Revival of Japan’s Wild Game Cuisine (Qing Ning & Wei Lin)

This article makes a distinction between a more familiar urban Japan and a “deep Japan” in the mountains. It proceeds to give a history of hunting game from pre-Tokugawa times to postwar Japan, though it only refers to “ancient Japan” very vaguely. Furthermore, it portrays wildlife as not being hunted since the “early years”, due to Buddhist beliefs. The article then seems to encourage the hunting of game by framing it as a solution to control wild animal populations causing damage to human areas, a way to inspire Japanese-French culinary culture, as well as the path towards “coexistence with nature”. This allows the article to represent recent trends of game hunting as a significant “return” to nature that will allow humans in general to start “rethinking the relationship between people and nature”. While the article concludes that hunting game exemplifies Japan as wholly ‘green’, the restaurants referenced at the end of the article with their addresses and websites attached make the article seem slightly disingenuous about its message. This reveals that rather than a respect for nature, the actors in question are still controlling it for their own anthropocentric means. Furthermore, the article carelessly lumps the whole of Japan into the hunting trend when there is in fact only a particular group of people who are dealing with game meat. This also obscures the difference between groups of Japanese people by giving the impression that all Japanese in the Tokugawa era were Buddhists that did not hunt game at all.

Hunting game can be considered green as it allows local municipalities in Japan to control the alleged overpopulation of wild animals to prevent damage to the human areas. The way in which hunting can be rationalised as a ‘green’ activity parallels Kirby’s (2011) analysis of how whale ‘overpopulation’ was “sustainably” maintained via culling in order to prevent the alleged fish scarcity (p.167). However, the culling of whales was legitimised via selective use of scientific data and the convenient use of ambiguous terms like “sustainable” to suit the whalers’ objectives (p.167). It appears difficult to justify hunting as a way to control animal populations when there is no given proof that said deers and boars are even overpopulating.

While game animals such a deers are reigned as “special national treasures” (Lecture video 8), it is ironic that these said “treasures” are perceived as pests that disrupt human lives especially in rural areas. Whereas in urban areas, deers are more likely to be seen as celebrities in places like Nara Park. This difference in perception is highlighted in Knight (2006), where media and entertainment parks influence the perception of animals of especially urban dwellers (p.118-119). Also, the fact that the Nara park is designated as a “priority protection zone” where deers are not allowed to be culled as compared to rural areas, highlights that most Japanese may prefer to observe nature in more controlled and sheltered parks, instead of nature in its most uncontrolled form in the rural mountains (Nara Prefecture Guide; Kalland & Asquith, 1997, p.15).

In essence, this article reiterates the concerns of political ecology, particularly in how political, economical and social forces influence the environmental decision to cull game animals. These take the form of local policies, monetary loss due to animal destruction and the impact on neighbourhoods (Robbins, 2003, p.6-7). Wild animals in particular are the locus of these forces, caught in the political, social and cultural whims of human activity. As Waley (2000)’s article has mentioned, the preservation of nature tends to be seen through human needs only (p.213). As such, while the article laments about “natural balance” and “return to nature”, it remains a question as to whether the culling of game animals would ultimately benefit the environment.

(628 Words)

Asquith, P. J., & Kalland, A. (2004). Ideals and Illusions. In Japanese images of nature: cultural perspectives (pp. 15–15). essay, RoutledgeCurzon.
Kirby, P. W. (2011). Constructing Sustainable Japan. In Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan (pp. 164–170). essay, University of Hawaiʻi Press.
Knight, J. (2006). Monkeys. In Waiting for wolves in Japan: an anthropological study of people-wildlife relations (pp. 118–119). essay, University of Hawai’i Press.
Robbins, P. (2007). The Hatchet and the Seed. In Political ecology: a critical introduction (pp. 6–7). essay, Wiley-Blackwell.
Uehara, Y. (2020, May 30). Revival of Japan’s Wild Game Cuisine.
Waley, P. (2000). Following the flow of Japan’s river culture. Japan Forum, 12(2), 204.
Nara Prefecture Guide (奈良のシカ保護管理計画検討委員会). 「奈良のシカ保護管理計画」の策定について .