Thoughts on nature and agriculture in Japan

I had lunch with a friend of mine this afternoon and she mentioned how she would be completely fine living separate from her husband. She says he loves fishing so much that he wants to move the family closer to the ocean so he can go fishing everyday. She would rather not. According to her, he is crazy in love with the entire process from the catch to the plate – gutting, seasoning, cooking, eating and ultimately hearing his family say “oishi” Japanese for “that’s delicious.”

Just another case of a fisherman hooked on fishing. Oh, the irony.

Who is on the line, really? If we temporarily ignore the fact that people are a part of nature and assume an “us and them” point of view, statements such as, “He catches fish” and “He grows rice” sound perfectly normal. Fishermen and farmers play the active role while fish and plants take on the passive role. Now let’s return to reality and remember that we too are but a thread in the intricate fabric of nature. Consider then, through millions of years of co-existence our seemingly conscious human behaviors may have been triggered or even manipulated by other lifeforms, so much so that ‘they’ may have accomplished the greatest feat of all time: an illusion of consciousness.

Think about how a flower lures in pollinating animals with its sugar-rich nectar, or how fruits wait until their seeds are mature before changing into a ripe color which appeals to nearby animals looking for something to eat. Suddenly we see plants as key players on the field who deserve more credit for their active role in seducing our tastes and desires. (Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food,”  articulates this idea quite convincingly.)

I won’t go as far as to say rice seduced me, so now I am going to become a rice farmer like Yasuhiko. However, I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel the pull every time I step into that rice field. But then again, rice farming is just part of the bigger picture.

Activities such as gardening, hunting, fishing and breeding, serve as valves controlling the ebb and flow of endorphins in us. A true natural high so to speak. An intricate bond between “us” and “them” creating a constant tension pulling both sides closer. Sometimes to the point where it interferes with family matters becoming a topic for household debate even, illustrated earlier in my friends example.

What is it about this bond that some of us find so satisfying? Having been to a fair number of places on this planet I can say with absolute confidence – nature is full of surprises. Perhaps it’s the novelty of hiking a new trail, catching a different fish, or photographing a colorful insect, no matter how far we travel and how much we see that deeply rooted appetite for nature is never fully satiated. And after living in Japan for several years now I believe these activities shed light on the true meaning of “itadakimasu,” a Japanese word deeply rooted in Japanese beliefs.

Thank you Yasuhiko for always giving us this chance to get closer to the real thing. Most of us are only exposed to surface level ideas when it comes to issues surrounding farming and agriculture in Japan. Experiencing first hand what happens on a local scale is amazing. It’s like taking a look under the hood and seeing how all the parts work to make something operate. This experience allows each one of us to come away with our own experience unsaturated with third party bias. We just do it, thanks to you.

Author Infomation

Kenji DuBois Lee
Kenji DuBois Lee
  • -1

    combinibento

    Looks like this guy was smoking some herb before he opened the Cheeto's and fired up the old Dell laptop to write this.

  • 0

    Frungy

    Leaving your family to fish or farm? ... no, just no. Clearly this individual has no sense of proportion, priorities or responisbility.

  • 1

    timtak

    Activities such as gardening, hunting, fishing and breeding, serve as valves controlling the ebb and flow of endorphins in us.

    I agree. Further, getting down to the endorphin level I think that there is a fair amount of sex difference; male endorphins being released more by the hunting and fishing (and perhaps rice farming) and female ones with the breeding (perhaps near a day care centre and convenience store). This is why your friend's fisherman husband will be living on his own and why rice farming land and farm houses are so cheap in Japan.

    The Japanese are a little happier to realise this difference, and this, and gender relations in general have a major impact on attitudes towards nature and agriculture in Japan. Farming is will be hit hard by a TPP, but with the shortage of farmers wives it may already be dead in the water.

    For there to be a resurgence in the appreciation of nature and agriculture in Japan, there needs to be a some sort of Man Power Movement --traditionally the role of Shinto festivals -- to revive appreciation of the beauty of male endorphins and get away from all the bra-wearing, vegetarian, low-male-endorphin-society that dominates at the moment.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    I'm afraid I didn't understand this "article."

    What is the guy trying to say?

    It's like a long joke with no punch line.

  • 0

    blackbagger

    Cool ideas... Until you pause and remember that fish didn't evolve to be caught by people. People found places where you can fish and returned again and again to get food. Yes, the thrill of fishing may be a part of the activity now, but the goal of fishing is to get food. Fish live to eat, reproduce and carry on their species, not to become food for anything.

  • 0

    pontananagoma

    Japanese are more of a fisherman than a farmer..

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