An Investigation of Japan’s Relationship to Nature and Environment

Author: Brecher, W.
This comprehensive reference introduces the significance of the natural environment in Japan’s ancient culture, in its modern society, and in its future political agendas. The book covers nature as a formative phenomenon in Japanese history, religion, philosophy and art; the modern history of Japan’s environmental problems and its successes and failures in dealing with them; the state of Japan’s natural environment today, how it has been transformed and how this transformation reflects the cultural nexus; the country’s grassroots environmental movements and their sociopolitical significance; and Japan’s political culture and the forces which are currently poised to revolutionize the country’s official position on the environment. It includes personal interviews with specialists from government, industry, NGOs, and academia. As a comprehensive yet detailed study, this volume will interest those in environmental and cultural studies and readers interested in Japan. It is also suitable as a supplemental text for courses in environmental history, environmental ethics, and Japanese culture. It will be an important source of statistics and historical analysis for the environmentalist community.


“This is a very fine book – well written, well researched and well argued. The author provides a complex and detailed analysis of the relationship between the Japanese culture and its environment. The book takes us on a fascinating journey through Japanese history, culture (religion and philosophy in particular), politics, economic development, environmental management and environmental movements to unravel a complex web of intricate relationships among all these social spheres and their impact on the quality of the environment and its perception by the modern Japanese society. . . . clearly demonstrates a deep understanding of the Japanese society and its perceptions of and attitudes toward nature and the environment. He undermines Western cliches portraying the Japanese society as the one that deeply loves nature and strives to live in harmony with it. Instead, he provides a critical view of the nature-society relationship in Japan. He carefully builds his argument to explain the cultural, social political and economic obstacles preventing Japan from taking more radical steps to combat the environmental devastation nationally and internationally. . . . Anybody interested in Japan and its environment should not miss this important book.” – Petr Pavlinek

Brecher has synthesized a large quantity of information about a formidably broad topic into a lucid and enjoyable book, produced to be accessible to informed layreaders and professionals alike. . . . his examination of environmental policy, environmentalism and the relationship between culture and popular conceptions of nature are well researched and well conceived. . . . Some of the richest portions of Brecher’s discussions are the discoveries which he is able to tease out of comparisons between Japanese and Western traditions. He is also careful to remain politically neutral, integrating voices from both the environmental establishment and ‘postenvironmental’ insurgents. . . Brecher’s book will be an important reference in the coming years.” – Lars Pierce “The author maintains a position of a keen and impartial observer and, at the same time, the reader can strongly feel the author’s vivid concern for the environment in general and nature in Japan in particular. . . . meticulously researched and conclusive and offers the reader a balanced and detailed description of Japanese geographical and geological setting, ‘Nature’ in religious history, contemporary education as exemplified by children’s stories, politics and grassroots environmentalism. . . . The breadth and width of this methodologically conducted research enable and encourage the reader to form his own well informed opinion. Neither pandering to overzealous Japanophiles nor overcritical Japanbashers, the book will be an important resource for Japanologists and students of environmental studies.” – Frank G. Nitsche-Robinson

Table of Contents

Table of contents (Main headings)
Preface; Introduction
1. Japan’s Environment – Natural and Otherwise
2. A History of the Nature-Religion Relationship
3. Shizen and the Japanese Self
4. NGOs and Grassroots Environmentalism in Japan
5. Humanized Environments
6. The Politics of Shizen
7. Poll: the People’s Perspective
8. Voices from the Trenches: Interviews with Five Specialists (Yoshida Masahito; Ikkatai Seiji; Dr. Saito Yuriko; Yoneda Hajime; Sakurai Masaaki
9. Japanese Environmentalism: Problems and Possibilities
Notes; Bibliography; Index