Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Japan's deep respect for nature

Along with the tooth fairy myth, this has to be one of the more absurd things that people believe. Here is an interview with C.W. Nicol, a now Japanese citizen, but originally from England, naturalist and writer who has lived in Japan for 27 years and is quite knowledgeable of the environmental issues here.

He occasionally writes nature columns for the Japan Times.

When I first came to Japan, and later, when I visited or lived in villages and small towns, folk would welcome the swallows, and put out small trays under their nests if the mess bothered them. Some even hung upside-down umbrellas under the nests for this reason. Swallows not only nested under eaves, but even inside buildings.

It was still like that 25 years ago when I first came to Kurohime, here in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture where I live. At that time, swallows nested inside the station and it was a delight to watch them. Then the station was redecorated, and they were discouraged from nesting inside. Lately though, to discourage these lovely little harbingers of summer, the squeamish locals have been spreading ugly plastic sheets all over the place and hanging fake crows outside as well.

Some years ago, I heard from a friend that the manager of a golf club house in Karuizawa had 30 or so swallow nests, with young inside, destroyed because a lady complained about a speck of bird dropping on her blouse. I've heard similar stories about a supermarket here where I live.

...To me this is all a sign of the increasing selfishness and mean-spiritedness of so many contemporary Japanese who seem to either not know of or not care about the beauty of the birds themselves, or the long journeys they have made from distant Southeast Asian countries or faraway India -- let alone their wonderful soaring flight or all the harmful insects they consume.

Unique love of nature? Like that of most city folks everywhere, only in the abstract. Only as Disney "nature."

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