Japanese Nature Then and Now

I’m pretty exhausted after spending 6 hours listening to commencement speeches and hearing names belonging to mostly strangers being called, but hopefully my thoughts on today’s readings are coherent. Thanks to Gerlin for sending over some notes from the discussion today!

These were the articles we focused on:

  1. Is There a Japanese Sense of Nature?  by D.P. Martinez
  2. The Hidden Face of Disaster: 3.11, the Historical Structure and Future of Japan’s Northeast by Oguma Eiji

Japan is viewed as nature-revering. But how do the Japanese view nature? I doubt that this question can ever really be answered, but Martinez attempts to by noting how nature instills cultural nationalism, which is powerful because it brings people together. What I found interesting was at the end of the first article, the author brings up a hypocrisy of Japanese actions. For example, Martinez mentions the huge recycling effort in Japan happening simultaneously with Japanese companies supporting deforestation in Indonesia. Martinez resolves that by saying Japanese people still have a special relationship with nature even when it’s not in its “purest” form. Generalizing Japan/how Japanese people view something makes me feel uneasy, but I think it’s important especially in preparation for this trip to think about the Japanese sense of nature.

Nuclear power generation is concentrated in grain-producing regions, like Tohoku. The second reading gave a more historical account of Tohoku. He pointed out a dichotomy between the rural and urban sense of nature, with the former being more relevant to Tohoku. -Another super cool thing is that we have been invited into this author’s home!!! Here are some questions to consider: What does it mean to the people of this area to be part of the “rice basket”? How do they move forward from disasters?

It’s been very interesting to read these types of texts. I haven’t taken a humanities class in a while, and I’m definitely more comfortable with reading scientific literature. So I’m glad that we’re given the opportunity to discuss and think critically about this material. Doing these readings helps me realize that while science is important, it needs more to make a difference. What I mean is that science doesn’t exist without social, cultural, and political contexts, and I’m super glad that I have the opportunity to engage more in these contexts.

Author: Karen Chan '18

Hello! I just completed my junior year at Bowdoin College as a chemistry major and recently-declared Japanese Language minor. I am from Honolulu, HI so Japanese culture has always been part of my life, but this trip is the opportunity to go beyond my classroom language experience and Japanese-food-eating experience. My interest in this project stems from my science background and my hope to eventually be a pharmacist in a hospital setting. I plan to focus on public awareness of "environmentally-caused" diseases, like Kawasaki Disease.