- Tokyo Geographical Society
- 地学雑誌 (ISSN:0022135X)
- vol.113, no.2, pp.191-202, 2004
It is generally assumed that the Japanese society and culture have been developed on the basis of the agriculture, especially on the rice field cultivation. Hunting, therefore, has been considered a sub-culture insignificant in the socio-cultural context as a whole. The author, however, is of the opinion that the two activities, agriculture and hunting, which are seemingly unrelated in outlook, have been strongly linked and have played complementary roles to each other.<BR>Japanese traditional hunters, Matagi, played an important role here as semi-professional hunters, and their hunting has increasingly become market-oriented.<BR>Agricultural activities inevitably destroy the natural habitat of wildlife by reclaiming or clearing forests to make the land suitable for cultivation, thus eliminating wild animals. Ironically, however, crops grown on cultivated land, which are rich in nutrition, attract wild animals. If the farmers intend to keep high productivity, those animals must be efficiently expelled from the man-controlled area. Agriculture is simply incompatible with wild animals.<BR>Hunting for a living, on the other hand, in essentially to capture wild animals, they are either consumed as various resources by the hunter himself or sold or exchanged for the necessities of life. To ensure sustainable hunting, the number of wild animals must also be sustained, which means the number of captures and the reproduction of animals must be well balanced. Hunting activities thus inevitably require coexistence with wildlife.<BR>Hunting and the agriculture, contradiction in principle, however, could and actually have cooperated to form a complementary relationship, which could be called a system : the hunters eliminated wild animals from cultivated land, and the crops attracted game animals for hunting. Around the peripheries of cultivated areas such complementary relationships have been and still are sustained.<BR>Historically, such relationships were gradually established from 17<SUP>th</SUP> to 18<SUP>th</SUP> centuries, when the Edo Shogunate encouraged as its policy to expand agricultural lands. With the technological advances of irrigation systems, marshlands and shoals were turned into rice fields in the plains, and hills and valleys were cultivated in the mountain regions. Hunting then gradually became involved in the agricultural activities to protect farmland from wild animals.<BR>In the later period of the Edo Shogunate, the farmers themselves began to capture or chase wild animals out of farmland. At the same time, some hunters with highly professional hunting techniques began further chasing and hunting game animals beyond the cultivated lands. Villages experiencing greater damage from wild animals often hired such hunters. The resources obtained from the captured animals and birds, such as furs, hides, feathers, tendons, meat, and internal organs and bones for medical use, were supplied to the local markets. Hunting thus found its niche at the peripheries of agriculture and the market that demanded animal resources, though limited in quantities and in the number of consumers the market might have been.<BR>The flow of animal resources, from agricultural land, to the hunters, then to the market, seems to have been established as a system around 18<SUP>th</SUP> to 19<SUP>th</SUP> centuries, as the monetary system began to prevail and currency was widely used.<BR>As Japan turned into the Modern Ages, hunting became more market-oriented and also strictly controlled : hunting was encouraged to supply furs for export to Europe and the US, and for the military use under the Imperial militaristic government at the time.<BR>A historical review of hunting in Japan suggests that, as for the conservation of wildlife, a historical and socio-cultural viewpoint is essential along with ecological and ethological research.