Japanese nature and ecology explained

If the Japanese appreciate cherry blossom and autumn leaves so much, why don’t they go to Washington and New England for them?

That would be like asking an English to go to India to learn what tea is really like- the popularity is as much about confirming national identity as it is about enjoyment of the thing itself

Why do birds etc not eat wild koi?

Why do Japanese crows attack people?

“An old man on the island of Rebun once told me that the crows in Hokkaido attack human beings- but only school girls, and only between four and five o’clock in the afternoon. It had something to do with their uniforms, he suspected” Alan Booth in The Roads to Sata pg 19

Why is Japanese cherry blossom (桜- sakura) more famous than plum blossom (梅- ume)?

My theory is that in Feb when the plum blossom blooms it’s just too damn cold to enjoy it. Alternatively, I have a feeling I read somewhere that the idea of sakura viewing parties (花見- hanami) was borrowed by Japanese aristos, in which case some of that high status might still be clinging to it.

Why are the Japanese obsessed with the fact they have four seasons?

Traditional complete change of wardrobe 4 times a year

Why won’t the Japanese switch to daylight saving time?

One theory is that the “change will chain office workers to their desks until 10 pm or later, since no employee will dare leave while the sun shines” Shutting Out the Sun pg 206. More importantly, there is a knee-jerk nationalist reaction against something that was imposed by the American occupation authorities and then scrapped.

Why do the Japanese make such a song and dance about a bit of bad weather?

For one thing, it’s a safe topic for conversation and domestic news coverage- which are few and far between in Japan. For another, in a risk-adverse country like Japan saying “It might be a bit dangerous, but you’ll be alright” is not an option. Add to that a good dose of the Japanese “gambaru” spirit of doing your job better and better until it reaches silliness, and there you have it.
Why are rivers concreted?
Why are the Japanese so proud of their local dams when most of them are concrete blots on the landscape?

It’s a general rural thing that the city born don’t understand in any country

Why are the Japanese doing so badly with Kyoto protocol energy use reduction?

There are some issues with a very pro-business ruling party, but the main reason is that energy consumption is already so developed since the 70s oil shocks hit energy resource poor Japan that it’s difficult to progress further

Why do Japanese cats have bobbed tails?

Long tails are traditionally considered unlucky, so I guess they have been selectively bred that way over the years

Why do so many Japanese ask foreigners if they have four seasons?

Entries on recycling, wildlife, plant life, pollution, concrete, bird life etc. etc. 

Why are the Japanese so reluctant to give up their plastic carrier bags?

A tradition of packaging and presentation being important, a lack of ecological awareness (especially at a practical level), reusing most bags for rubbish disposal, and a lack of plastic bags scattered around the countryside to make the problem clearly visible. 

Why are individual Japanese so environmentally unaware, even when some Japanese companies lead the world in green technology?

Because they are waiting for a lead from their political and business leaders and because there is little green education in schools. Also, most Japanese are only a few generations away from country-dwellers and so affection for nature is more than balanced with a healthy respect for how unpredictable and dangerous it can be- and TV coverage of storms etc. keeps them in this healthy state of nervousness so that the ruling classes can keep coating the beaches with tax-subsidized concrete.

Why do the Japanese not worry more about mercury etc. in fish, shellfish and seaweed?

I’m really puzzled on this one. Japanese people in England have problems getting all the seaweed they want for cooking because it is banned, quite sensibly, due to high levels of dodgy chemicals from polluted seas in Japan and the UK. And the International Herald Tribune has a story of tuna sushi in New York that should have a health warning on it. Maybe they just don’t want to believe it about something they don’t want to live without- a bit like Scottish people and cholesterol, and everyone and smoking.

The full International Herald Tribune story available here. 

Why do the Japanese have such a positive feeling about the white noise droning of the cicada?
Part of it is them being the ultimate sign of the tsuyu rainy season finishing and summer really beginning- hence their pride of place in haiku poetry, where a subtle reference to the seasons has always been de rigueur. Partly it’s the Asian love of background noise that blocks out all thought- hence also students saying “My favourite music is BGM (background music)” and endless bosa nova loop tapes in cafes and posh restaurants. My other new theory is that the Japanese are more positive about their cicadas because they behave themselves better than cicadas in the Med- the ones in Turkey took to clinging to the jumpers of screaming girls in a stubborn and annoying way not unlike a Turkish waiter insisting that you choose his restaurant. Probably no connection to national characteristics though…

Why are sparrows thriving in Tokyo but disappearing in London?


Why are there flocks of parrots in Omori and Hiroo in Tokyo?

Escaped pets that have bred? They are also spreading across London for that reason (also,bizarrely, from the Southwest of the city). Apparently the fact that they are so sociable is what means they stick to basically the same area for years and only spread slowly from there.

Why do Japanese schools and kindgartens spend so much time and energy on seasonal stuff?

It can be done without asking for permission and fits in with longer term planning while allowing freedom and flexibility to follow the interest of the students. It also fits in with the ministry guidelines (and nationalist myth) on teaching a “Japanese” love of nature.

Why are there so many seasonal products and advertising campaigns?


  1. F'off said,

    July 24, 2009 at 9:16 am

    This is a crap site with crap information. How the hell do you think you can EXPLAIN anything about something you obviously no nothing about!?

  2. alexcase said,

    July 24, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I’ve reread all the above, and I can’t find one inaccurate statement of fact, although there are some musings on things I can’t yet explain, clearly marked as such. At least I explain why I think those things, which is more than you have done. I read about 150 books on Japan in 5 years, can you say the same?

  3. crella said,

    July 30, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    ‘no nothing about’

    Then make sure you don’t talk about spelling… :-P

    But seriously, why the snark? If you disagree, post something…

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