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View Poll Results: Do you find the claim that the Japanese like/love nature more than others justified ?

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  • Yes, they care much more about nature, animals and the environment than the rest of the world

    2 7.69%
  • They care a lot by international standards, but less than the Western average

    2 7.69%
  • Why would they care more than others ?

    10 38.46%
  • They care a lot about seasons and cherry blossoms but kill whales and destroy their environment

    6 23.08%
  • No, the Japanese care less about the environment and animals protection than average

    2 7.69%
  • I think it is impossible to compare because there is no national trend anywhere

    4 15.38%
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Thread: Do the Japanese really love nature more than all other people ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Do the Japanese really love nature more than all other people ?

    N.B. : This thread was split from What do you like about Japan and Japanese people?

    Quote Originally Posted by craftsman View Post
    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 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 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, 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.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Jun 8, 2010 at 06:32.

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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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 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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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'.

  3. #3
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    I seriously doubt that Mac toured every river in Japan to it's entire length to esure that it is layered with concrete!

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    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.

  5. #5
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    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.

  6. #6
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    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.

    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.

  7. #7
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by craftsman View Post
    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 ?

    Quote Originally Posted by craftsman
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by CC1 View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by sabro View Post
    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...
    Last edited by Maciamo; Nov 12, 2006 at 03:01. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  8. #8
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    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?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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?
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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

  10. #10
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1 View Post
    Thank you for pointing out that you have no idea for yourself.
    No need to attack me personally.
    Quote Originally Posted by CC1 View Post
    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" ?

  11. #11
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by craftsman View Post
    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. 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).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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?


    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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. 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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    How do you know ? Have you been all the way from the spring to the sea ?
    Steady, steady. I read a voice raised.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    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.
    [offtopic]
    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.
    [/offtopic]
    *I love undrentide by Mediaeval Baebes*
    And here're my bloggies (JP) & (HU)

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by craftsman View Post
    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 !) ? 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 ?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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?

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    Why not split this discussion into a new thread?

  20. #20
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    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 ?

    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.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Nov 14, 2006 at 23:15.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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 ?
    So what's your problem with this, then?:

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn
    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."
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.

  22. #22
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    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).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The last sentence was highly sarcastic.
    You mean the "what's your problem with this?" Yeah, I should have worded that differently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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 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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    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.
    Last edited by Glenn; Nov 13, 2006 at 21:35.

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    Quote Originally Posted by undrentide View Post
    [offtopic]
    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.
    [/offtopic]
    Thanks for the update. I always thought, and according to my pocket Random House dictionary, they were 大鼠(おおねずみ).

  25. #25
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by undrentide
    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
    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth
    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.

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