We talked about Japanese animism. In Japan, there is a concept of the Sato Yama which doesn't really translate directly into English. It's the small mountain forest which often has the spring where the river flows from. The community cares for the forest and the river. There is a great deal of Shito ritual involved. People used to make little shrines at the springs where the rivers start. The God of the river was worshiped. (Incidentally, this God is female.) The God makes sure that you don't pee in the river or otherwise taint the source of the water for those people downstream. Very practical. Many people have forgotten these rituals and people are building golf courses on top of springs. Alex Kerr also writes about Japan's "love of nature" being sort of fake. I think that it is quite misguided, but I did sense a real love of nature and a hope that things could change from the forestry researchers that we talked to. As Alex Kerr points out, there was a lot of public works money poured into rivers and forests that caused harm, but the researchers seem to be trying to guide things back on course.
Governor Domoto is creating a new bill to allow people to set up special communities to manage Sato Yama's. A community is in charge of a small forest/mountain/river/spring and they follow many of the Shinto rituals and provide for themselves. This sounds interesting.
The researchers also talked about the extinction of the Japanese Wolf. There is evidence that they were exterminated systematically, although this is not conclusive. There are rumors that meat laced with poison is secretly used in Hokkaido. In any case, there are no more wolves on the main island of Honsshu, so there are a lot of deer and wild boar spreading across Japan. The deer cause wear on the land and also spread the dreaded forest leech. These tiny leeches can spring up your pant leg or through your socks and attach themselves very quickly. They seem to be areal problem for people treking through the mountains these days. They showed us a map of the deer territory in Chiba and how it had expanded. Then they showed up the spread of the leeches which basically mapped the spread of the deer. They also explained how the wild boar usually leads the way creating the paths and the deer follow.
The local farmers have been pleading to the Governor to figure out a way to get rid of the deer. We all decided that systematic extermination was a bad thing. Maybe we should make venison and wild boar a Chiba delicacy and start a trend. We started by eating a wild boar that was caught in the forest. It was good. ;-)