Matagi: Popular Images of the Hunting Tradition in Northeastern Japan

Matagi: Popular Images of the Hunting Tradition in Northeastern Japan

Scott Schnell - Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Iowa

Friday, April 15, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 105, Department of Anthropology See map
10 Sachem Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Images of rural Japan are dominated by insular villages engaged in irrigated rice cultivation. This presentation will offer a different perspective by focusing on the matagi—traditional hunters of bear and other animals in the beech forest uplands of northeastern Japan. ‘Hunter’ in this instance implies a sense of stewardship and an intimate understanding of the natural world. A key to success is mobility, not just in obtaining material resources, but in marketing them to communities that lie well outside the local area. Matagi attitudes toward the environment are symbolically enacted through their veneration of the yama no kami, or mountain god, which, rather than a matter of literal ‘belief,’ is perhaps better understood as a way of condensing a complex web of interactions into a more readily comprehensible and sympathetic form. The presentation will focus on the role of the matagi as intermediaries between the forested mountain and domesticated lowland environments, and particularly on their recent promotion through ecotourism and the popular media as instructive models for “coexisting with nature.”

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