Ideological Construction of Environment and Its Relationship With Japanese Society, Culture, and Politics

Ideological Construction of Environment and Its Relationship With Japanese Society, Culture, and Politics

Mika Markus Merviö (Kibi International University, Okayama, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/IJPPPHCE.2018010104

Abstract

In this article, the Japanese “ideology” is critically examined and evaluated. While ideology very often is predominantly understood to cover political ideologies that the political parties and other political actors represent the more important ideology that is found in intersubjective practices is formed in everyday life and is rarely identified as ‘ideology' or politics. Japanese conservatism and nationalism are able to flourish under the cover of normalcy which social institutions support. To analyse the “ideology” of Japanese environmental thinking is far from being simple task as there is no orthodox dogma and the opinions of the elites is divided. Environmental thought and research are not particularly popular in contemporary Japan and there are, for instance, examples of universities that have scaled down their environmental studies programs. Instead, we should look to the whole society to see how much importance is given to the environment and how it is done. In fact, Japanese contemporary art and culture often register environmental concerns. However, in politics and administration there is less optimism on those concerns being resolved.
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The Evolution Of Japanese Relationship And Ideologies Concerning The Environment

The origins of nature-friendly Japanese culture are often identified with Shintô and Buddhism having a positive impact while those Western traditions of thinking that have advocated the human mastery over nature have often been rather simplistically juxtaposed with Japanese traditions in Japanese research. Shintô deifies nature and does frequently show respect to spontaneity of nature. Japanese Shintô has also adopted more than its share of ritualistic behaviour that does not always coexist harmoniously with the idea of spontaneous respect of nature as it is. However, Shintô has been able to maintain some of the purity of its directness by having been reluctant to write down its dogma. Shintô consists of many different traditions and layers and for many people there is no clear authority to provide canonised versions. The Imperial Shintô certainly was an attempt to hijack the tradition for dubious political ends, but for many Shintô continues its life as a rather harmless and distinctly non-intellectual intersubjective practice and tradition that connects the Japanese people and, does indeed, have something to do with the purity and beauty of nature as it appears spontaneously. In short, this focus on spontaneous observation of the beauty of nature has helped to establish a sensitive set of standards for Japanese aesthetic appreciation and arts. It should be pointed out that these standards surely do not apply to everyone in Japan and in the past the situation was not that different: within the landscape of rather rigid ideological constructions of feudal Japanese society even within each social class there were competing ideological elements to such views as the respect of nature and life in all its forms (for more on the role of Shintô and Buddhism in Japanese art and their connections with the environment/ animals, Merviö, forthcoming 2018).

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