Monday, July 09, 2007

Where is all the wildlife?

I wonder, since the Japanese have the world's most uniquely deep relationship with nature---so we read and hear ad nauseum---where are all the animals and why is it that nobody seems to know anything about them (or care.)

Japan does have a variety of wildlife (I suppose some nihonjinronist will say it has the widest variety of any country on earth): deer, bear---including a close relative of the grizzly which attacks and kills several every year---a type of mountain goat, marine mammals, waterfowl and other birds. But in the city there are few animals like you will see in American cities like squirrels, rabbits and such. (I have seen a tanuki, a raccoon like animal, in Kajigaya of all places.)

When I see a type of bird or ask about a certain type of animal, about all I can get if I am lucky is the name. There is little to no knowledge of habits, habitat or anything else about the animal. I suppose this is about normal for city people---no real knowledge and a Disney-like vision of wildlife---but I would have thought Japan was different with its supposed "deep relationship with nature." Obviously it is not. Even more surprising, I can find no magazines and very few books on wildlife and that includes those in Japanese. Perhaps they exist, but not in the book stores I have been to recently. I am still looking.

This is even more shocking after reading Fujiwara's book in which he said that non-Japanese cannot connect insect sounds with nature in the same way that the uniquely human Japanese people in his neo-bushidoist world can. A Stanford professor visited Fujiwara-sama's house and heard crickets and, not being familiar with the sound, asked what that noise was. Fujiwara, the clever man that he is, immediately recognized that the Japanese were unique and superior in enjoying bug sounds. Although he thought it was strange that Imperial Dai Nippon could have lost a war to such idiots as Stanford professors, he did admit that there might possibly be a few non-Japanese who enjoyed insect sounds. However, he pointed out that in Japan, unlike anywhere else on earth, folks recognized the sounds of crickets in the late summer as harbingers of autumn. (Perhaps that's because Japan is the only country on earth with four seasons?)

Now I don't know about Stanford professors---perhaps he did not represent everyone in American or the rest of the world, but when I was a kid, we always enjoyed hearing crickets (and other insects) in the evening. Our parents and everyone else seemed to enjoy it and recognized that the crickets meant summer was ending, and fall coming soon. I remember in school having to write poems and one of the topics was insect sounds. Of course, THE all around expert on American and the world, Masahiko Fujiwara, admits a few obscure poets in the US did write about the sounds of insects---though not as well as Japanese poets, I'm sure. I wonder if Fujiwara was referring to us grade school kids.

But anyway, where are all the animals, insects (fireflies are near extinct in Tokyo), and the rest of nature in this land with such a deep respect for it?

Related National Geographic photos and narrative, Japan's Winter Wildlife; Raising Japanese awareness HERE.

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