- The Human Geographical Society of Japan
- 人文地理 (ISSN:00187216)
- vol.42, no.3, pp.220-238, 1990-06-28 (Released:2009-04-28)
This study aims at presenting some concrete features of Kohama, a Ryukyuan traditional settlement, in order to illustrate“Personality”of place, which may be considered as the whole dynamic relation of life and land. Attempts have been made to grasp their interrelations, namely“genre de vie”in Buttimer's sense, which includes not only material-social aspects but also mental-cultural phases in the analysis of a place. It should be understood, however, that the physical and socio-cultural matters examined here are quite selective, and limited to only the essential ones.The physical aspects are analyzed applying the concept of“high and low island”(by W.L. Thomas, Jr.). The basic physical features of the survey field, Kohama, can be defined as a“high island”, but since the island is relatively small, the characteristics of “high island”are not very apparent. However, the island's peculiar geologic formation, that is, the Quaternary limestone on a terrace and its unconforming position between the underlying surfaces, is favorable to hydrographic process of accumulation-drainage, and is better equipped with water supply for multiple agriculture (mainly sugar cane and rice cropping). For these aspects of the island's ecosystem, the relation between the physical aspects and subsistence form on this island is explicit. However, it is also a fact that the island's small area is a weak base for diversity. On the other hand, the siting of settlements was not necessarily disadvantageous under the medieval policy of giving preference to cultivated land. Rather, given the hydrological characteristics of the island, they can be said to be as appropriately located as the agricultural land.Regarding social matters, vertical relations, which specifically mean the relations between the upper and lower parts of social structure as suggested by hierarchies in kinship and the landlord/tenant system within the settlement, are not dominant, but equal or horizontal relations are noticeable. For instance, as for rice field possession, it is unusual for the main families to occupy well-watered rice fields. Spatial arrangement of residences also shows such a tendency: the houses of the main and branch families are not remarkably segregated. Generally speaking, in the Yaeyama Islands including Kohama, we can find no socially hierarchical system in rural communities such as that peculiar to the main island of Okinawa. It is safe to say that the horizontal social relations in the settlement have reflected a multi-centered and multi-phased rather than a centripetal and vertical social structure.Calling attention to cultural matters, particularly agricultural rites, which enable us to catch a picture of an unusual world and a hidden meaning of place, we are able to understand that, as a cultural apparatus, they embody ties of interdependence among the matters of“genre de vie”. The above-mentioned multiphased structure in the social context is ascertained not only from the different participants in those rites, but also sacred/profane territory and places implying boundaries. Besides, in the physical context, such a structure no doubt makes good use of the landscape surrounding the settlement under investigation.