Arboriculture: Ideal Japanese Forests

The article talks about the arborist Matsuoka, who maintains and takes care of trees. He partakes in competitions on tree-climbing and safety.

From the complimentary tone of the article, Japan Times seems to praise Matsuoka for embracing nature in his lifestyle through his interactions with the forest. The media sees his actions as “green” since he lives and works among nature. However, this does not mean that his behaviour actually benefits the forest he is in. By managing trees as his job, Matsuoka ensures the growth and survival of certain species of vegetation that are valued in society, whether aesthetically or for the products that can be manufactured from them. During this process of selectively nurturing the forest, however, the balance of the ecosystem will likely be affected. Certain species of plants seen as invaluable will be weeded out to let other plants flourish.

The need for arboriculture seems somewhat ironic. It implies that forests, despite being a part of nature, cannot be left to grow naturally, and that forest management is required for ideal growth. This idea is similar to many other ways Japanese deal with nature, such as flower arrangement, bonsai, and Japanese gardens. In all of these cases, control or altercation of nature of a great extent is necessary for nature to be best appreciated. This complements the article by Kalland and Asquith (1997: 13), who say that objects of nature can be placed on a spectrum with “wild” on one end and “domesticated” on the other. The Japanese treat those nearer the “domesticated” end as ideal forms of nature (ibid.: 15-18). This means that they have to be managed by humans such that they become products of both nature and culture.

I also found Matsuoka’s actions seemingly contradictory. While he claims to protect trees, he chops them down for firewood. Nevertheless, his behaviour can be understood in the context of the common ideology in Japan towards an ideal rural lifestyle, which is manifested in the concept of furusato. This ideology promotes a simple, rural lifestyle with activities and settings that symbolise nostalgia or Japanese culture (Robertson 1988: 494-495). Thus, Matsuoka can be seen as embracing the rural lifestyle of living with nature by retrieving and consuming firewood instead of relying on electricity. With this perspective, his actions show that he upholds the Japanese ideals of dealing with nature by maintaining the forests and living a rural lifestyle.



Kazutaka, Hinata. 2014. ‘Climbing champ urges deeper understanding of forestry’. The Japan Times.



Asquith, Pamela and Arne Kalland. 1997. ‘Japanese Perceptions of Nature: Ideals and Illusions’. In Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives, ed. Arne Kalland and Pamela Asquith. Surrey, Curzon Press: 1-35.

Robertson, Jennifer. 1988. ‘Furusato Japan: The Culture and Politics of Nostalgia’. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 1(4): 494-518.