although Kyushu is more populous and Shikoku less). Tokyo-to has the same population as Belgium, so it is also good for comparison. Japan overall has the same population density as Belgium, so if I want to compare the two, I divide everything by 13 in Japan and see it is matches Belgium in "per capita" figures. Does Japan have 13x more natural attractions than Belgium ? Does Japan get 13x more foreign tourists than Belgium (no, and in fact it get less (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_tou_arr-economy-tourist-arrivals) !) ? Are there 13x more WWF members in Japan than in Belgium (incidentally I joined when I was 8) ? This is how my comparison work. Obviously only for quantitative comparison, never qualitative ones (I specify it because I am sure that someone will come and say that it is "lunacy" to ask whether Japanese food should be 13x better than Belgian one; but this has nothing to do with the country' size or population).

I find Japan to be fairly average as long as nature is concerned. Not ugly (except the parts that have been "concretised" and which are numerous outside Okinawa, Tohoku and Hokkaido), but not extremely beautiful either. My references as very beautiful countries for nature are France (esp. the South), Italy, Spain, the US West, South-East Australia, or South-Western China. Compared to that Japan is merely "average" (yet bigger than Italy). I also cannot get used to think of Okinawa or Hokkaido as representative of Japan, because they are only recent annexions and are very different from the true Japanese heartland. I do not count Congo as a part of Belgium, nor India as a part of the UK. Yet many European colonies remained longer part of the country that colonised them than Okinawa and Hokkaido have been part of Japan. When I think about the natural beauty of France, I never take French Guyana or Polynesia into account, and yet they are as much part of present-day France as Okinawa or Hokkaido are part of Japan. I think you get my point. You may not consent, but this is how my mind works.

I could write more examples of why I think the Japanese are, in average, less big fans of nature, but I would probably be wasting my time if you don't want to hear anything. How could someone who associate the Socialist Party for the Green Party ever be on the same wavelength as me ?

craftsman
Nov 13, 2006, 17:00
How could someone who associate the Socialist Party for the Green Party ever be on the same wavelength as me ?

You obviously didn't read that right. Let me try again.


I was a guest of the socialist party (whose politics I do not necessarily agree with) and I was talking to social, economic and environmental groups. It was the last bit you were supposed to understand.


As for wavelength, is there anyone on this whole forum you think is on the same wavelength as you?

Mikawa Ossan
Nov 13, 2006, 17:01
Why not split this discussion into a new thread?

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 17:11
1) I think you should ask the Chinese about that.
2) Aren't you assuming a bit too much in the way of knowledge of biological classifications 3000 years ago? It's nice that we know this now, but I doubt the Chinese knew it when they were creating the characters.
Are you saying that a country that decided to drop half of its culture to adopt Western systems, sciences, and invented new kanji compound for them, a country that has imported so many linguistic terms from European languages, could not have changed the kanji for whale or just supress it and replace it by katakana or hiragana as has been done with other words. No, there was no will to do so because for the Japanese it isn't really a problem to associate whales with fish. After all, don't they all live in water ? :okashii:


By the way, "tele" and "homo" in English are now considered words that are mere abbreviations of fuller words ("television" and "homosexual," respectively), and they depart from their original meanings as bound morphemes ("distant" and "same," respectively). They have both already combined with other elements with their new meanings: "televangelist" and "homophobe" are examples. While not exactly the same, the creation of kanji bears some similarity to this process, so it's not like Chinese or Japanese are the only ones to do this.
I would associate this more with the creation of new words from old kanji (e.g. 写真). The Japanese are masters in word combinations that completely depart from the originally meaning (e.g.リモコン) and mixing Japanese with foreign words to form new terms (e.g. カラオケ, from "空" and "orchestra"). But this has nothing to do with biological classification. You are arguing about purely linguistic formations.

By the way:
turtle -- ウミガメ
tortoise -- カメ
mouse -- ハツカネズミ
rat -- ネズミ
shrew -- トガリネズミ
vole -- ハタネズミの類・野ネズミ
whale -- クジラ
rorqual -- ナガス[イワシ]クジラ
orc (I assume you meant "orca") -- シャチ, and also the loan words キラー・ホェール and オルカ
Looks like they're pretty differentiated to me. In fact, not only that, but they look better organized as well. All of the rodents end in ネズミ, and two of the three whales end in クジラ.
You are good at confirming what I had just explained above with more detailed examples. Indeed, in Japanese, a "turtle" is a "sea tortoise", and the Muroidea (family of the mice, shews, voles, gerbils, rats, hamsters...) are just ネズミ, with an adjective differentiating them. The same is true for Cetacea, only roughly divided in クジラ (whale) and イルカ (dolphin), a bit like small children do in the West. I am suprised that English doesn't have a unique word for "sperm whale" (cachalot in French) or "roe deer" (chevreuil in French), or does not differentiate between owls with external ears (hibou in French) or no external ears (chouette in French) so imagine my disappointment with Japanese language, despite Japan having such a special relationship with whaling. Japanese language also lacked differentiation between weasel, skunk, mink, ermine, polecat, all commonly refered to as いたち, although the English words is sometimes used for スカンク (skunk) or ミンク (mink). You have to admit that even when an English word has been imported, most Japanese (especially if they do not speak English well) do not use these loan words. Likewise, I rarely heard the Japanese making a point in differentiating a mouse from a rat.

Glenn
Nov 13, 2006, 18:50
Are you saying that a country that decided to drop half of its culture to adopt Western systems, sciences, and invented new kanji compound for them, a country that has imported so many linguistic terms from European languages, could not have changed the kanji for whale or just supress it and replace it by katakana or hiragana as has been done with other words. No, there was no will to do so because for the Japanese it isn't really a problem to associate whales with fish. After all, don't they all live in water ? :okashii:

So what's your problem with this, then?:


3) 魚 doesn't always mean "fish," but also has the meaning of a creature that lives in water (according to the 新漢語林: 水中に住む動物の総称。)
...
Kanji have a long history, so it's not always possible to say "I know X means Y on its own, so it must have that meaning everywhere."


I would associate this more with the creation of new words from old kanji (e.g. 写真). The Japanese are masters in word combinations that completely depart from the originally meaning (e.g.リモコン) and mixing Japanese with foreign words to form new terms (e.g. カラオケ, from "空" and "orchestra"). But this has nothing to do with biological classification. You are arguing about purely linguistic formations.

I agree that it's closer to that (in fact, identical), but kanji are still created with meaningful elements, so it's not entirely non-analogous.

I would argue that 魚 on the left of 京 to make 鯨 has nothing to do with biological classification. In fact, I think that's what I am arguing. Since 魚 (as a radical) has a broad meaning of an animal that lives in water, I don't see the problem with it.

What I should have done is left that out the first two points, as they merely complicated the issue. But then again, I think the point is clear that even if 魚 only meant "fish" at first, it came to have other meanings later, and by the time the Japanese were importing Western words and science, the meaning of "animal that lives in water" was probably firmly in place, so there was no need to change it.


You are good at confirming what I had just explained above with more detailed examples. Indeed, in Japanese, a "turtle" is a "sea tortoise", and the Muroidea (family of the mice, shews, voles, gerbils, rats, hamsters...) are just ネズミ, with an adjective differentiating them. The same is true for Cetacea, only roughly divided in クジラ (whale) and イルカ (dolphin), a bit like small children do in the West. I am suprised that English doesn't have a unique word for "sperm whale" (cachalot in French), so imagine my disappointment with Japanese language, despite Japan having such a special relationship with whaling. Japanese language also lacked differentiation between weasel, skunk, mink, ermine, polecat, all commonly refered to as いたち, although the English words is sometimes used for スカンク (skunk) or ミンク (mink). You have to admit that even when an English word has been imported, most Japanese (especially if they do not speak English well) do not use these loan words. Likewise, I rarely heard the Japanese making a point in differentiating a mouse from a rat.

So ネズミ should be translated as "rodent," then. It seems to have more of that meaning anyway. I don't know why it's glossed as "rat; mouse," but then again, I don't know why 夜叉 is glossed as "female devil" either.

Along the same lines, the Japanese gloss of ウミガメ is obviously intended to cover the meaning of "turtle" as "sea turtle" as opposed to "land turtle," which would be a tortoise. To be honest, it looks like the English words are vague in their meaning, as "turtle" can mean anything in Family Testudinidae, or it can mean only some of those belonging to Families Cheloniidae (seven species) and Dermochelyidae (the leatherback), whereas "tortoise" is considered a herbivorous turtle that lives on land. However, it seems that this case is much like the one of ネズミ, in that the gloss is wrong. カメ is the general term "turtle" (not the sea turtle) and everything else is a specific kind of カメ. It seems that "tortoise" would be more appropriately glossed as ゾウガメ.

Without going through all of the クジラ it looks again as though it's just a general name, and that more specific creatures that fall under that category are some kind of クジラ.

From what I have read, skunk aren't even native to Japan, so it's no wonder they'd import the word. ミンク doesn't refer to native Japanese mink, by the way, only American and European ones. The Japanese ones are イタチ.

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 19:20
So what's your problem with this, then?:

The last sentence was highly sarcastic. Only a little child that hasn't had any notions of biology would put all "the animals living in the sea" under the same category. Btw, it's been a several hundreds years since we have classified whales as mammals and not fish.


I would argue that 魚 on the left of 京 to make 鯨 has nothing to do with biological classification. In fact, I think that's what I am arguing. Since 魚 (as a radical) has a broad meaning of an animal that lives in water, I don't see the problem with it.

So Japanese language does not have a term just for "fish". Wonderful !


So ネズミ should be translated as "rodent," then. It seems to have more of that meaning anyway.
...
Without going through all of the クジラ it looks again as though it's just a general name, and that more specific creatures that fall under that category are some kind of クジラ.

Even better ! Now Japanese language lacks terms for "mouse" (or "rat" ?) and for "whale".


From what I have read, skunk aren't even native to Japan, so it's no wonder they'd import the word. ミンク doesn't refer to native Japanese mink, by the way, only American and European ones. The Japanese ones are イタチ.

Are you saying that a Japanese weasel is exactly the same animal as a Japanese mink ?

Giraffes, rhinoceros, elephants, lions and tigers aren't native to Japan or Europe, and yet Japanese and European languages have unique words for them. Why not smaller mamals ? I see a lack of interest in distinguishing animal species, and thus a lack of interest in nature. It only takes one person to create new words for the above. This person hasn't been born in Japan yet (or my 2 electronic dictionaries and Wikipedia in Japanese need a serious revision).

Glenn
Nov 13, 2006, 20:01
The last sentence was highly sarcastic.

You mean the "what's your problem with this?" Yeah, I should have worded that differently.


Btw, it's been a several hundreds years since we have classified whales as mammals and not fish.

Well, a pineapple isn't an apple, and I don't know what grapefruits have to do with grapes, and eggplants certainly aren't grown by planting eggs, nor do they sprout them, yet we use these words all the time.


So Japanese language does not have a term just for "fish". Wonderful !

No, I said 魚 as a radical has a broader meaning. It also means "fish," though (see English "turtle" above). As a character in its own right it means anything belonging to 魚類, which includes jawless fish, bony fish, and cartilaginoid fish.


Even better ! Now Japanese language lacks terms for "mouse" (or "rat" ?) and for "whale".

No, they have them. I think it's highly possible that they use the broad terms for specific creatures, most likely the most common ones, and that they have acquired that meaning over time, but the scientific usage is different. There are words like that in every language.

Perhaps it would be better to say that there should also be the gloss "rodentia" there (or something like that) to give the impression that it's a scientific classification and not just rats and mice. As was written above, ハツカネズミ is "mouse" and ドブネズミ is "rat." As for whales, like I said, I didn't look into that one very deeply, but I see a pattern emerging.


Are you saying that a Japanese weasel is exactly the same animal as a Japanese mink ?

Well, from what I'm looking at now, it appears that way. However, under wikipedia's "mink" heading (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mink) they don't list Japan at all, so it could be that the people who put イタチ into English had different ideas of what they should call it.


Giraffes, rhinoceros, elephants, lions and tigers aren't native to Japan or Europe, and yet Japanese and European languages have unique words for them. Why not smaller mamals ? I see a lack of interest in distinguishing animal species, and thus a lack of interest in nature. It only takes one person to create new words for the above. This person hasn't been born in Japan yet (or my 2 electronic dictionaries and Wikipedia in Japanese need a serious revision).

In the case of giraffes it's because they had a strange mythological creature called きりん, and when they saw a giraffe they thought it was strange, so they gave it that name (simplified version).

The others I don't know about off-hand, and I don't have time to look them up right now.

Elizabeth
Nov 13, 2006, 20:18
The grey, big rats regarded as varmint are called ドブネズミ while the white ones used for tests/experiments are called ラット. :relief:

Thanks for the update. I always thought, and according to my pocket Random House dictionary, they were 大鼠(おおねずみ). :?

Maciamo
Nov 13, 2006, 21:21
Well, a pineapple isn't an apple, and I don't know what grapefruits have to do with grapes, and eggplants certainly aren't grown by planting eggs, nor do they sprout them, yet we use these words all the time.

Indeed, but eggplant is only American English (the proper British English word is aubergine). As for grapefruits, it is because they grow in clusters/bunches like grapes (such "bunches" are called "grappe" in French). But I never understood why English has chosen "grapefruit" rather than "pomelo", "pompelmo", "pamplemousse", "pompelmoes", "Pampelmuse" or something like that, like in other Western European languages. "Pamplemouse" would have been an easy English adaptation.


No, I said 魚 as a radical has a broader meaning. It also means "fish," though (see English "turtle" above).

So there is only one word for "fish" and for "species that live in the water". It still show a lack of scientific rigour.


Perhaps it would be better to say that there should also be the gloss "rodentia" there (or something like that) to give the impression that it's a scientific classification and not just rats and mice. As was written above, ハツカネズミ is "mouse" and ドブネズミ is "rat." As for whales, like I said, I didn't look into that one very deeply, but I see a pattern emerging.



The grey, big rats regarded as varmint are called ドブネズミ while the white ones used for tests/experiments are called ラット


Thanks for the update. I always thought, and according to my pocket Random House dictionary, they were 大鼠(おおねずみ).

Isn't it incredible that one of the world's most common mammals, the rat, does not have a clear name in Japanese ? In some dictionary it is ドブネズミ ("gutter mouse/rodent"), in others it is just ネズミ ("mouse/rodent"), in others ラット (from English) and in others yet 大鼠 ("big mouse/rodent") ! None of them are unique words, only adjective + noun compounds, except if "nezumi" alone means "rat", in which case it cannot mean "mouse" or "rodent" without having a double usage again.

DoctorP
Nov 13, 2006, 21:29
Kerr's claim is not that all rivers have concrete banks on all their length, but at least at one point or another (even a few hundred metres). At the time he wrote the book, there was only one river in Japan that didn't have concrete anywhere from the beginning to the end (in Shikoku, if I remember well).
This is not what you were originally argueing! Nice to see you backtrack at times, but never admit that you could be wrong.
Next trip I make to mainland I will take some pictures for you to prove my stance.
As a matter of fact, if you get there before me, go visit my friends...I'm sure that they will show you what real rivers look like outside of the cities:
http://www.kappa-club.com/

DoctorP
Nov 13, 2006, 21:38
You know what I find funny? All this argueing about what to call a rat in Japan and I don't think that I have ever really seen a rat in my time living here!

Shrew? Yes, rat no.

undrentide
Nov 13, 2006, 21:59
These parks may be packed, but it would be because the Japanese go to the same places justly because there are so few big national parks.

Is it really so?
I learnt from the internet source that the number of national parks in Japan is 28, total 2,051,179ha.
It is 5.43% of the total land (37,768,366ha). But I don't know about other countries. I'm very much interested, and searched further on the net and found interesting data.

http://earthtrends.wri.org
Biodiversity and Protected Areas > Data Tables

http://bramble.s47.xrea.com/album/bio1.gif
Note:
(1)-(3) Number of area (Total size in 1,000ha)
(4)(5) Number
*It seems that National Parks in Japan are not categorized as (1) by UNEP-WCMC.
I think that there are various way to measure the status of nature in each country and the above data is not everything.
There are many different ways to appreciate nature.
But at least the above data is some indication, and Japan is not so bad.
There are 7 national parks which are over 100,000ha - it is less than UK or Germany but not so astonishingly few either.
:souka:

http://bramble.s47.xrea.com/album/bio2.gif
Note:
Number of Total Know Species, 2004 (Number of threatened species, 2003)

*It's sad to see that the number of threatened species increaseced rapidly, especially birds in Japan.
Biodiversity and Protected Areas > Country Profile shows more details, though the data is older than the above.

Biodiversity in Japan is far better than I expected from a post in this forum in the past which states as if there were far less botanical diversity in Japan than other European countries.
:-)

Glenn
Nov 13, 2006, 23:17
Indeed, but eggplant is only American English (the proper British English word is aubergine). As for grapefruits, it is because they grow in clusters/bunches like grapes (such "bunches" are called "grappe" in French). But I never understood why English has chosen "grapefruit" rather than "pomelo", "pompelmo", "pamplemousse", "pompelmoes", "Pampelmuse" or something like that, like in other Western European languages. "Pamplemouse" would have been an easy English adaptation.

Isn't "aubergine" French? Thanks for the info on grapefruits -- at least it makes some sense now. But then again, why aren't bananas called grapenanas or something? They grow in bunches too.

I wonder what they call eggplant in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


So there is only one word for "fish" and for "species that live in the water". It still show a lack of scientific rigour.

I think there is only one word for "fish" (well, I guess three if you count いお and うお as separate readings for 魚), which includes eels, sharks, and all the other things that are usually associated with the English word. The component 魚 can also mean an animal that lives in the water. It isn't a word, but a part of other characters. For instance 鮑 is an abalone and 鯱 is a killer whale.

I don't think there is much scientific rigour in common names for the animals and plants in English, either, which is probably why the scientific names are given in Latin.


Isn't it incredible that one of the world's most common mammals, the rat, does not have a clear name in Japanese ? In some dictionary it is ドブネズミ ("gutter mouse/rodent"), in others it is just ネズミ ("mouse/rodent"), in others ラット (from English) and in others yet 大鼠 ("big mouse/rodent") ! None of them are unique words, only adjective + noun compounds, except if "nezumi" alone means "rat", in which case it cannot mean "mouse" or "rodent" without having a double usage again.

Well, like undrentide said, ラット is specifically a lab rat. I'm curious about 大鼠, though, as it doesn't show up in 大辞林, 明鏡国語辞典, the EXCEED dictionary, or 英辞郎. It's in Random House, though, and I'm pretty sure I heard it in Kill Bill.

I don't see why 鼠 couldn't have one usage as a word and another as a part of a word, especially if it were an abbreviation (like "homo" or "tele"), but, at any rate, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Here's the definition of 鼠 in 明鏡国語辞典: 一般に小形で、尾が細長いネズミ目ネズミ科の哺乳類。 上下一対の門歯が発達し、終生伸び続ける。農作物や食 料品を食い荒らすほか、病原体を媒介することも る。 「ねずみ算」の語が るほど繁殖力は 盛。「ドブネズ ミ・クマネズミ・ハツカネズミ・アカネズミ・ハタネズ ミなど、その種類はきわめて多い。So, maybe "rat/mouse" is more appropriate, and "rodentia" is too broad (or perhaps "Murinae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murinae)" would be most appropriate, but who uses that in everyday speech?). But just the English word "rat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattus)" isn't all that accurate, it seems.

I guess it's worth noting here that glosses are in most cases apporximations of words, so most likely one-to-one correspondences are rare. Lately I'm finding that using J-E/E-J dictionaries cause lots of misunderstanding in word usage, and even checking a Japanese dictionary can leave you at a loss as to how a word is actually used sometimes.

leonmarino
Nov 13, 2006, 23:59
Belgians call "water-rat" (which is a delicacy according to my dear southern neighbours) "water-konijn", which translates to "water-rabbit".. Now how stupi.. I mean, how logical is that? :blush:

Mrjones
Nov 14, 2006, 01:05
After reading this...my comments are:
-Whaling is wrong, no matter if its done by major country or not , Norwegians, Icelanders or by Japanese.
-At least I was teached in elementary school that whale is mammal. How do you teach it is a mammal if there is only one kanji for sea animal, how do you teach differences ?
-In my country we dont much sakura bloom, though seasons which Japanese are proud are still much more stronger than in part of Japan where I have lived.


-Japanese Riverside nature is 50-100 meters joke forest, greener for, for what I have seen.

-The mountine areas what I have seen though are expectionally beatiful.

Maciamo
Nov 14, 2006, 01:29
Belgians call "water-rat" (which is a delicacy according to my dear southern neighbours) "water-konijn", which translates to "water-rabbit".. Now how stupi.. I mean, how logical is that? :blush:
Never heard of that. Who told you that ? Any link ? Anyway I suppose you are referring to a dish, not the actual scientific name of an animal. As you know there are 3 official languages in Belgium, so I suppose again that it is in Dutch (your language) that you heard that. My influence is only limited to the ministers of the French community, so I do no take responsibility for that. :blush:

Gentleman10
Nov 14, 2006, 01:31
I think what's funny is, even though the Japanese may not care about the greenery, they sure make an effort to keep their cities clean. I think it's very considerate of them to keep their streets and sidewalks clean, so I guess maybe that gives some people of an impression that Japanese people respect their environment more? On the other hand, I did have the experience of going to the beach in Japan, and let me tell you, it wasn't the most pleasant water their... :relief:

leonmarino
Nov 14, 2006, 03:01
Never heard of that. Who told you that ? Any link ? Anyway I suppose you are referring to a dish, not the actual scientific name of an animal. As you know there are 3 official languages in Belgium, so I suppose again that it is in Dutch (your language) that you heard that. My influence is only limited to the ministers of the French community, so I do no take responsibility for that. :blush:I don't have a link I'm sorry but I used to go to Belgiu.. Flanders a lot, so that's how I know. A Belgia.. Flemish friend of mine and I were actually talking "waterkonijn" a while ago. :blush:

sabro
Nov 14, 2006, 03:34
I see more tour groups and busses up here in these mountains, at Yosemite and at the Grand Canyon than from any other foreign country. Perhaps it is just because the Japanese tourists prefer to go on group tours here, but in California, there seem to be no shortage of Japanese that do seem to love nature.

My mother's family... who are Japanese, seem to have a deep and abiding respect and appreciation for nature. We often went fishing, camping, hiking and backpacking. I spent countless weekends in the mountains, at the beach and in the dessert and slept under the stars in wilderness areas for weeks at a time. I don't know if this reflected a "Japanese" value, but it was a value that my Japanese family passed down to me.

Maciamo
Nov 14, 2006, 05:31
I see more tour groups and busses up here in these mountains, at Yosemite and at the Grand Canyon than from any other foreign country. Perhaps it is just because the Japanese tourists prefer to go on group tours here, but in California, there seem to be no shortage of Japanese that do seem to love nature.
You may be right about the Japanese liking bus tours more than average. On the other hand I very rarely see Japanese tourists in the countryside in Europe; they tend to stick to the cities, especially the big and famous ones (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Milano, Firenze, Roma and Napoli are probably the most popular).

The only exceptions might be the Cotswolds and the Lake District in England... France has plenty of great regions for nature : the Ardeche, Auvergne, Cevennes, Provence, Jura, Alps, Pyrenees, Perigord... These regions are packed with European tourists in summer, and yet Japanese tourists are extremely rare there. Go to the Galeries Lafayette in Paris or shopping streets of Milano and all you will see is long queues of Japanese women waiting to buy Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada bags... My impression from that is that Japanese women prefer a dead animal's skin than a live one.

Another reason to believe that the modern Japanese don't care much about animals is that vegetarianism is almost unheard of in Japan (apart from a few Buddhist priests, esp. around Kyoto). In some European countries (UK, Belgium, Germany...) it has become so popular that it any self-respected restaurant has a vegetarian menu.

undrentide
Nov 14, 2006, 06:53
-At least I was teached in elementary school that whale is mammal. How do you teach it is a mammal if there is only one kanji for sea animal, how do you teach differences ?


Having one kanji for whale with 魚 radical does not mean they don't teach whale is mammal. Of course pupils are taught at school that whale is mammal, so is dolphine. It can be explained in Japanese as easily as in English or other language.

gaijinalways
Nov 14, 2006, 10:30
I also have been disappointed with some areas in Japan. For example, I visited Kamikochi Park in Japan. In the park they restrict entry to a limited number of taxis and tour buses. So, we are hiking along, nice view of the river, and we come around a bend, and there is a nice view of a bus parking lot (conveniently located next to the river)! That and the park decided to build two hotels right next to the river.

So the problem in Japan, is that they seem to do a poor job of balancing access with preserving the natural landscape. The same for many hiking trails, which often use concrete reinforcement rather than more natural materials.

As to numbers at national parks, I don't think the number of Japanese visiting national parks in Japan compares to the number of visitors in the US to national parks. For example, a smaller park in Maine, Acadia National Park, gets close to 7 million visitors a year. I can't imagine most of the national parks in Japan get anywhere close to that number of visitors.

http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/np.html

This link shows the number of visitors over 50 years (!). Some 390 visitors over 50 years, or about 8 million a year for all the national parks!

Maciamo
Nov 14, 2006, 17:26
I also have been disappointed with some areas in Japan. For example, I visited Kamikochi Park in Japan. In the park they restrict entry to a limited number of taxis and tour buses. So, we are hiking along, nice view of the river, and we come around a bend, and there is a nice view of a bus parking lot (conveniently located next to the river)! That and the park decided to build two hotels right next to the river.
So the problem in Japan, is that they seem to do a poor job of balancing access with preserving the natural landscape.

This is also what Alex Kerr explained in "Lost Japan" and "Dogs & Demons". Many temples nationwide have advertising signs (mostly notoriously by Hitachi) just in front of them, which spoils the overall view. Many castles have had lifts/elevators built inside them (e.g. Osaka-jo, Chiba-jo), which kills the historical character. Many forest trails have asphalted paths and steps, which I am sure make it easier for o-baasan to walk, but also spoils the natural atmosphere. If there is something that the Japanese have always done for centuries, it is to try to control and impose their will onto nature. This is obvious in Zen gardens, which are almost a misnommer because a garden is supposed to have a lot of greenery, not just well raked sand and stones... Building concrete hotels or other ugly tourist facilities next to beautiful attractions is certainly a Japanese speciality, which Alex Kerr makes a point in denouncing in both of the above-mentioned books.

leonmarino
Nov 14, 2006, 17:53
Before people start blaming and shaming other countries of being "not environmentally friendly" or "not up to modern standards" (if I may be so free to paraphrase some of you posters), may I put it in a bit of perspective?

Japan is one of the cleanest countries I know.. In fact it is the cleanest country I've ever been too. I rarely see any filth lying around in the city, suburbia or countryside. This is in sharp contrast with the situation in Europe. No matter in what desolate piece of land I come, there is always filth left behind by our fellow human beings.

And it is so easy to bad-mouth the Japanese for their concrete riversides and hills, and then compare it with, say, Switzerland.. But Switzerland doesn't have as many earthquakes a year as Japan does now does it? The fear for landslides is very real.

And for god's sake what's with the whale thing!? A whale is a mammel just like a cow or pig many of us love to eat. Japan, being in middle of the sea, whale-hunting had become a very normal thing to do. So what? If you want to put the Japanese in a bad light for "not being educated enough", why don't you start teaching peoples of the evils of eating meat (a cow in Europe and the US receives more subsidy than half of the world population has to live on: $2 a day) (and their excrements cause damage too due to the methan gasses), or talk to the animal lovers who have pets and take "good care" of them by giving them medicines whenever is needed.. Which are tested on other, less fortunate pets!

But to get back to the nature issue: Japan has had a very succesful forestry and timber policy since the 17th century, which succesfully fought a timber scarcity. If it weren't for the Tokugawa rule Japan would have been extinct now. And on another account, Toyota is the most efficient car manufacturer in the world, creating the least waste per car produced and delivering cars with efficient fuel usage too. "Toyotism" is a major contribution to the world and has opened the eyes of many other manufacturers around the world.

Also the recycling policy in Japan is amazing, I don't have to explain you that. I have to admit that I sometimes wish that Japanese products used less packaging, but at least a near 100% is being recycled.

Now I am not saying that Japan is perfect with regards to perserving nature. Sure there a lot a points that can be improved. All I want to say is look at your own country and that situation too: I am ashamed of the attitude of most Dutch people, throwing garbage on the street "or else the cleaners wouldn't have anything to do!" I am also ashamed of our European Union, quartered in Brussels, and which has a monthly plenary meeting in Strasbourg, costing a whopping 300 million dollars a year, not to mention the environmental damage the vehicles are causing.

人のふり見て我がふり直せ。

Mike Cash
Nov 14, 2006, 19:20
If you want to prove Kerr wrong, why don't you give me examples of rivers in Japan that have not been "concreted" ?

Just right here around me locally, how about 荒川, 利根川 and 渡良瀬川?

They do have limited stretches with concrete reinforcements on the banks, typically in urban areas as has been pointed out already.

Even in areas without the concrete reinforced banks, though, unsightly earthen levees are the norm for large stretches of river. These are an absolute necessity, though, for flood control. I've seen vintage film footage of what happened right here in Kiryu soon after the end of the war, prior to any flood control measures being put into effect. It was horrible, to say the least.



I like watching documentaries about nature, and in my 4 years in Japan I almost cannot remember seeing such documentaries on the 7 main (free) channels in Tokyo (NHK, NHK2, Nihon TV, TBS, Fuji TV, Asahi TV, Tokyo TV).

Well, maybe some day you'll be able to come here for something other than such a short visit.

I absolutely hate Japanese television and in most cases would rather take an *** whipping than even be in the same room with it....but even I've seen nature documentaries. (Technically, NHK isn't free, by the way).

Maciamo
Nov 14, 2006, 21:33
There many other animal names missing in Japanese. There may be over 100 with all the male (castrated or not, like in bull vs ox), female, child, meat, cry and general term like these :

sheep : ram, ewe, lamb / mutton / to bleat
goat : buck/billy/wether, doe/nanny, kid / chevon / to bleat
cattle : bull/ox, cow, calf / beef / to moo
deer : stag/buck, hind/doe, fawn / venison / to bell
pig/swine/hog : boar/barrow, sow/gilt, piglet/shoat / pork / to grunt, squeal
chicken : ****/rooster, hen, chick / chicken/poultry / to crow, bwuck, cheep

...and also (I replaced the meat by the adjective below) :

horse : stallion/gelding, mare, foal (colt/filly) / equestrian / to neigh, whinney
dog : dog, *****, puppy => adj. = canine / to bark, bay, howl, whine, and yap
cat : tomcat, tabby, kitten => adj. = feline / to mew, purr

fox : tod/reynard, vixen, kit/pup / to bark and yelp

Add to this the special term for groups of such animals (herd, pack, skulk...).

English is not unique for having so many words for common animals. It is standard in European languages. It is Japanese (and many other Asian languages) that lack nuances. Just check the cries of animals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cries_of_animals) page on Wikipedia, which only has translations in European languages. Another evidence that the Japanese/Asians do not care as much about animals as Europeans.

undrentide
Nov 14, 2006, 22:30
I think diversity in vocabulary shows what people in old days were interested, in other words what were their may concern in their daily life.
I don't think Japan has a long history of keeping cattles so it is no wonder that we have far less vocabulary for animals, especially cattles.
(But I don't think it immediately means that today's Japanese people care less about animals in general or nature.)

We have different words for rice, raw one is called 米 while cooked one is called 飯(はん or めし). We have two different terms for water, hot water is 湯, cold water is 水. (Most European languages just have one word - does that mean people don't care about water??)

Name of traditional colours in Japanese is interesting.
Many of them reflect the nature - plants, birds, animals, for instance.
http://www.colordic.org/w/
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~xn6t-ogr/colors/TradColors.txt.n.html

Maciamo
Nov 15, 2006, 01:03
I think diversity in vocabulary shows what people in old days were interested, in other words what were their may concern in their daily life.
I don't think Japan has a long history of keeping cattles so it is no wonder that we have far less vocabulary for animals, especially cattles.
(But I don't think it immediately means that today's Japanese people care less about animals in general or nature.)

Let me disagree with that. Most of the animals I mentioned are common in Japan, and even the most common since ancient times. How do you explain for instance that foxes (kitsune), which have a very special place in Japanese traditions (e.g. inari jinja), have not been the object of more detailed vocabulary ? The Japanese have ridden and bred horses since ancient times too, but do not have separate words for male, female or young horses ?

The argument that modern Japanese (after WWII ?) care more than their ancestors also doesn't hold the road. With the tens of thousands of new kanji compounds and imported foreign words since Meiji, and even more after WWII, it would have been so easy to find new words for these very common animals. Yet English speakers are already among the least keen on differentiate between male and female animals in daily speech, because the English language does not use genders very much. In French, Spanish or Italian, rare are the people who would say dog (respectively chien, perro and cane) when they mean bi tch (chienne, perra, cagna). I guess English speakers don't use the word bit ch so much because of it is also used as an insult. But it is unthinkable for speakers of European languages not to distinguish between a cow and a bull, a stag and a doe, or a rooster and a hen.

leonmarino
Nov 15, 2006, 07:42
But we are going offtopic. The purpose of comparing animal names was to show how much more European cared about animals.What a whole lot of bullsh.. Do we have another, non-conjured word for that?

The Spanish vocabulary contains less words (http://spanish.about.com/od/spanishvocabulary/a/size_of_spanish.htm)than English, now are Spanish less caring of.. Everything?

Your theory totally ignores the dynamism a country, its people and its language is subject to. Europeans has had many centuries more experience with cattle. Hence, we have more words that describe these mammals. The Japanese however, to give an very obvious example, having more experience with rice, have two words for rice: 米 and ご飯, uncooked and cooked rice respectively. The Inuit, as Sabro pointed out, are said to have many words describing snow and the states their in (icy, powdery etc.) In other words, the environment has shaped the vocabulary.

Now, how flexible are vocabularies? If people start to find other things in the world more important, say, emission gasses, are people then suddenly going to invent new words for the types of emission gasses? Hell no. They'll probably be combination of existing words. So what? Do we have to invent new words to show people we care about them? Speaking of care, the Japanese have two words for love: 愛 and 恋. Does that make us non-Japanese people insensitive bastards? Maybe some of us are, but I would like to argue that I am not, although the Dutch, like the English have only one word for love.

On a more fundamental level, I think it is pretty ignorant to rate one people's attitude towards animals on the basis of its vocabulary. I might memorize all the names of all animals in the world, and even create new words for it, and still be a meat-eating, animal-abusing, pet-hating.. Linguist.

sabro
Nov 15, 2006, 09:07
I'm not certain that having differing names for males and females and the young of a species makes them more "childish and primitive" either. It would seem to be a jump in logic to make such an assumption. I also don't know if it follows that vegetarians care more about nature than other humans.

Mikawa Ossan
Nov 15, 2006, 09:47
I have always though that words like "centipede" and "octopus" were very childish English words. Not to mention "millipede". I guess English doesn't care enough about animals with more than 4 feet.

undrentide
Nov 15, 2006, 11:34
But it is just like saying "male cattle" and "female cattle", "male deer" and "female deer", or "male chicken" and "female chicken" in English. Of cours you can always give nuances to nouns by using adjectives. But in this case itjust sounds childish and primitive.

If we say 女の牛 or 男の牛, that would sound very childish, if not primitive.
But as to 牡牛 and 牝牛, we do not use 牡 or 牝 individually as an adjective. Each of them is one word, different from オスの牛 and メスの牛.

And putting 牡 or 牝 to show the gender is not unlike the word you listed as examples:
chien - chienne
perro - perra
cane - cagna
Each pair shares the same 'word stem'.
It is different from "stag and doe" or "cow and bull".


Are you supposing by saying this that English, or other European languages, do not have special terms to describe hair colour ?

I beg your pardon? I cannot see why you could draw such a conclusion from my previous post.
I don't think I mentioned anything that would imply such an absurd idea in my message...?
I'm more astonished and surprised than offended.

(1) First of all I am not talking about colour of people's hair - I did not mention it at all in my message.
(2) What I mentioned is that in Japanese language there are words used only for the colour of horses or the horses with that particular colour. I use the word "hair" because I don't think we call what horses have on their skin as "fur".
(3) You stated that having no different words for female/male for animals means the Japanese care less about them. I wanted to say that we may not have different words for gender, but we do have words for colours when it comes to horse.
(4) I did not say Japanese has "more" vocabulary than European language.

Why do you assume as if I were trying to compete against European languages, or as if I were trying to say that Japanese language is somewhat superior to other languages?
I merely stated a fact on vocabulary about horses in Japanese language.



But we are going offtopic. The purpose of comparing animal names was to show how much more European cared about animals.
To Sabro, it doesn't matter whether the Inuits have many names for snow, slush or blizzard, because it is not related to this topic. If we go down this road, there could be hundreds of categories of words which we could compare...

We are not going off topic - except the comment about human hair colour.
This thread is about nature, not specifically about animals.

I think having many words on a some specific things may indicate that the language (and maybe its people) have more interest in that aspect. But I don't think this "theory" works in the other way round. I don't think having less words about something does not necessarily mean that that particular thing has less importance or interests.
Perhaps the fox (kitsune) you mentioned is a good example. Having not many vocabulary does not mean it is not common or has small importance in Japanese culture.

gaijinalways
Nov 15, 2006, 13:02
Okay, Mike and others, you have shown a good justification in some cases for concrete retaining walls to avert mudslides and floods.

But what about the bus terminal next to the idyllic river in the Kamikochi national park? Unfortunately, as Maciamo has hinted at, this is far too common. The Japanese have decided that access to 'natural' areas is preferable to areas becoming staying more natural.

As to the garbage issue, in the cities, Japan cities are hands down one of the cleanest I have seen. But in the countryside, no. Seen plenty of illegal garbage dumps interspaced here and there. Saitama and Gunma are literally vast dumping grounds (never mind the radioactive jokes about Ibaraki)!

leonmarino
Nov 15, 2006, 14:08
Okay, Mike and others, you have shown a good justification in some cases for concrete retaining walls to avert mudslides and floods.
But what about the bus terminal next to the idyllic river in the Kamikochi national park? Unfortunately, as Maciamo has hinted at, this is far too common. The Japanese have decided that access to 'natural' areas is preferable to areas becoming staying more natural.
As to the garbage issue, in the cities, Japan cities are hands down one of the cleanest I have seen. But in the countryside, no. Seen plenty of illegal garbage dumps interspaced here and there. Saitama and Gunma are literally vast dumping grounds (never mind the radioactive jokes about Ibaraki)!I have never been such a place, so I may not be the right one to answer this one. However, I can imagine such a parking lot + hotels being more environmentally friendly than not having such a place. You actually say this yourself in the next part, that urban areas are cleaner.

This can be explained by looking at the Japanese psyche through a sociological view (in particular a theory that prescribes three different facets to collectivism as opposed to individualism), that the Japanese, being a relatively collectivist people, have two "selfs". One public self to interact with other individuals, and one private self. This model allows contradictory elements to coexist within a culture and a person. This is often regarded by westerners as "hypocrisy". In Japan it is "accepted" and may be referred to as "omote" vs. "ura", or "soto" vs. "uchi", or "tatemae" vs. "honne".. To make a long story short: because of the great amount of monitoring and control in the cities, people are very clean there, but at the same time it might make people to dump illegal garbage elsewhere.

So in that sense, it is good to build such a parking space including hotel in the countryside isn't it? More opportunities for monitoring people.

I'm bit of a devil's advocate now though, as I rather have no parking lots and no hotels in the countryside and also no illegal garbage. But, if I have the option between (1) "Hotel + clean countryside" or (2) "No hotel + illegal garbage", I'd definitely go for the first option.

craftsman
Nov 15, 2006, 16:05
Okay, Mike and others, you have shown a good justification in some cases for concrete retaining walls to avert mudslides and floods.
But what about the bus terminal next to the idyllic river in the Kamikochi national park? Unfortunately, as Maciamo has hinted at, this is far too common. The Japanese have decided that access to 'natural' areas is preferable to areas becoming staying more natural.


I don't think anyone is denying the fact that concrete is used in natural surroundings like that. But what is the sticky issue is as to whether that necessarily means that Japanese do not appreciate nature as much as Europeans do. Which is what the original proposition was that led to the concrete-in-the-river discussion.

Maciamo
Nov 15, 2006, 17:26
Your theory totally ignores the dynamism a country, its people and its language is subject to. Europeans has had many centuries more experience with cattle. Hence, we have more words that describe these mammals. The Japanese however, to give an very obvious example, having more experience with rice, have two words for rice: 米 and ご飯, uncooked and cooked rice respectively. The Inuit, as Sabro pointed out, are said to have many words describing snow and the states their in (icy, powdery etc.) In other words, the environment has shaped the vocabulary.
What a whole lot of bullsh.. Do we have another, non-conjured word for that? Absolutely irrelevant. As I explained above most of these animals are native to Japan. You make it sound like Japan was a pre-agricultural and pre-domestication society before the 20th century. That is outrageous. The Japanese have been raising cattle (and using them for agriculture and cart drawing), riding and breeding horses, hunting deer or boars, or raising chickens for about 2000 years. I can give concessions for sheep and goats, but not for the others. The English language didn't exist in a form roughly intelligible to today's speakers until the 16th or 17th century. Are you arguing that the Japanese could not have invented new words over 2000 years ? This is preposterous and insult the intelligence of the Japanese. As I explained above (again; please read before posting) Japanese language has created thousands of new words to cope with the new scientific and political concepts imported from the West during Meiji, and thousands more words from European languages. There is no excuse for no having separate unique words for a rooster and a hen, or a cow and a bull.


Speaking of care, the Japanese have two words for love: 愛 and 恋. Does that make us non-Japanese people insensitive bastards? Maybe some of us are, but I would like to argue that I am not, although the Dutch, like the English have only one word for love.
Stop displaying your ignorance. You are a disgrace to the Dutch people (EDIT : didn't notice until now that you were half-Japanese). There are many words equivalent to 愛 and 恋 in English : affection, fondness, passion, liking, yearning, adoration, craving, crush, infatuation... These are just for nouns. You can naturally adapt them into verbs, saying "I adore you", "I am fond of you", "I have a crush for you", "I crave for you", etc. As for equivalents of 愛人 or 恋人, there are even more terms : lover, boy/girlfriend, darling, honey, sweetheart, beau, mistress, date, gallant, suitor, wooer, and more. Even the Japanese have come to use darling, honey, sweetheart or boy/girlfriend frequently (just listen to J-pop) because they didn't have enough words for that.


On a more fundamental level, I think it is pretty ignorant to rate one people's attitude towards animals on the basis of its vocabulary. I might memorize all the names of all animals in the world, and even create new words for it, and still be a meat-eating, animal-abusing, pet-hating.. Linguist.

And you are the one telling me about ignorance ? If only you tried to understand what I meant (I know it's difficult for some to use their cerebral organ). The extend of vocabulary of a language reflects the care given to some particular things in the environment of that society (continuously through the ages I should say, not just right now), not individual people. That is so obvious to me that I didn't feel the need to explain it. You, Sabro and others intuitively know that as you have given yourself examples of the Inuits having many words for snow, proving my point that they attached a greater importance to it than most other societies. Now it is not because someone has memorised all the words for snow in the Inuit language that they necessarily give a shi't about snow (as you explained so well yourself). But it does tell us about Inuit society's sensitivity about snow all the way through its evolution to this day. So how comes that Japan, which was as much exposed to horses, chickens, foxes or deer than Europeans (we could even argue that some Mediterranean regions don't have as many foxes and deer as Japan), did not develop what we consider to be fundamental differences ? Why don't they even have words to describe the cries of these animals ? Isn't that an undeniable proof that they just didn't care ? I am pretty sure that many Europeans do not care too (you maybe ?), but at least there were enough people that cared to make these words, and continued to care to keep these words alive up to this day.

Mike Cash
Nov 15, 2006, 17:49
Okay, Mike and others, you have shown a good justification in some cases for concrete retaining walls to avert mudslides and floods.



But what about the bus terminal next to the idyllic river in the Kamikochi national park? Unfortunately, as Maciamo has hinted at, this is far too common. The Japanese have decided that access to 'natural' areas is preferable to areas becoming staying more natural.

What about the vast areas of mountainous Japan into which, as far as is known to modern Japan, no man has ever set foot? What about the hiker in Hokkaido whose bones were found only years after he was lost, since not only do people not go where he went, but planes almost never fly over at such an altitude to spot the huge SOS he had made on the ground prior to his demise?

Japan can be a land of extremes.



As to the garbage issue, in the cities, Japan cities are hands down one of the cleanest I have seen.

I take it you've never been down to the piers....


But in the countryside, no. Seen plenty of illegal garbage dumps interspaced here and there. Saitama and Gunma are literally vast dumping grounds (never mind the radioactive jokes about Ibaraki)!

As a longtime resident of Gunma, I have to take exception to that hyperbole.

Maciamo
Nov 15, 2006, 18:46
I don't think anyone is denying the fact that concrete is used in natural surroundings like that. But what is the sticky issue is as to whether that necessarily means that Japanese do not appreciate nature as much as Europeans do. Which is what the original proposition was that led to the concrete-in-the-river discussion.
How can you possibly love nature when you do not respect it ? Or maybe we have different sensibilities about 'respect of nature'. I will never accept that concrete eyesores be built in a beautiful natural surrounding, as is so common in Japan. When I mentioned that to Japanese people (e.g. businessmen), the typical answered I got was "We Japanese have a selective vision; we can focus on the beautiful and make abstraction of the rest" (or something to that effect). Such a poor excuse, if you want my opinion...

If we say 女の牛 or 男の牛, that would sound very childish, if not primitive.
But as to 牡牛 and 牝牛, we do not use 牡 or 牝 individually as an adjective. Each of them is one word, different from オスの牛 and メスの牛.
女の牛 and 男の牛 would be "madame cow" and "mister cow" in English (or a "man cow" and "woman cow"). English is not the easiest language to explain this because "male" and "female" are also used for humans. But in French "mâle and "femelle" are used only for animals, just like "osu" and "mesu" in Japanese. As a French speaker I can only see it as childish.


And putting 牡 or 牝 to show the gender is not unlike the word you listed as examples:
chien - chienne
perro - perra
cane - cagna
Each pair shares the same 'word stem'.
chien - chienne may share the same stem, and in this regard it is less "evolved" than the English version. But it is not the same as saying "chien mâle" and "chien femelle", like the Japanese "osu inu" and "me(su) inu". "onna no inu" and "otoko no inu" would be "monsieur chien" (or "chien garcon") and "madame chien" (or "chien fille") in very childish French. So, whereas 雌犬 is just childish for me, 女の犬 is very childish. Chien/chienne is a normal gender differentiation without the use of an adjective, while "dog/b'tch" is more evolved because of the completely different words. But let us not forget about the young (e.g. puppy), which in Japanese is just 子犬 ("little/young dog"), while a small-size dog would be 小さな犬.


I think having many words on a some specific things may indicate that the language (and maybe its people) have more interest in that aspect. But I don't think this "theory" works in the other way round. I don't think having less words about something does not necessarily mean that that particular thing has less importance or interests.
Why not ? Why one way but not the other. It is actually nonsensical to say that a language that has a more specialised or varied vocabulary for something indicate a greater interest/concern, but that a language that has less specialised or varied vocabulary does not indicate a lesser interest/concern. When you compare two languages, if one has more words of a type (=greater interest), then forcedly the other has less words of that type (=lesser interest). When you comapre two things, if one is darker, forcedly the other is lighter.


Perhaps the fox (kitsune) you mentioned is a good example. Having not many vocabulary does not mean it is not common or has small importance in Japanese culture.

Yes it does. The Japanese thought until not long ago (and maybe so people still do) that foxes had magical power and could steal your spirit by entering under your fingernails (or something like that). This is a clear evidence of lack of scientific research about foxes. Foxes were seen as distant animals which the Japanese didn't understand well, hence the widespread fears and superstitions about them. It seems pretty obvious that a culture that lacks a scientific approach to nature (stimulated by a deep interest and desire of understanding) will have less chances to develop specific vocabulary about animal biology.

So maybe it is not that the Japanese like nature less, but that they have feared nature more for centuries. Isn't it what Shinto is all about ? Fearing the spirits of the forest and nature in general ? Isn't why the Japanese have built houses very near from each others to seek mutual protection ? Isn't why, even in central Tokyo, people build walls around their house (like in Bali) or build shrines to prevent evil spirits from entering ? Isn't why the Japanese government has tried as much as it could to master the destructive forces of nature by cutting down forest (and replacing them by sugi), builing roads in the middle of mountains where nobody lives, and walls of concrete everywhere possible to find a sense of comfort that nature will not "attack" the people ? There isn't such an approach to nature in Western countries. On the contrary, people build houses in the middle of fields and forests, far from other people, in order to enjoy nature. There isn't this duality of fear-respect of nature omnipresent in Japan.

Maybe it is part of a deeper aspect of Japanese culture yet, the relation of fear-respect in general toward authority, the elderly, etc. It seems that nature is no exception to it, while for Europeans nature is the opposite of human society. We call it "Mother Nature", as if it cradled and nourished us, rather than attempt to destroy us. Having greenery is a mean of relaxation, which is why so many people have gardens in their houses (no t isn't because land prices are cheaper, even Londoner have gardens, with landprices about 2 or 3x higher than in central Tokyo). And we do not need shrines to give offerings to the kami to appease their wrath. The only animals that people have historically been afraid of are animals that were actually dangerous to humans, like wolves (not cute little foxes :blush: ). Even bears were domesticated by street entertainers since ancient times.

Maybe it is Indo-European cultures have a quite different relation to nature compared to East Asians. Eventhough cattle or buffalos have been domesticated for thousands of years all over Eurasia, East Asians have been reluctant to drink cow milk (and even more goat or sheep milk !) and dairy products up to this day (it is changing though). Many older Japanese people still do not drink milk or eat cheese. The Hindus see cows as sacred because they have provided us with their milk, like mothers, since the dawn of civilisations. The Indians (at least the Hindus and Jains) have been some of the most nature loving people on earth for centuries. Nowadays I would say that Europeans have overtaken them (only recently) because governments and people alike care more about environmental protection than in India. India has been overtaken by the industralisation and hasn't managed to adapt yet. Japan is a post-industrial country, like Western Europe, but there seem to be no will to really respect and protect nature.

In Japan, nature has to be controlled and made to serve humans. Recyclying is only for humans, for economic reasons... People (in the country) still fear the kami and give offerings in shrines. Many people, I noticed, still believe in ghosts and spirits ! They don't see any problem with hiking along a crowded well asphalted road with signs, vending machines and shops/restaurants everywhere, for the sake of convenience, and have the nerves to call that a walk in nature ! Nature, for me, is a place far from human civilisations, far from buildings, asphalted roads and other people, where we can listen to the birds, observe animals in their habitat in all quiteness... In Japan I found that enjoying nature meant more things like going to an aquarium, take a guided tour around a small island with vending machines everywhere, or sit on a crowded beach where even seagulls are scarce. When they want something really wild, they go to Hokkaido...

Maciamo
Nov 15, 2006, 19:00
I'm not certain that having differing names for males and females and the young of a species makes them more "childish and primitive" either. It would seem to be a jump in logic to make such an assumption.
Children use more simple vocabulary than adults, hence saying "female deer" because they don't know the proper word (doe) does sounds more childish. If the Japanese constantly say "male/female something" instead of having a special word for it, it consequently sounds more childish for speakers of a language which has those special words. Considered as a "society's language" (as oppose to individual knowledge of a language), the absence of such words make this language look primitive compared to other languages with more words.

I also don't know if it follows that vegetarians care more about nature than other humans.
It depends what is the reason for vegetarianism. If it is just because you don't like meat or think it is not good for health, then not necessarily. But almost all the vergetarians I know are vegetarian because they do not want to kill animals. Strict Hindus and Jains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaina) are vegetarian because their religion tells them not to kill any animal. True Jains go so far as to watch their steps in order not to crush an insect, and wear a mask in front of their mouth to be sure not to swallow a mosquito. They also prohibit anything made of leather or other products made from dead animals. You cannot enter a Jaina temple with a leather belt, wallet or shoes. Doesn't that show a greater respect for nature ? Isn't that intricately linked to their vegetarianism ? (for the record, I am not a vegetarian)

Maciamo
Nov 15, 2006, 19:11
I have always though that words like "centipede" and "octopus" were very childish English words. Not to mention "millipede". I guess English doesn't care enough about animals with more than 4 feet.

I understand you claim about the centipede (which does not necesaarily have 100 legs), but octopuses do have 8 legs. Nevertheless, there are thousands of species of centipedes/millipedes, with a total number of legs varying between 80 and 400 legs for common species (up to 200 for centipedes), so in some cases the term centipede can actually be correct. I suppose it is for the sake of convenience that we have not given different names to each species according to their exact number of legs !

gaijinalways
Nov 15, 2006, 21:17
Sorry Mike, maybe you just got used to it (the garbage I mean)! I guess you missed the Oze garbage debacle recently in the news.

No, I am generally saying that compared to other cities I have visited, Japanese cities are relatively clean. Of course I have visited the harbor, with the 'black' sand tanning beaches (worth it for some of the Japanese cuties wearing bikinis).

Good points on bringing up Hokkaido, but that is a relatively small area as a part of the total of Japan (1 of 47 prefectures, and certainly no Alaska). I know of an area in Hokkaido where some missionaries lived; the roads were listed as impassable in the winter, hence I didn't go there when I visited in Jan. of 1995 (before I came to live in Japan).

sabro
Nov 16, 2006, 14:17
So, in my own defense, I asked if the Inuit had a dozen words for snow. I never pretended to know the answer... and the point was actually about some assumption of linguistics. I believe that Maciamo is wrong to draw conclusion about how much a culture cares about nature based upon his linguistic interpretation. It doesn't mean that he is wrong about whether or not the Japanese care about nature, just that the linguistic angle makes little sense and I have not heard it being used to determine such cultural values any where else. If he is correct however, cultural linguists could write some interesting stuff about what cultures value based upon word count.

I get called ignorant. But responding will most certainly cause me more infraction points. I see insults and evasions and a thread that is off topic... but again, mentioning it will probably earn me consequences.

Perhaps the question is phrased a bit too simply and the way the Japanese conceptualize nature and how they express appriciation is different in the cultural context.

Mike Cash
Nov 16, 2006, 18:26
Sorry Mike, maybe you just got used to it (the garbage I mean)! I guess you missed the Oze garbage debacle recently in the news.

I don't watch the news. I don't need to see the news to know that Gunma, while it has illegal dumping spots like any other place, is not a vast dumping ground. I live here.



No, I am generally saying that compared to other cities I have visited, Japanese cities are relatively clean. Of course I have visited the harbor, with the 'black' sand tanning beaches (worth it for some of the Japanese cuties wearing bikinis).

I wasn't talking about the beaches. I was talking about all the roadside trash down at the docks.



Good points on bringing up Hokkaido, but that is a relatively small area as a part of the total of Japan (1 of 47 prefectures, and certainly no Alaska). I know of an area in Hokkaido where some missionaries lived; the roads were listed as impassable in the winter, hence I didn't go there when I visited in Jan. of 1995 (before I came to live in Japan).

One doesn't have to go to Hokkaido to find places where no man has ever set foot. Nagano will do nicely.

Maciamo
Nov 16, 2006, 18:28
So, in my own defense, I asked if the Inuit had a dozen words for snow. I never pretended to know the answer... and the point was actually about some assumption of linguistics. I believe that Maciamo is wrong to draw conclusion about how much a culture cares about nature based upon his linguistic interpretation.

I explained that if it wasn't because of a lack of care and observation, it was probably because of a lack of scientific-mindedness. Another possibility might just be that the Japanese do not care about details in general, thus oddly omitting to invent words not only to differentiate gender in animals, but also give names to their young (only a few exceptions, like ひよこ for "chick") and names for their cries (also a few exceptions, like 吠える and 鳴く).

The absence of gender for animal names is only one of the numerous arguments that make me think that the Japanese society has cared less about animals and nature in general in the past and/or present (depending on the argument). Let me remind you of a few others mentioned so far :

- absence of an elected Green Party (could also be said of the USA and a few European countries)

- proportionally fewer members of WWF and Greenpeace, and fewer major organisations for nature protection (they do exist, but are nowhere as influential as in Western countries)

- government-sponsored destruction of nature, relative lack of biodiversity in man-made nature (e.g. in parks), and especially disfiguration of the natural scenery through the unrestrained construction of (usually pretty useless) concrete eyesores nationwide.

- abundance of illegal dumping sites, fairly frequent radioctive leaks from nuclear plants, numerous dioxin emitting incinerators (illegal in most of Europe)... Let's also remember the Minamata disease (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease), Itai-itai disease (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itai_itai_disease), Yokkaichi Asthma, Sugi allergy and other diseases or public health issues caused by careless industrial or personal waste dumping or poor government policies.

- "enjoying nature" in Japan typically involves crowded asphalted paths with vending machines, shops, signs and advertisments all along the journey.

- Japan is the only major country with a whaling policy, which it strongly defends against the will of the international community (going as far as buying votes from developing countries).

- virtual absence of vegetarianism in modern Japanese society, despite an ever growing trend in this sense in Western countries (esp. by animal lovers).

- Impressively small mumber of zoological or botanic gardens in Japan (Belgium does better, despite being 13x smaller)

- Huge national consumption of single-use wooden chopsticks causing reckless deforestation in many developing countries, when plastic chopsticks could be used instead.

- Fear-induced respect of nature inherited from Shintoism, still well alive today, and probably part of the reason why the Japanese feel they have to protect themselves so much from their natural environment by damming rivers, placing concrete tripods all along the coast, or replacing diversified forest by sugi forest...


Language is only a detail in all this, but a detail that goes in the same direction as the rest, that of a general lack of care, respect or understanding of nature.


I get called ignorant. But responding will most certainly cause me more infraction points. I see insults and evasions and a thread that is off topic... but again, mentioning it will probably earn me consequences.

I do not recall calling you "ignorant" in this regard. As for infractions, I have never given any for disagreeing with me, only for breaking the rules (e.g. posting specific offtopic comments when it is against noth forum rules and that thread's rules), or not wanting to comply with moderation request (only happened to 1 person so far) or free and unprovoked personal insults (as happened to you once).

Maciamo
Nov 16, 2006, 19:13
I split the offtopic about words for love, colours and snow (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27675) as well as the other long offtopic about insults (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27674).

craftsman
Nov 17, 2006, 21:21
I stumbled onto an article in the UNESCO environment centre just up the road and thought it might be interesting to relay it.


In Jan 2005 a conference was held about NGOs and civil society organized by United Nations University and the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan. In the conference Wilhelm Vosse, assistant professor of social science at International Christian University, gave a speech and cited several opinion polls showing that and I quote


"public concern in Japan about environmental destruction is much higher than in Europe".


He also said that this did not result in a Green Party-type ecological political party because Japan's environmental movement was fragmented and underfunded and not powerful enough to affect national policy. He cited strict Government qualifications for tax exemptions on donations as one of the main problems in funding.


With 336 state-accredited environmental groups and growing all the time, it is not the fact that Japanese don't care about their environment, in fact if we believe Mr.Vosse they care a whole lot more than Europeans, but that the bureaucratic state has prevented them, in the form of grass roots organisations from making any impact.

gaijinalways
Nov 18, 2006, 19:29
Sabro posted
Perhaps the question is phrased a bit too simply and the way the Japanese conceptualize nature and how they express appriciation is different in the cultural context.

I agree with this statement Sabro, though I do wish to add that I don't consider 'artificial' gardens as 'better' natural gardens. I think most people wouldn't consider GM food as 'better' natural food either, yes?

Uh, Mike, so most of your news comes from this forum?:p
Seriously, Nagano is not that unexplored, except where the bears are running around!

pipokun
Nov 18, 2006, 22:54
People saying their opinions like "Japanese still have fear-induced respect of nature" tend to trumpet their opinions "people unfortunately forget fear of nature" at the time of terrible disasters.


The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says in the past tsunamis have caused extensive damage in Japan but they were of a far greater magnitude than is being predicted.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6150538.stm?ls

Don't know if it was his arrogrance or ignorance of nature, but the 8.1 magnitude earthquake was a terrible earthquake.

craftsman
Nov 18, 2006, 23:05
What exactly was the reason for your new title of my old thread, Maciamo? It is a very strange angle to take and was never reflective of the discussion in my original thread nor has anyone since suggested that Japanese love nature more than the rest of the world. My only argument, even after citing the earlier polls comparing Europeans and Japanese, was and is that Japanese are really no different from any other country including the countries in Europe.

If you change the title to a thread and add a poll in the middle of the discussion, it can change how people see what was said before. The posts that come before the split was made in my thread were, as you know, not under the title of 'Do the Japanese really love nature more than others?' but under 'What do you like about Japan and Japanese People' and specifically in defence of your premise that Europeans love nature more than Japanese and that there is no real nature in Japan when compared to Europe.

If you take them out of the context they were written in and put them in a brand new context, (which I have no problem with incidentally - you can do as you wish) it would be handy to have a little further explanation on your part.

I was just wondering why you didn't call it 'Do Europeans love nature more than Japanese?' or 'Are the Japanese really nature lovers?'

Maciamo
Nov 19, 2006, 00:22
Compared to British and French channels, the main Japanese TV channels have very few documentaries about animals and nature. I don't need to introduce the BBC in the matter. But I suppose that most of JREF's members are not well acquainted with French-speaking TV, so I will list a few famous programmes NB : TF1 if the most popular French channel, France 3 is the 3rd most popular French chanel, and RTBF is the Belgian equivalent of the BBC)

- Ushuaia (http://www.ushuaiatv.fr/) (originally a TV programmes on TF1, running since 1987, that has become its own channel in 2005 through its success; there is also a magazine version)
- Thalassa (http://www.thalassa.france3.fr/) (weekly TV documentary reporting on Nautical, Maritime and Oceanic matters on France 3 since 1975)
- 30 millions d'amis (http://www.30millionsdamis.fr/) (TV documentary running on TF1 since 1976; it is also a foundation for the protection of animals and a magazine)
- Le Jardin Extraordinaire (Belgian TV documentary about nature broadcasted since 1971, and the first colour Tv programme broadcasted in Belgium)
- Commandant Cousteau (http://www.cousteau.org/) (the man made numerous films and TV documentaries, and the Cousteau Society continues to promote his work)

There are many others but these are the most famous, longest running, and showed on the biggest channels and the best hours.

Maciamo
Nov 19, 2006, 00:46
What exactly was the reason for your new title of my old thread, Maciamo? It is a very strange angle to take and was never reflective of the discussion in my original thread nor has anyone since suggested that Japanese love nature more than the rest of the world.

Your poll in your original thread included an option "A love of nature and nature-like artificial stuff". When I disagreed with that, you replied :

Now I read lots of your posts about nature and I still don't get it. Do you mean the love of nature or the nature itself? As far as I am aware people still love nature as much as they always did, even if because urban areas have grown it may not be immediately around them any more.

I didn't mean nature, but the love of nature. Japan has some great nature, but too much of it has been spoilt by careless government policies.

I wanted a thread where I could discuss whether the Japanese really loved nature more than others (and not just Europeans) because I have read in books about Japan and heard from the mouth of many Japanese that they (the Japanese) think that their love of nature surpass anything in the world, or at least in the West, because of their long tradition of Shintoism which put emphasises the relation with nature, and their love of the seasons, chery blossoms, etc. Some Japanese have even told me that Art Nouveau (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_nouveau) (an artistic style inspired by nature) was part of the Japonism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japonisme) movement because Europeans didn't care about nature before coming into contact with the Japanese !! It is true that some Art Nouveau got its inspiration from Japanese art, but saying that the love of nature is originally a Japanese thing is going too far. Ancient Greeks and Romans already used nature fervently in art.


If you change the title to a thread and add a poll in the middle of the discussion, it can change how people see what was said before.

That is why I added a link to your original thread at the top.


The posts that come before the split was made in my thread were, as you know, not under the title of 'Do the Japanese really love nature more than others?' but under 'What do you like about Japan and Japanese People' and specifically in defence of your premise that Europeans love nature more than Japanese and that there is no real nature in Japan when compared to Europe.

I have never said that there is no real nature in Japan when compared to Europe.


I was just wondering why you didn't call it 'Do Europeans love nature more than Japanese?' or 'Are the Japanese really nature lovers?'

Because what interests me here is whether our members think (through Japanese propaganda, for instance) that the Japanese indeed love nature more than all people in the world (not just Europeans). Asking 'Are the Japanese really nature lovers?' is not suitable either because we need to compare it to other countries to be meaningful. Ask any similar question about any country and the answer can be either "yes" or "no" depending on what you compare it too. E.g. 'Are the Japanese big meat eaters?' => well it depends which country you compare them to... At least by asking whether they love nature more than everybody else (as I heard in Japan), the answer can be more clear-cut, as a single example of a more nature loving country suffice to say "no". So as not to make the poll too boring I diversified a bit the options. ;-)


People saying their opinions like "Japanese still have fear-induced respect of nature" tend to trumpet their opinions "people unfortunately forget fear of nature" at the time of terrible disasters.
Don't know if it was his arrogrance or ignorance of nature, but the 8.1 magnitude earthquake was a terrible earthquake.

A terrible earthquake had it happened on land, but in the sea it only produced a small tsunami.

Maciamo
Nov 19, 2006, 01:38
I moved the discussion about the meaning of "single word" to the offtopic about words for love, colours and snow (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27675).

pipokun
Nov 20, 2006, 20:43
A terrible earthquake had it happened on land, but in the sea it only produced a small tsunami.
Don't forget what happened just two years ago.

Shirakami-Sanchi, a beautiful mountain area in the northern honshu, has been registered as a world-heritage site. Some areas, however, turn to be off-limits to anybody incl. Matagi, traditional hunters.

You may think it hypocratic that many institutes conducting animal tests here do memorial services for the animals, but it is a bit more peaceful than violent activists, isn't it? I totally agree the fewer tests, the better, though.

caster51
Nov 20, 2006, 21:07
Because what interests me here is whether our members think (through Japanese propaganda, for instance) that the Japanese indeed love nature more than all people in the world (not just Europeans).


??
BTW
who is thinking like that?

ralian
Nov 20, 2006, 21:34
Maciamo, have you ever thought how much you are hurting our feeling by bashing Japan like this?
Maybe you will say that you are not bashing Japan at all.
However, what you are doing here is hurting JREF.
I certainly do not appreciate your effort.
Your aurgument here is quite irrelevant and incorrect.

Kinsao
Nov 20, 2006, 22:33
Hmm - I have been following this discussion with interest, although a lot of the points about language escaped me because my knowledge of Japanese isn't good enough to follow them.

It seems to me that Maciamo is making 2 main points to argue that the Japanese do not particularly "love nature" more than other nations (not to say that they love it any less, but merely not more):

1. The language contains fewer separate/non-compound words for different species/sub-species of animals, and the classifications are less accurate than in many European languages - implying that historically-speaking (i.e. while the language was in development) the Japanese people in general did not have sufficient interest in and/or love of nature to classify animal and plant species as accurately as Europeans did.

2. Proportionately fewer Japanese people visit countryside parks in their spare time.

Well, I can't speak about the development of language, since I know nothing about it. :sorry: Languages are very complicated in the way they develop (hence the other thread for this). Certainly, it seems logical that nations/races would develop the most extensive vocabulary in areas that are of particular use to them (and hence of particular interest) - whether that be hunting, fishing, agriculture, snow, whatever.

It could be that it is rather an issue of "inaccurate" language, and a generally more haphazard approach to classification of species, rather than a disinterest. This could be more connected to the development of the Japanese language rather than their relationship to the natural world - but as I've said, I don't know enough about the language and its history, so that's just one possible hypothesis. :) So I will leave that point alone.

The proportion of people visiting countryside parks and such... Hmm, I wonder, what would be the reason for a lower proportion? Of course, obviously one reason would be that fewer people are interested in nature, in the sense of going outside and experiencing it. But what could be the reason for this? I wonder if it is linked at all to upbringing and education. For instance, if the government doesn't think it's worthwhile for schools to teach much about the natural world, people would be much more inclined to grow up without much knowledge about "nature" (I see this happening in my own generation in the UK, sadly). So partly it's not that people have some kind of "inherent" disinterest, but rather that an interest is not awakened in them, either by teachers at school or handed on by their parents.

Of course, that implies a deep-seated "culture of disinterest", and makes me ask even more questions. :clueless:

I find it hard to believe that the Japanese as a nation have always had a disinterest in the natural world, because like every other nation, this is essential for survival and to get strong and prosperous, and an involvement with "nature" can only actually be dropped when a nation has reached a certain stage of social and technological advancement that allows people to live their lives at something of a remove from nature - e.g., don't have to harvest and/or kill their own food any more, have substantial and reliable protection from adverse weather conditions, and other things like that. Japan is, of course, well technologically-advanced and in fact is well-known for being pretty up at front these days when it comes to such things. But it wasn't always the case. It is a country that has developed very fast in a relatively short space of time. So my little theorylet says that perhaps in some respects Japan and its people are in a kind of "honeymoon period" with technology. It's new, and it's great, and it could be that in this particular time of Japan's history, there is a keenness for "in with the new" and a consequent lowering of interest in the timeless background to life that is "nature".

On the other hand, that could just be me blethering complete and utter rubbish. :D

I tend to feel that Japanese people in general have neither more nor less love of nature than any other nation. I also think that, at least at the present time, their appreciation tends to be more "aesthetic" rather than "analytical". For example, I'm sure that Japanese people are as likely as anyone else to enjoy the shape and scent of a beautiful flower, appreciate an impressive mountain range, take photos of trees, enjoy the sound of a waterfall or the song of a bird, etc. etc., even without the precision of language to describe species or the education and encouragement to actively seek out such things.

When it comes down to it, I suppose it also depends largely on whether you're discussing the Japanese "psyche" or the Japanese "culture", which are of course inter-related but not the same thing! (IMO while "cultures" are widely different around the world, "psyche" is not so different.)

Another factor in proportion of people visiting countryside parks is about how easy it is for people to get to them. What proportion of the Japanese population lives in cities/urban areas? I imagine it's pretty high although I don't know the figures. I also imagine (although have no idea whether I'm right! :/) that transport links are pretty good, but it could also be costly. Ease and speed of access is a factor in things like that. It might seem a bit way-out to those of you who own cars and/or earn plenty, but I assure you that here in the UK I know a fair number of people who rarely, if ever, visit the countryside, not because they have no interest in it, but simply because, "stuck" in the city, they have not the time and/or money for a visit to be worth their while. I know the UK is not Japan (!) but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if this situation wasn't reflected to some extent in Japan, especially considering all that I've heard about the long working hours expected in Japan.

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 01:54
Maciamo, have you ever thought how much you are hurting our feeling by bashing Japan like this?
Maybe you will say that you are not bashing Japan at all.
However, what you are doing here is hurting JREF.
I certainly do not appreciate your effort.
Your aurgument here is quite irrelevant and incorrect.

I could say the same. Do you have any idea how much you (the Japanese) have been hurting my feelings by bashing the rest of the world like this ?
Maybe you will say that you are not bashing the rest of the world at all.
Your argument here is quite irrelevant and incorrect.

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 02:13
Hmm - I have been following this discussion with interest, although a lot of the points about language escaped me because my knowledge of Japanese isn't good enough to follow them.
It seems to me that Maciamo is making 2 main points to argue that the Japanese do not particularly "love nature" more than other nations (not to say that they love it any less, but merely not more):

Yes, that is pretty much it. You are one of the few people in this discussion who actually managed to understand what I wrote. :relief:

However, there aren't only two main points in my argumentation, but 12, as you will see if you go back to the first post in this thread (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27617) and check at the bottom the 13 reasons that I have added later to summarise my thoughts. We have discussed a lot about language and parks so far, but I consider these 2 points to be the weakest of my 13 arguments. In fact I didn't even mention that the Japanese visit less often countryside parks, because I do not have verificable data on this (but I do for the percentage of houses with garden).

The strongest arguments that make me think that the Japanese do not cherish nature more than Westerners (and probably less) are : the relative lack of houses with garden, the little number of botanical and zoological gardens, the little number of nature documentaries on the main TV channels, the absence of elected Green Party, and the near absence of vegetarianism. These are all provable facts. The whaling policy doesn't concern the whole population (although a higher percentage of Japanese than Westerners support whaling, polls have shown), and government-sponsored destruction reveals more about the people working for the government than the general population.

ralian
Nov 21, 2006, 09:35
I could say the same. Do you have any idea how much you (the Japanese) have been hurting my feelings by bashing the rest of the world like this ?
Maybe you will say that you are not bashing the rest of the world at all.
Your argument here is quite irrelevant and incorrect.

Is this what you think?
You have quite an interesting opinion.

Anyway, I don't quite understand why you want to label Japanese and their culture in such a way.
What's the point?

gaijinalways
Nov 21, 2006, 10:41
kinsao,

Great post. Even as Maciamo pointed out, you're only focusing on two of his points that were discussed a bit in this thread, your points raised about the attitude to nature and the cost (time and money) of access are good ones. This is something I miss myself, being able to easily access more natural areas from my home. Previously, in Hong Kong of all places, a reservoir area was just a ten minute bus ride from my home in the New territories, or later from my village on Lantau Island (now near the new airport). In the US it was similar, I sometimes lived just minutes from canoeing and hiking areas. Here, it's more like an all-day affair to get to nicer areas that are often overcrowded. I only dream about day hikes now:( .

I would claim that the natural conditions of some of the national parks here are not well maintained. As a prime example, the aforementioned Oze garbage dumping cleanup which was highlighted in the news recently, where tons of garbage were located and removed from this part of Nikko National Park. Many of the owners of the inns and pensions located in and on the edges of the park couldn't be bother to pay to remove garbage generated by their paying guests.

Another area, though not a national park, is the shoreline areas in Japan. Some Japanese rave about natural and historic Kamakura, yet when I visited there the beach was literally a garbage dump! It certainly seems that Japanese perspectivess of nature are slightly different than Western perspectives.

As to the interest in nature programs, I too am less interested in accurate cataloguing of species of trees, etc. It is similar with art, I know what I like, I don't always need to memorize the history of the painter's background and style to appreciate the paintings I look at. So I don't fault the Japanese for a lack of interest in botany or zoology.

I really do think that this current generation in Japan is 'tech-crazy', and that may be causing some people to be less interested. Also, I think some people see rural living as less fashiobale. Finally, because of government influence on education people are also less interested in the great outdoors. Certainly in more rural areas in Japan it is not necessarily the case, but the majority of Japanese live in urban areas.

But then again, in many other countries so do large populations that work in the city, either living there or nearby as they also do in Japan. Is it that most Japanese cities are not built with keeping natural areas nearby, in other words, do the suburbs expand so much they become urbanized suburbs as well? Like the infamous Tokyo to Hiroshima Honshu Island industrial/commercial/residential sprawl, sometimes you can go forever and never escape a very unnatural landscape (kinda reminds me of some parts of New Jersey!:blush: Garden State indeed).

craftsman
Nov 21, 2006, 14:51
The strongest arguments that make me think that the Japanese do not cherish nature more than Westerners (and probably less) are : the relative lack of houses with garden, the little number of botanical and zoological gardens, the little number of nature documentaries on the main TV channels, the absence of elected Green Party, and the near absence of vegetarianism. These are all provable facts.

You mentioned you had some figures for the houses with gardens. I had a quick look and couldn't see them in the posts. It would be interesting to see them. If I missed them perhaps you could point me in the right direction. Also it would be useful to see the number of zoos and botanical gardens in Japan and the figures on vegetarianism, if possible.


Another thing that would be useful to see is your figures for the number of nature shows on Japanese TV. I saw your post about the French speaking channels and nature programmes but unless there is a comparison with Japanese TV, it holds less value in the argument. I had a look but things have moved around a bit recently, so if I missed it, my apologies.

Lastly, I'm not totally convinced of the strength of 'the absence of an elected Green Party' as one of your arguments. You even mention yourself that the same could be said of the US and other European countries. An elected Green party says more about the political and state funding system in the country than it does about normal everyday people's likes or dislikes.

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 16:00
Is this what you think?
You have quite an interesting opinion.
Anyway, I don't quite understand why you want to label Japanese and their culture in such a way.
What's the point?

Get this out of my head as I have been tormented by it on a nearly daily basis for over 4 years. The trauma will take time to heal, but talking about it helps.

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 17:05
kinsao,
Great post. Even as Maciamo pointed out, you're only focusing on two of his points that were discussed a bit in this thread, your points raised about the attitude to nature and the cost (time and money) of access are good ones. This is something I miss myself, being able to easily access more natural areas from my home. Previously, in Hong Kong of all places, a reservoir area was just a ten minute bus ride from my home in the New territories, or later from my village on Lantau Island (now near the new airport). In the US it was similar, I sometimes lived just minutes from canoeing and hiking areas. Here, it's more like an all-day affair to get to nicer areas that are often overcrowded. I only dream about day hikes now:(
In Brussels (pop. 1 million by night, 3 million by day with commuters), in addition to 101 parks witin the city limits, there is a beautiful 5,000 ha forest (50km2, i.e. about the size of the Edogawa or Nerima wards in Tokyo), half of which is within the city limits. The Sonian Forest (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/For%C3%AAt_de_Soignes), as it is called in English, is only about 5-15min (depending on whether you go by car, train or metro) away from the very centre of the city.

I am one of the few non-Japanese in the world who has taken the same to make an extensive guide of the parks and gardens in Tokyo (http://www.wa-pedia.com/practical/tokyo_parks_gardens.shtml), so I know what I am talking about when comparing green urban areas. The largest park within the 23 wards is Kasai Rinkai Koen (葛西臨海公園) which is nearly 80 ha. The largest park in Tokyo-to within the urban area (without taking the train for 2 hours to Chichibu) is Showa Kinen Koen, which is 138 ha.

The 23 wards of Tokyo sprawl over 616 km2, and are thus about 4x bigger than the state of Brussels (161 km2). Yet, with a night population 8x superior (10x if we include the rest of Tokyo-to) to Brussels, the Tokyoites only have easy access to 717 ha (7 km2) of sizeable parks and gardens (i.e. those I have listed, omitting tiny parks that are no bigger than a backyard) for recreation and enjoying nature. That's a bit over 1% of green areas for Tokyo...

Official statitics show that 27% of Brussels' land area is covered by public parks and gardens, and 17% by private parks and gardens (the latter is close to 0 in Tokyo). The total of green spaces in the Belgian/European capital represent 53% of the total area, and this only includes about half of the 50 km2 of the Sonian Forest within the city limits... (once you are in it, city borders don't count anymore).

The largest parks in Brussels are also bigger than those in Tokyo's 23 wards. The Bois de la Cambre (http://www.eupedia.com/gallery/showgallery.php?si=bois+cambre&x=0&y=0&limit=), for instance, extends over 125 ha, and has ponds with water birds, hills, and roads by bicycles and rollerskates.

In spite of the immensely higher percentage of green areas in Brussels compared to Tokyo (about 50x more), and the lower density of population in Brussels (about half), I found the parks in Brussels to be much more crowded than in Tokyo (see the pics in link above). This reflects, in my opinion, the much greater need (not just interest or liking) of Belgian/Brussels people to be close to nature, if not compared to all Japanese people the at least the 10 million of Tokyoites. On any sunny weekend in Brussels parks get as crowded as during the one-week of cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo !

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 18:03
You mentioned you had some figures for the houses with gardens. I had a quick look and couldn't see them in the posts. It would be interesting to see them. If I missed them perhaps you could point me in the right direction.
I found that when I was in Japan. I am pretty sure it was somewhere here (http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/jyutaku/1503.htm), but I cannot find the right table anymore. Anyway, how many houses with garden/yard have you seen in Tokyo ? Personally, none.

Also it would be useful to see the number of zoos and botanical gardens in Japan and the figures on vegetarianism, if possible.
Phew. Do you think I can find all the links like that. Why don't you look and try to confirm or deny my claims. Here is a list of botanical gardens in Japan (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E3%81%AE%E6%A4%8D%E7%8 9%A9%E5%9C%92). Feel free to compare the number and size with Western countries, and make the per capita ratio. The only botanic garden in Tokyo (23 wards) is Koishikawa Shokubutsuen (http://www.bg.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/koishikawa/eigo/e.html) (the one of Tokyo University). It is ridiculously tiny (16 ha) and only has 4,000 species of plants. There are two botanic gardens in Brussels, the biggest of which is 92 ha wide and has 18,000 species of plants (so about 5x bigger in size and variety than that of the world-famous Tokyo University).

Be it for the zoological gardens (list here (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8B%95%E7%89%A9%E5%9C%92)), it also depends what you define as such. Japanese language does not clearly distinguish between zoos, animal parks, safari parks, bird parks, animal theme parks, and sometimes even natural/animal reserves. I have seen some of the so-called 動物園 in Japan and they do not deserve more the appellation of zoo than some farms. It's always good to compare the best a country has to offer, so as to compare the top. I have been to Ueno Zoo (http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/index.html), which is Japan's first and most famous zoo, and it wasn't very impressive (well, it has pandas, which is partly why it is famous). It has only 422 species and 2,600 animals, against 950 species and over 5,000 animals for the Antwerp Zoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antwerp_Zoo) in my ridiculously tiny country (so tiny that many Japanese and Americans cannot place it on a map of Europe).

It's sad to have to compare Tokyo to Brussels, or Japan to Belgium, and still have the latter win...

As for vegetarianism, I mean by that not eating any meat (including fish and seafood), even if it is not visible (e.g. in sauce or soup). What interest us here is not to kill animals, so eggs and milk are fine, but animal fat is not, as it requires to kill the animal. Anyone who has lived or travelled in Japan knows that it is extremely hard to find Japanese food matching those criteria. My sister is a vegetarian (because she doesn't want to kill animals), and she came twice to Japan (about 3 weeks each time). We travelled through half of the country, and I can tell you that it was a p.i.t.a. to find something else than bread, pastries, pasta and Indian food for her to eat. Vegetarian Japanese food is mostly restricted to Buddhist cuisine (rare outside Kyoto), or a few dishes like soba and vegetable tempura. Anthing else has meat in it. Japan is clearly not a vegetarian-friendly country. In restaurants they were often surprised at the request to serve a dish without meat because no Japanese ever ask them (we were seen as the difficult gaijin :okashii: ), while in Europe they are so used to it that most restaurant now have at least a few vegetarian dishes or will gladly cook a special dish without meat. I remember the time we asked in a "omu-rice" restaurant chain if we could have a dish without bacon mixed with the rice for my sister who is a vegetarian. The waitress asked the chef, and after 10min of "negotiation" she came back telling us that it was impossible because the chef didn't want to serve a dish that didn't taste the way he wanted. We were 4 people, and we had to leave to find another restaurant, just because they couldn't accomodate a vegetarian. We had other similar experiences elsewhere too.


Another thing that would be useful to see is your figures for the number of nature shows on Japanese TV. I saw your post about the French speaking channels and nature programmes but unless there is a comparison with Japanese TV, it holds less value in the argument.
I suppose that anybody really interested on this forum knows Japanese TV programmes... If not, I invite you to check this online TV guide (http://www.tvguide.or.jp/). Keep me informed on your findings. :-)

Lastly, I'm not totally convinced of the strength of 'the absence of an elected Green Party' as one of your arguments. You even mention yourself that the same could be said of the US and other European countries.
The USA is not really an example in environmental protection. They even refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Here is more info on Green Parties around the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_party). You will see that the Greens are one of the major parties at the European Parliament (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_European_Parliament_election). There are in fact two main Green Parties, one of which is the 4th biggest at the parlaiment out of a good dozen of parties. All the Greens got 6.5% of the votes Europe-wide at the 2004 election. They are especially strong in Scandinavia, Germany and Belgium. In Belgium, for instance, the Green Party is a ruling coalition party in many levels of government (municipality, province, region, country), and even the majority party in a few municipalities.

An elected Green party says more about the political and state funding system in the country than it does about normal everyday people's likes or dislikes.
I disagree. In fact, I think there is a Green Party in Japan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_and_Greens), but nobody has ever elected them. If it must take money and startling campaigns for people to care about nature, then it is a sign of lack of general concern by the population.

pipokun
Nov 21, 2006, 18:56
The data on park per capita doesn't support the exsistance of the strange Japanese population claiming the propaganda you repeatedly mention, even caused trauma.

About the politics, just look at the our neighbors. It is sad that liberalism in Japan or Asia is still related to the red. But I also feel perplexed to see Europeans vote far-right parties and some countries have to ban them. I don't know if they are greener or not, thogh.

Maciamo
Nov 21, 2006, 19:45
The data on park per capita doesn't support the exsistance of the strange Japanese population claiming the propaganda you repeatedly mention, even caused trauma.

I can't make head or tail of what you are saying. I used the term "propaganda" only in relation to "the Japanese think that they love/care about nature more than others". The data on park per capita in Tokyo (vs Brussels) indeed does not confirm that the Japanese love more nature. Is that what you wanted to say ?


About the politics, just look at the our neighbors. It is sad that liberalism in Japan or Asia is still related to the red. But I also feel perplexed to see Europeans vote far-right parties and some countries have to ban them. I don't know if they are greener or not, thogh.

I am not sure what liberalism and the far-right have anything to do with the absence of green parties. I am not going to expand in this thread on the fact that far-right parties are extremely diverse (no two parties are alike), and the term "liberal" can have very different meanings depending on the country (e.g. in Belgium it describes the reformist right, but in the USA it refers more to socialists, so the opposite of Belgium).

pipokun
Nov 21, 2006, 19:58
"the Japanese think that they love/care about nature more than others".
So where can I meet the Japanese?
For your next trip to see your parents in law, I highly recommend that you should go upstream to the source of the Tama river. It must be quite an interesting short trip.

Maciamo
Nov 25, 2006, 05:49
A little update about the zoos. I only managed to find a list of 69 zoos, animal parks, safari parks, bird parks, and animal reserves in Japan (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E3%81%AE%E5%8B%95%E7%8 9%A9%E5%9C%92) (there could be more), but what is certain is that there are over 675 in Germany alone (including 414 actual zoological gardens => see list (http://www.zoo-infos.de/index-en.html)), at least 63 in Austria (for a population 16x smaller than Japan => see list (http://at.zoo-infos.org/index-en.html)), at least 123 in France (see list (http://fr.zoo-infos.org/)), etc. There are about 350 zoos in the USA. I have made a list of a famous zoos in Europe (http://www.eupedia.com/europe/zoological_gardens_europe.shtml). Let's keep in mind that the population of the EU is only about 3x bigger than Japan, but there are thousands of zoos, animals parks, aquaria, etc. However you look at it, Europeans (and to a lesser extent also Americans) are much keener on animals than the Japanese.

What is more, Japan's biggest zoo doesn't make the top 5 in Europe in terms of number os species and total animals, and maybe not the top 10 (I do not have all the necessary data for Europe).

pipokun
Nov 25, 2006, 21:00
If I were you, Maciamo, I'd loudly agitate us over the anti-zoo movement outside Japan or species extinction in Japan after Meiji ...

The movement is also here. The latter one is really critical, for the extinction of Toki bird, Japanese crested ibis, unabled the Ise shrine to preserve every 20 year reconstruction work. The shrine will continue to do the work, but it is not exactly the same as the ones hundred or thoudsand years ago any more...

gaijinalways
Nov 27, 2006, 12:58
Actually, I just thought of one area where maybe you forgot to mention that the Japanese are often 'talking and thinking' about nature; poetry..haiku for example. Traditional haiku always features some natural scenery and some comparison to the sun, moon, an animal, etc. Now of course one could argue that just talking about nature is not the same as spending time in it, but one would have to state that in haiku often people had to think and observe some aspects of nature to write the comments that they struggled to include in their poetry. Now of course whether Japanese as compared to other people aound the globe write more poetry about nature or not, I don't know.

Maciamo
Nov 27, 2006, 16:11
Actually, I just thought of one area where maybe you forgot to mention that the Japanese are often 'talking and thinking' about nature; poetry..haiku for example. Traditional haiku always features some natural scenery and some comparison to the sun, moon, an animal, etc. Now of course one could argue that just talking about nature is not the same as spending time in it, but one would have to state that in haiku often people had to think and observe some aspects of nature to write the comments that they struggled to include in their poetry. Now of course whether Japanese as compared to other people aound the globe write more poetry about nature or not, I don't know.
Poetry has been inspired by nature since ancient times, probably all over the world. I don't see in what Japan is special for that. In fact I found traditional Japanese art in general not to be very "nature-centered", compared to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Traditional Japanese art is very much Buddhism-centered. Shintoism didn't inspire muc artists. On the contrary, Roman mosaics, for instance, are almost always about nature, the four seasons, etc. Greco-Roman mythology is full of themes about nature, such as the gods of the 4 four winds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boreas), the Nymphs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymph), who were personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature, or many other gods associated with nature (Dionysos the god of wine, Pan the shepherd god, Artemis the huntress, etc.). The cult of nature is also very present in modern paganism.

pipokun
Nov 27, 2006, 21:18
But French Dionysus is now believing in more beer than wine, isn't it?:beer1:

sabro
Dec 1, 2006, 13:27
I didn't vote in the poll. I thought the choices in the poll were too limited, and would cause me to make an unfair generality based upon my limited perception.

I would imagine that some Japanese people care deeply about nature and a lot of others don't. Japan has a long tradition of art, visual and performing arts, dedicated to nature. The influence of Budhism and the ancient anamistic traditions affect spiritual and aesthetic values. They have as a culture perfected the small garden and ways of bringing bits of nature into the urban environment. Bonsai, the tea garden, the koi pond, Zen gardens of sand and stone... the concept of Wabi Sabi... all point to some deep appreciation of nature.
Japan is also has one of the strongest anti-nuclear movements on the planet. It is also a pioneer in the alternative fuels and hybrid autos (I own a Honda Insight). Recycling and green energy is on the rise.
Greenpeace in Japan has 15 full time staff and 4500 members.
Friends of Earth Japan has been around for twenty six years.
In spite of this, for a country of it's size and wealth there seems to be a general disregard for nature, or at least that is the perception I get... and the conservation and anti-polution values seem to be generally disregarded or considered of secondary importance.

Maciamo
Dec 1, 2006, 19:51
I would imagine that some Japanese people care deeply about nature and a lot of others don't.
This is obvious, like in any other country. What I ask you in this thread is to make the mental calculation to get the average (addition of all the individuals divided by the total population) and see if that average is higher than all other countries on earth. If only one country, even a tiny one like Luxembourg, has a higher average of people who care about nature, then the answer to the thread question is "no" (which seems so obvious to me that I am surprised some people answered the opposite). Even if Japan ranks in the top 10 among 230 countries on earth, it doesn't matter, as it isn't first as some Japanese I have met have claimed.

Japan has a long tradition of art, visual and performing arts, dedicated to nature. The influence of Budhism and the ancient anamistic traditions affect spiritual and aesthetic values. They have as a culture perfected the small garden and ways of bringing bits of nature into the urban environment. Bonsai, the tea garden, the koi pond, Zen gardens of sand and stone... the concept of Wabi Sabi... all point to some deep appreciation of nature.
This is the old culture of Japan, which has mainly disappeared for most of the modern population (well as much as the ancient, medieval, renaissance or 17th to 19th century cultures in Europe are not a reflection of modern Europe).


Japan is also has one of the strongest anti-nuclear movements on the planet.
This may be true for nuclear weapons, but they have good reason for that as the only country who was victim of the A-bomb. As for nuclear energy itself, the Japanese government is a fervent supporter of it. There are currently 53 operating nuclear power plants in Japan, against 17 in Germany, 23 in the UK, 9 in Spain or 0 in Italy. Only France has a similar number.

It is also a pioneer in the alternative fuels and hybrid autos (I own a Honda Insight).
True for car makers, but biofuel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel) isn't available for cars in service stations like in Sweden or some other European countries, is it ?

Recycling and green energy is on the rise.
Recycling rules vary a lot among municipalities in Japan. For instance my ward in Tokyo didn't have a recycling category for batteries (I did ask the townhall and check their website), which is unbelievable here in Belgium. Japan is also one of the few developed countries that still incinerate most of its non-recyclable waste, rather than bury it. This is extremely noxious to public health because of all the toxic emissions (dioxin...) and causes lots of cancers.


Greenpeace in Japan has 15 full time staff and 4500 members.
See, this is ridiculously low for a country of 127,000,000 people. The London office alone has 90 full-time staff. Greenpeace has 250,000 in the USA (for about twice the population of Japan) and 2.5 million members in 40 countries worldwide (mostly in Europe).

Friends of Earth Japan has been around for twenty six years.
The WWF (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Fund_for_Nature), founded in Switzerland, has been around for 45 years. Greenpeace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenpeace), founded in Canada and now headquartered in Amsterdam, has been around for 35 years. Have a look at this list of environmental organizations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_organisation), mosly in Western countries. If you know well Japanese ones, feel free to add them as none of them are listed.


In spite of this, for a country of it's size and wealth there seems to be a general disregard for nature, or at least that is the perception I get... and the conservation and anti-polution values seem to be generally disregarded or considered of secondary importance.
We agree here.

sabro
Dec 2, 2006, 14:15
There may not be the modern equivalents of a conservation and environmental movement present in Japan as they are in the US and in Europe. It could just be that in the 20th century, the Western nations had a bit of a headstart and are more conscious of environmental issues. I'm not certain how you could measure this though.

I'm not sure you can average attitudes... and even though your point may be well taken, the items used for support don't always seem to jive logically. Which is not to disagree at all. It is really difficult to account for cultural differences and a lot of perception has to do with observation of how people behave. You have significantly more experience observing the Japanese first-hand... as I have never been to Japan, and it may simply be true that your generalities are accurate based upon observation.

Goldiegirl
Dec 2, 2006, 14:39
I was suprised that there was a plant, flower, bush or something green planted or potted in all these little tiny available areas around extremley cramped and close spaces. I got the impression that people wanted to see green plants and flowers despite not having any room. In Tsunam everyone had a garden and everyone was proud to show me their gardens and to let me know the vegetables that I would be eating that day were grown by them. I can't say for sure that the Japanese do or don't like nature more than others, but comparing cramped, crowded Tokyo to Milwaukee, I can say for sure that Tokyo had more flowers and plants around their tiny houses/apartments. Milwaukee's city housing looks terrible and virtually no one plants a thing.

Maciamo
Dec 2, 2006, 16:57
I was suprised that there was a plant, flower, bush or something green planted or potted in all these little tiny available areas around extremley cramped and close spaces. I got the impression that people wanted to see green plants and flowers despite not having any room.

Why is that surprising ? Most Japanese houses don't have a windowstand outside the house where to hang flowers, so they put in directly on the street. Here (in Belgium, but also Europe in general), most people have flower pots at their windows or balconies, in addition to a garden. If you live in city center, gardens are hidden inside the block of buildings, but you want your facade to look nice and so you put flowers. In the suburbs or in the countryside, as houses often have a frontyard as well, it is common to have trees, bushes and flowers in front as well as behind houses. Here are some pictures of flowers on balconies or frontyards in Brussels (http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:-Rzn2A2Tcq0J:www.brucity.be/artdet.cfm%3FnLanguage%3D1%26id%3D3079+bruxelles+f leurs+balcons&hl=en&gl=uk&ct=clnk&cd=1). The houses themselves are not very nice because the pics were taken in some of the worst neighbourhoods of the capital, but well...


In Tsunam everyone had a garden and everyone was proud to show me their gardens and to let me know the vegetables that I would be eating that day were grown by them.

Where is "Tsunam" ?


I can't say for sure that the Japanese do or don't like nature more than others, but comparing cramped, crowded Tokyo to Milwaukee, I can say for sure that Tokyo had more flowers and plants around their tiny houses/apartments. Milwaukee's city housing looks terrible and virtually no one plants a thing.

That doesn't make me want to visit Milwaukee...

sabro
Dec 2, 2006, 22:39
Milwaukee- I think you go for the beer, but you stay for the...beer also.

gaijinalways
Dec 3, 2006, 00:19
Maciamo posted
Poetry has been inspired by nature since ancient times, probably all over the world. I don't see in what Japan is special for that.

Uh, that wasn't my point. I just mentioned this is a category you failed to look at.

gaijinalways posted
Now of course whether Japanese as compared to other people aound the globe write more poetry about nature or not, I don't know. Nov 25, 2006 22:00

So as I mentioned in traditional haiku now, Japanese talk about nature. To get a good comparison with other cultures, I would think you should look at the percentage of poems talking about nature now, not when cultures started talking about it (not to put your mythology lesson down, it was rather interesting).

Most of the opinions you have concerning Japan's supposed obsession with nature are concerned with the here and now, yes?

Goldiegirl
Dec 3, 2006, 00:57
mmm...beer...:) Ok, for starters I don't want to give a bad impression of Milwaukee it really is a beautiful city. The city itself has many parks and of course being along Lake Michigan we have plenty of beaches and open areas. The difference that I saw was that here people don't decorate their houses in the city like in Tokyo. Maybe it is because rent is cheap here and people routinely and frequently move so why bother with plants. Just a thought...The city itself has tree lined streets and hanging flower baskets. We have many botanical gardens and a fantastic public park system, so if you need to see some green you can just leave your house and find it, without all the work to maintain it yourself. I live in the country and here, we all have gardens and flower beds. As a matter of fact my house is along a state forest, so I have my yard and then a whole park! It's great.

Tsunam (sorry if I spelled it wrong...that's how it sounded to my ears) is in Niigata Prefecture. It is surrounded by mountains and I was told it was one of the most snowiest places in Japan. It is a rural community, yet very active and lively. I was quite a suprise to all the neighbors! They were very curious about me as they said it is not common to get foreigners there. I appreciated there gardens as I enjoyed fresh vegetables every day!

@sabro yep you go for the beer, but you stay after the beer because you can't find your way out! :)

undrentide
Dec 3, 2006, 01:31
Anyway, how many houses with garden/yard have you seen in Tokyo ? Personally, none.

I'm curious which part of Tokyo you were living and which parts of Tokyo you've visited... (Maybe shitamachi areas??)

doinkies
Dec 3, 2006, 02:14
Tsunam (sorry if I spelled it wrong...that's how it sounded to my ears) is in Niigata Prefecture. It is surrounded by mountains and I was told it was one of the most snowiest places in Japan. It is a rural community, yet very active and lively. I was quite a suprise to all the neighbors! They were very curious about me as they said it is not common to get foreigners there. I appreciated there gardens as I enjoyed fresh vegetables every day!

It's actually spelled Tsunan (津南), I think. ^^

sabro
Dec 3, 2006, 03:20
Check out Maciamo's photos in the gallery section. It may not be everywhere, but nature is apparently still out there.

http://www.wa-pedia.com/gallery/showgallery.php/cat/503

nurizeko
Dec 3, 2006, 04:46
Heres a few points to considor about Japan.

1. Japan is highly mountainous, very vertical.

2. Theres is relatively little flat land.

3. Japan has a high population.

4. Japan is streached out over a long area, so most flat land is a little strip
between the sea and the mountainous interior.

Considoring these points, I'm not suprised Urban living seems awfully cramped.
They cant afford Gardens because land is always in high demand and short supply, in western Europe we have massive huge flood-plains and rolling terrain to build over to our hearts content, but relatively low population density, so we dont want or need to build over everything.
Saying that, from what i have gathered, the Japanese really do like to get out into the country.

Concrete works along rivers and hills near to cities are there to protect the cities, Japan needs to protect what flat land it has.
This does however seem to create a more noticable apathy towards nature in an urban setting, but its merely because the situation means a green urban enviroment for most Japanese isnt practical.

In my home city of Aberdeen we have plenty of gardens and tree's and green spaces but thats because were one small city with plenty of room for everyone who wants to live here.

The fact people spend good money to buy potted plants and stuff for outside the front of their houses is indication enough nature is important to them.
The only difference really is that:

1. The western world morally masturbates to nature to make ourselves feel like good noble people.

and:

2. The constraints of the crowded urban lifestyles of many Japanese means coupled with the demands on their time and energy means they just dont have days at a time to watch a bird sitting on a branch or watching a tree grow or whatever.

I love greenery and nature myself but yeah, I can see why many Japanese just dont have the time and space to get into it as deeply as westerners.

Maciamo: If your going to use secondary sources I would advice seeking out academic literature instead of more pop-lit type of stuff.
The book you linked too isnt a scientific study into the destruction of the enviroment of rural Japan, its a book about the opinion of one writer, in essence, its not much more valid and impartial then a republican rant about the evils of a democrat run America or something.

As entitled to their biased opinions as any given foreign visitor to Japan is, this doesnt make it fact.

I was in Japan just 3 months and even I saw enough of the country to know the claim that all but one rivers of japan are concreted up was false.
And I've never seen a concreted up mountainside ever, and I went on a drive through them to go fishing once.

I dont exactly know your first hand experiences of Japan, but if you never got out of mega-Tokyo, your not really in a position to make wild claims on all Japan, while if you have travelled around a bit, it would be suprising if you could sincerely claim to have seen every hillside and river concreted up.

I will agree though for various reasons gardens and nature being on the minds of most urban Japanese is rarer then Europe.


At the time he wrote the book, there was only one river in Japan that didn't have concrete anywhere from the beginning to the end (in Shikoku, if I remember well).

Thats unfair and you know it, very few rivers that run through a European city do so without concreted banks in places.

Concreted waterways arent the preserve of japan, where do you think they got the idea?, concreting a river bank in certain areas are there to ensure the banks remain stable for the nearby buildings, and to help control any rise in water flow, to help dampen or stop the effects of what would otherwise cause flooding.

Again, Japan is a country which in many places only has a thin strip of flat land between mountain and sea, where the effect of flash or severe floods can be even worse, and when flat-land is in such high demand, building right up to a river bank is sometimes the only option, and as such that bank needs to be stabalised and protected against flooding.

Goldiegirl
Dec 3, 2006, 10:25
:sorry: Sorry if I was wrong in the spelling. It was how I heard it pronounced...I was told it was like Tsunami, so I figured Tsunam was correct. I haven't had a chance to look it up. I was amazed at all the mountains as I arrived well past 11pm and I couldn't see anything from the drive from the train station. All I knew was that the road was really curving and twisting. Imagine my suprise to wake up in the morning and see mountains everywhere. I knew a little about the area, but actually seeing the terrain makes it more real. I think that in that particular area the people were very proud of the natural beauty that surrounds them and they wanted to show it off to me. It somehow reminded me of the highlands in Scotland...

Maciamo
Dec 4, 2006, 04:10
I'm curious which part of Tokyo you were living and which parts of Tokyo you've visited... (Maybe shitamachi areas??)

Mostly the 23-ku (where 80% of the Tokyoites live), especially the inner wards. I know better the East Side (Taito-ku, Chuo-ku, Koto-ku, Sumida-ku, Edogawa-ku...).

undrentide
Dec 4, 2006, 06:17
I know better the East Side (Taito-ku, Chuo-ku, Koto-ku, Sumida-ku, Edogawa-ku...).

Oh, that explains a lot. Thanks.

caster51
Dec 12, 2006, 13:44
Mostly the 23-ku (where 80% of the Tokyoites live), especially the inner wards. I know better the East Side (Taito-ku, Chuo-ku, Koto-ku, Sumida-ku, Edogawa-ku...).

In Katsushika-ku
there is a nice Mizumoto park.
http://search.yahoo.co.jp/search?p=%BF%E5%B8%B5%B8%F8%B1%E0&fr=top_v2&tid=top_v2&ei=euc-jp&search.x=1

http://img368.imageshack.us/img368/9202/121435is6.jpg
http://img368.imageshack.us/img368/8287/122838jx3.jpg

sabro
Dec 13, 2006, 09:43
The poll doesn't have any choices that reflect what I think or seem remotely reasonable, so I chose "Why would they care more than others ?"

Philanti
Jun 7, 2007, 02:44
Maciamo, I have to say that your have made serious offence to Japanese people under a reasonable title, yea I dont think japanese had shown or do show so significantly more care to nature than other western countires. But when yu pick on linguistic differences to crudely argue for the lack of care of japanese people that in your opinion laying betrayed in light of lacking diversity in verbal interpretations. modern western languages undoubtfully are developed from greek, latin, and various tribal dialects that have been used by ancient European minorities, (I am not a expert on this so let me just mention it as a superfacially as a simple truth can be tell by an ordinary language speaker) you can see how many words english,french, spanish, german share no matter which is the original, so they are evolved from a very long multicultural confluence but Japanese language didnt enjoy cosmopolitan interchanges and influence from other cultures than Chinese untill near modernity. so It is clear you have made a unfair argue by chosing an historically advantaged stance. and however you remind your superfacially reasonable title of your topic, you are prejudiced and offensive in your following posts. Generally European languages are more culturally multifaceted, so English not only shows how you english people feel about thing but also records how others feels about the same things. So the powerful english does not speak for that english speakers care more powefully about things than others do.

Onthe other hand, a language having more alternative words for whatever, or clearer classifications for whatever, it only shows in literary attitude or scientific attitude of people to the objects, and it does only show higher education but not higher moral awareness or conscience.

frmain
Jul 6, 2007, 19:46
I think the state of Japanese 'nature' would be far worse if they were forced to break their over-reliance on foreign meat and dairy. Currently Japan has an overwhelming appetite for meat, fish and dairy products (as well as having the highest tier-stacking levels of battery hens, currently at 18), also with no specific animal laws. If they were forced to keep up the same rate of meat and dairy consumption, they would have considerable problems.

I personally don't think that the country as a whole has much respect or knowledge of other species...perhaps I'm wrong, but that's the impression I get.

pipokun
Jul 7, 2007, 17:54
I hear the words something like Mega Mac/teriyaki, food fighters or whatever.
Seeing a statistics on obesity, there are much time to catch up with the trend in other countries.
http://www.oecdobserver.org/images//1045.photo.jpg

About the sea food consumption, it must be the worldwide trend, but Japanese should realise that it is strange that we can eat 100 yen sushi.

I am really concerned about increase of eco-friendly farmers in the US or China.
They prefer corn to soy bean for bio fuel. "No corn for cars, more soy bean for people", I will defintely join the demonstration in the near future.

Thuglife
Aug 5, 2007, 12:52
The thread title made me laugh out loud!

I have seen more litter in this country then anywhere I have ever been. I like Japan but this thread is ridiculous. Garbage everywhere and the bears are extinct in some prefs. Does the O.P. even live here? It does not sound like it?

Half-n-Half
Aug 5, 2007, 13:10
I think they "praise" nature more such as the cherry blossom events (sorry I don't know what they are called) and haiku which is primarily centered around nature. Since Japan is an island about the size of California with lots of mountains, forests, rivers, etc., the nature aspect of Japan is more obvious because it is easier to look around and see it. In Japan it was a common belief that everything had a spirit or god, such as water, trees, rocks, etc.

As for respecting nature, I think they are like any other country. Pollution is definitely there in Japan and you can see garbage and litter relatively easy. However, the country is very crowded so the pollution is magnified and more concentrated. That's my two-cents anyways.

JerseyBoy
Sep 1, 2007, 18:06
I've been reading "Collapse" by Jared Diamond, which is a good book in my opinion. He mentioned Japan has over 70% of its land covered by trees. For any industrialized country, it would be a balancing act between business and environment. By looking at Japan's recycling policy, Japan is managing the environmental issues quite well compared to other countries.

Mars Man
Sep 2, 2007, 06:00
Ooo! Jared Diamond, a name I do respect. Statistically, it might be good to keep in mind, along with that most likely fact, that a large percent of Japan is mountianside as well. . . and it's a bit expensive to build into a mountain.

I have always respected much of the effort to recycle, but one does find a few hang-ups here and there.

caster51
Aug 22, 2008, 19:47
about Japanese four seasons, It is neither only the weather, trees nor a temperature etc.
I think I think the traditional thing of the season can be included.

kireikoori
Sep 11, 2008, 07:21
If Japan cared so much about nature, why the whaling?

SpikeDaCruz
Oct 1, 2008, 18:32
"Why would they care more than others ?"