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Thread: Is there a link between Japan's obsession for the seasons and high urban population ?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Is there a link between Japan's obsession for the seasons and high urban population ?

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

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

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

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

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    Offender of all religions Emoni's Avatar
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    From what I have read, and what I am seeing there isn't really a connection in the way you are thinking. In history and past art from Japan there has ALWAYS been a strong love of nature, it simply is continuing like many cultural aspects that are kept alive. Also, look at Shintoism. The Kami and religion have a very STRONG attachment to nature and spirits. Many poems and art from past eras in Japan put strong importance on nature, and Japan did not always have a high population.

    Japan's weather can also be quite strong with typhoons, unholy humidity, and freezing winds. Even I am eager to watch the news casts now and I never did before in America (although I lived in California, so it you don't really care much). In Japan you want to know what is going to hit! I can understand the stronger emphasis of taking notice of seasons. I don't believe this is a sole reason however, I just believe it is just another building block.

    Also, one thing to note is Japan's terrain. I went to Nagano and was just amazed at the shear amount of land that was still open, mostly because of the terrain conditions it seems. A fairly small portion of land is readily usable for urbanization for Japan, the rest is almost a forced nature reserve.

    Interesting hypothesis, but I don't think population and love of nature are in anyway connected.

    Anyway, as for the leaves in autumn... I can easily understand why they might show up on the front of magazines and news. Looking at the side of a mountain that is covered with trees all different colors is freaking amazing here...
    -Emoni
    "Been there, done that, came back, going again."

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Emoni, I agree with you that the Japanese have "worshiped" nature for ages with Shinto, and that Hanami dates back to the Heian period. However, it was mostly the elite who went on such pleasance trips to watch the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. What's more, some European countries also have a tradition of strong connection with nature (e.g. pagans and neo-pagans in Britain). But there isn't such a media-sponsored tourism industry around it (and this is new in Japan). Why ? Because most Westerners (and especially the British) have their own garden, or can enjoy nature in their city's numerous parks (London has so many public parks compared to Tokyo). So the Japanese have no other choice by go far away and maybe stay for a night or two, just to admire nature.

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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    Maciamo I believe you hit the nail on the head in your first post. So many Japanese live in large cities covered with concrete. It has to be refreshing to get out and view nature. I was amazed at the number of people in Japan who go camping regularly. They truly seem to enjoy the beauty of nature...just makes you wonder why they are so quick to flatten land, concrete over it and build a Family Mart or Hot Spar?

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    What's the difference between "none of your friends and no Japanese are supposed not to know the rest of the world and you skillfully use the term "Europe" or sometimes "Western countries" and each European nations?


    This is my cat, and I bet most Japanese call it a brown cat, or some may call it as tiger-brown cat, "Chatora".
    Autumn color everywhere in the world, but people taste it similarily/differently according to their cultures. Are Japanese ethnocentric without calling it as a orange or a cat as in the same color as European call?

    It was a bit disappointed to read your post somewhere here, "no histories or cultures without records in writing", something like that. You're partly right, but...

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun
    ...
    This is my cat, and I bet most Japanese call it a brown cat, or some may call it as tiger-brown cat, "Chatora".
    Autumn color everywhere in the world, but people taste it similarily/differently according to their cultures. Are Japanese ethnocentric without calling it as a orange or a cat as in the same color as European call?

    It was a bit disappointed to read your post somewhere here, "no histories or cultures without records in writing", something like that. You're partly right, but...
    Pipokun, I suppose you are addressing this post to me. However, I cannot understand what is the connection with this thread. I don't even understand why you come with the ethnocentric discussion here. This thread is about the causal effect between lot's of people living in big cities and the big tourism industry that has developed for hanami and koyo (or nature in general). I also like hanami and koyo. But I used to watch the various trees around my house when I grew up in the countryside.

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    Offender of all religions Emoni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Emoni, I agree with you that the Japanese have "worshiped" nature for ages with Shinto, and that Hanami dates back to the Heian period. However, it was mostly the elite who went on such pleasance trips to watch the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. What's more, some European countries also have a tradition of strong connection with nature (e.g. pagans and neo-pagans in Britain). But there isn't such a media-sponsored tourism industry around it (and this is new in Japan). Why ? Because most Westerners (and especially the British) have their own garden, or can enjoy nature in their city's numerous parks (London has so many public parks compared to Tokyo). So the Japanese have no other choice by go far away and maybe stay for a night or two, just to admire nature.
    For most of societies it was the elite or upper class that produced fine art, the lower class or peasants were too busy struggling to survive to take the time to look at a tree and draw it, let alone afford the materials to create such art. This tendency even follows the good old "hierarchy of needs" in psychology.

    As for the "trips" to admire nature; I'm not strong nature person myself, but even I am tempted to make a spur of the moment trip to Hokkaido to see the trees from the pictures I've seen. There are some REALLY wonderful sites in Japan if you love nature, even if you only casually observe it is easy to appreciate. There seem to be numerous places where one can explore nature in Japan, but it is the significant events that seems to draw the most attention, not an urge to see a tree after being around too many people. I know very few American’s who maintain gardens, and if you look at cities like New York or LA, I don’t see an increased desire to appreciate nature.

    I dunno, I can't really see population having to do much with a desire to appreciate nature. I see it as more of a cultural and geographical reason. Look at India, they have some of the most crowded spots in the world right now and there isn't nearly as strong desire to go on nature trips as in Japan.

    We need more "Nihonjin" perspective on this I think!

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    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    What you say brings back memories of yore when me and my stone wielding grandpop used to go to the quarries to look for obsidian. With the improved microliths, we would yield more game for less investing in tool-making with obsidian than flint which was way too difficult to work on, and we would have more offspring for the increased meats from the hunts and the grains and corded pottery we traded with the seed gathering hills folks. But then, we had leisure, for after dusk all laborious toil would cease, and there would be only eating, story-telling, and making merry; we would count the stars lying under our bear furs till the slumber. Those were the days when man and nature lived hand in hand, when there was no need to go on an outing for we lived right in the middle of it. That was before the city. The modern fascination with nature is, as you pointed out, a fashion of the upper class that spread to the commoners since the age of romanticism, another man-made practice. It could be said the idea gave the city dwellers the itch. Hannibal Lecter quotes, one covets what one sees; I say one covets what one thinks. I might also say there is a connection to the foreign ideas of the great westernising period; Return to nature !

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    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun

    This is my cat, and I bet most Japanese call it a brown cat, or some may call it as tiger-brown cat, "Chatora".
    Autumn color everywhere in the world, but people taste it similarily/differently according to their cultures. Are Japanese ethnocentric without calling it as a orange or a cat as in the same color as European call?
    Pipokun, your kitty chatora is so adorable !! Does the name mean tea-leaf coloured tiger ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Pipokun, I suppose you are addressing this post to me. However, I cannot understand what is the connection with this thread. I don't even understand why you come with the ethnocentric discussion here. This thread is about the causal effect between lot's of people living in big cities and the big tourism industry that has developed for hanami and koyo (or nature in general). I also like hanami and koyo. But I used to watch the various trees around my house when I grew up in the countryside.
    Really?
    I just thought your next post would be "all my friends believe only autumn color is only in Japan".

  11. #11
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emoni
    There are some REALLY wonderful sites in Japan if you love nature, even if you only casually observe it is easy to appreciate.
    Yes, I do not deny that and also appreciate them.

    I know very few American’s who maintain gardens, and if you look at cities like New York or LA, I don’t see an increased desire to appreciate nature.
    Well, that may be a inter-Western cultural difference (there are hundreds of them). Belgian and British people tend to love gardening. In fact, there was a Japanese-style pond with a Japanese momiji and European cherry tree (among many other trees, bushes and flowers) in my house when I was a child. I think Belgians and Brits have at least as much interests in nature, plants, trees, etc. as the Japanese. In fact, few people would be happy to have a house without a nice, well-tended garden, with parterres, flowers around the house, etc.

    Maybe that's why they don't need to go far away to enjoy nature. In such small countries anyway, I would be unthinkable to take the place for 1000km (e.g. Kansai to Hokkaido, or Belgium to Italy/Norway) just to see autumn leaves, as the Japanese do. I wonder if as many Japanese would do such things (travel to Hokkaido to watch koyo) if the media did not advertise for it so much. Japanese people tend to be easily influenced by publicity, and once something becomes popular, everybody follows.

    Look at India, they have some of the most crowded spots in the world right now and there isn't nearly as strong desire to go on nature trips as in Japan.
    That's because there very little nature to comtemplate in India (and no seasons, except in the distant Himalayan region). I travelled 5 months around India, and I couldn't find any notable natural attraction. As you said, it's very crowded. But it's also dry, with deserts (that would be the best "natural attarction") in the West, with some jungle in the East, but mostly cultivated plains with just a few trees here and there.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun
    Really?
    I just thought your next post would be "all my friends believe only autumn color is only in Japan".
    What ? This is completely off-topic. Even if it was true, this article is not about that.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    Those were the days when man and nature lived hand in hand, when there was no need to go on an outing for we lived right in the middle of it.
    This is exactly my point.

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    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Pipokun, I suppose you are addressing this post to me. However, I cannot understand what is the connection with this thread. I don't even understand why you come with the ethnocentric discussion here. This thread is about the causal effect between lot's of people living in big cities and the big tourism industry that has developed for hanami and koyo (or nature in general). I also like hanami and koyo. But I used to watch the various trees around my house when I grew up in the countryside.
    I think pipokun is a little upset about something. I think he is in the Issues mode at the moment, hehe. Be on guard, Maciamo, for the sacred four seasons must be reclaimed to the Japanese nation at all cost !!!

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    So your garden is open to others?
    According to your favorite uchi-soto theory, all Europen gardens should be open.

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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    lexico...Nice link! I thought that this one reminded me of Doc


    Now back to the thread...

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    Could it have something to do with 'inventing traditions'? Are the Japanese interested only in the nature of Japan or nature in general...? If it's only nature within the borders of Japan, one could venture to draw links between aesthetical values and reinforcing the idea of a unified nation (and its values)... I don't know if that really answers the question, though.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun
    So your garden is open to others?
    According to your favorite uchi-soto theory, all Europen gardens should be open.
    Well, the best gardens in stately homes and palaces are of course open to the public (usually with an entrance fee, as it costs money to take care of such gardens). Most private gardens are only open to your friends or family. I don't understand why according to the "uchi-soto theory" it should be open to everyone ? Are all private gardens open in Japan ? Anyway, the "uchi-soto" mentality is part of the Japanese culture, not the European one. In (Northern) Europe, individualism is favoured, which means that we should "cultivate our garden" as Voltaire put it.

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    So then what's the difference?
    You've got the uchi-soto as Japanese does.

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    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    欧米では緑が多くのんびりと出来るのがいいですね。 
    でも日本には日本の良いところもたくさん るので、比 べられないですね。

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    目録 Index's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    lexico...Nice link! I thought that this one reminded me of Doc


    Now back to the thread...
    Ouch, Just wait till Doc sees this thread. I think you might be next on the hit list CC1....

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun
    So then what's the difference?
    You've got the uchi-soto as Japanese does.
    It's not really the same. Uchi-soto can be on various scales : family, company, country... I think that Northern European are a bit less exclusive in the uchi-soto regarding the family, but Southern European are more like the Japanese. However, regarding companies or country, all Westerners tend to be much less uchi-soto oriented. The Japanese always compared everything to Japan and foreigners can never truly be accepted as Japanese, even taking on the Japanese nationality and being fluent in Japanese. Even Koreans and Chinese, who look like the Japanese. This is a strong contrast to Western countries.

    In most Western countries, the individual is more important than the group, so the importance and exclusivity of the group is played down. That's why I have never heard of 3 generations living under the same roof in a Western country, but it's common in Japan as it is "the family", "the uchi group".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It's not really the same. Uchi-soto can be on various scales : family, company, country... I think that Northern European are a bit less exclusive in the uchi-soto regarding the family, but Southern European are more like the Japanese. However, regarding companies or country, all Westerners tend to be much less uchi-soto oriented. The Japanese always compared everything to Japan and foreigners can never truly be accepted as Japanese, even taking on the Japanese nationality and being fluent in Japanese. Even Koreans and Chinese, who look like the Japanese. This is a strong contrast to Western countries.

    In most Western countries, the individual is more important than the group, so the importance and exclusivity of the group is played down. That's why I have never heard of 3 generations living under the same roof in a Western country, but it's common in Japan as it is "the family", "the uchi group".
    It'd be nice if you tell me more specifics. Tell me how you tame regional conflicts in your country, Belgium.

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    This might come as a surprise to some given our recent history, but I find myself largely agreeing with the OP on this one. This is an insightful and interesting thread and I think Maciamo is spot on with his observations.

    There is strong evidence of a tourist industry based around Autumn leaves from the simple fact that a considerable number of my friends have recently ventured out of Sapporo on bus tours, in search of the illusive "beautiful views" that many Japanese seem to crave at this time of year. However Autumn has come late to Hokkaido this year, and the tour companies know this more than anyone.

    I've sat in no end of Izakayas over the last couple of weeks listening to my co-workers moaning that they booked into a particular tour, only to find when they arrived in the country that the leaves on the trees are still as green as they were a couple of months ago, and the 'views' are yet to establish themselves.

    Autumn is very much an industry, as well as a season, and is undoubtedly driven by a conditioned reflex to escape the concrete jungle most of us find ourselves living in. Although it hasn't affected me up until now, this year I've even found myself trying to talk my wife into jumping into the car and heading off to some distant place in order to sit and look at a bunch of trees. Something I wouldn't have dreamed of doing in my years in England.

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    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    This is an interesting thread. I've never thought about it before. You are right Maciamo, there are many, many bus tours just for autum foliage all over Japan. And, many people who live in the cities do go on a weekend trip to get away the crowdiness.

    There seem to be some tours for Europeans as well, though. My husband works at a hotel, and he gets tour buses of Germans and British who come to New York to see the leaves every year.

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