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There are some areas where Japan has been enlightened -- the age-old forestry regulations which probably saved it from becoming deforested like other island countries (Ireland & Iceland would have benefited from a few thousand Tokugawa bureaucrats) and some of the recycling programs a few high-tech companies have launched are pretty amazing, but specifically in cities, I defy you to find ANY examples of a particular Japanese concern for "equilibrium or balance between Nature and Man."

Just one example: up until World War II, Tokyo was famous for its waterways and canals. Now even the Sumida River is mostly paved over. And in terms of trees and park space, there is simply no comparison between Tokyo and, to take the example I'm most familiar with, New York. Central Park alone has almost 200 species of trees and a diversity of bird and small mammal species greater than the entire Kanto region.

If I were going to mount a "religious/non-religious" theory of environmental relations, Japanese agnosticism is not what would inspire me.

   

by Matt in NYC on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 11:43:26 AM EST
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Since the 19th century... I'll agree :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 12:17:13 PM EST
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I remember hearing an anthropologist say that Japan's traditional organizational economic unit was the homestead, like Sweden or Ireland. A family would be based at the same homestead for centuries. This is a circum-polar (nordic) pattern.

Japan differs from China and the Mediterranean in this.

It seems odd to me because Japan is an irrigation culture based on rice, or so I had thought.

by John Culpepper on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 04:44:49 PM EST
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It's a mix... Artic culture originally, surely, with the Aïnus, but some real contact with proto-China  !
It's always more complicated when it's islands ! Each ripple crosses over many time, you loose track !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:11:48 PM EST
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Oh, I didn't mean to suggest an Arctic pattern, but a more Northerly one -- or perhaps it would be more correct to say, Old European -- I think the Basques, too, may have had homesteads. Of course there is mixture and overlay when you look at la longue duree! I think I remember hearing that some Japanese homesteads had remained in certain families for a thousand years and that in homestead cultures it was customary to go on pilgrimages.

It's not a field I know much about, myself.

by John Culpepper on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:58:44 PM EST
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I remember hearing that some Japanese homesteads had remained in certain families for a thousand years and that in homestead cultures it was customary to go on pilgrimages.

That's an intriguing thought...anyone got any possible info?

I'm thinking...yes...you have the homestead, land, food, maybe some form of wealth stored up (not just money) over the years, so then someone wants to go...on a pilgrimage...they'll have the time...the homestead will not be left empty...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 07:12:05 PM EST
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I heard it by chance on a taped recording of a conversation by the late anthropologist Conrad Arensberg. I believe he has written several text books, as well as a  definitive ethnography of Ireland (years ago).

As far as cities, I don't have any formal knowledge about city planning, but to me, the Mediterranean-European  pattern with numerous handsome squares setting off public gathering places, such as a guild hall or cathedral, is  most appealing -- with markets and recreation close by -- and lots of Parks.
 

by John Culpepper on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 09:00:26 AM EST
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Originally those weren't Parks (that's an end of 19th century concept), but were often "Foirails" (fair grounds), either in, and most often on the border, of the city's limit.
Green because not so often used and not paved as the central piazza.

Still, you're right. :-) Public gathering spaces is one of those main quality of the Mediterranean city...

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 10:04:50 AM EST
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but specifically in cities, I defy you to find ANY examples of a particular Japanese concern for "equilibrium or balance between Nature and Man."

Overall, you're right:  Tokyo is virtually a concrete jungle, with trees and greenery too few and far between.  Yet there are some ("ANY") examples, weak though they may be, of city-level efforts to inject some nature in the urban gray that you can't totally dismiss:

Yoyogi Park,


Meiji-jingu Garden


Shinjuku Garden
,

and, to a lesser extent, Ueno Park.

And an aerial view of Tokyo shows that it is not altogether barren of greenery (click on "Satellite" to view the image more clearly.)

If I were going to mount a "religious/non-religious" theory of environmental relations, Japanese agnosticism is not what would inspire me.

Rather than, or perhaps in addition to, "agnostic", I would say "non-monotheistic" and "non-dogmatic".  There is plenty of "theism" in Japan, if only the polytheistic/animistic/pantheistic kind.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 10:47:36 PM EST
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A very nice summary page of parks and gardens in Tokyo (although the ones towards the bottom are definitely way out from the city center, even if technically within the city's boundaries.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 11:02:34 PM EST
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