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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 ?

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  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Jul 17, 2002

    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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