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Biodiversity and Culture in Japan

There are many connections between Japanese culture and the biodiversity of Japans regions. Because the major religion in Japan is Buddhism and it is more of a way of life than religion, there are not many plants or animals directly related to the religion itself. However, Japanese culture is rich in its customs and beliefs in protecting nature and finding peace through it. There are many plant and animal symbols that Japanese consider sacred and influential. Along with symbols found in nature, Japanese culture also places great value on the environment and resources they are blessed with from the earth and nature as a whole. There are many plants and animals that Japanese find symbols in. Butterflies are viewed by Japanese as the souls of their dead, while the carp, or koi, is evocative of faithfulness in marriage or good fortune in general. Koi are overall the symbol of perseverance, and specifically, strength, courage, and patience (Abe). Due to an agricultural economy based on the flooded rice paddy, the presence of frogs is considered to bring good fortune. Finally, cranes are viewed as symbols of good fortune and longevity. As for plant life, cherry blossoms are revered by Japanese because the short blooming period, yet beautiful presence is associated with the transience of life. Pine trees occur naturally in Japan and are prized because of their strength and beauty. As winter trees, they represent resilience and the New Year and even immortality. Chrysanthemums are mainly used and appreciated for their medicinal qualities. Even today, chrysanthemums are used in Asian herbal teas (Baird). Japanese culture values art and much of the art produced by Japanese artist depicts nature and connects earthy strength to sophisticated beauty. An island nation, Japanese artist dont have the luxury of vast lands to view and paint, instead they focus on the small beauties such as plants

and animals and they are still able to produce beautiful pieces and stay connected to their culture. Individual flowers, trees, or other plants or animals- even insects- are isolated and celebrated by the artist; all this in the context of the ancient symbolism attached to each selected image (Jirousek, 1995). In a country where modern technology blooms far faster than any flower, Japan has remarkably kept its cultural diversity as plentiful as its biodiversity. The Japanese culture is strong not only because they are a traditional people, but also because there arent too many nonJapanese influences in terms of other people and other cultures being mixed in. Japan is one of the least diverse countries in the world and therefore has continued to hold fast to uninterrupted Japanese customs. Recently, the World Heritage committee announced Mount Fugi as a World Cultural Heritage site. Mount Fugi, which straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures, is the thirteenth World Cultural Heritage and has been considered a sacred symbol of the nation for centuries. Mount Fugi has really connected Japans biodiversity and cultural diversity. Initially, Japan sought to have Mount Fuji registered as a World Natural Heritage site, but that effort ran up against a number of problems, including worsening environmental problems such as illegal dumping of garbage in the area and shortcomings in terms of nature conservation (NCF, 2013). Overall, Japanese culture and the nations biodiversity go hand on hand. Japanese festivals often portray fish because of the reliance of fish as the main source of protein in Japan (Abe). Many flowers and animals are used as designs for traditional kimonos and are proudly worn in festivals. Japan is an amazing country and is an example of keeping culture alive and valuing biodiversity.

Works Cited

Abe, N. (n.d.). Japanese fish proverbs. Retrieved from http://japanese.about.com/od/japanesecultur1/a/Japanese-Fish-Proverbs.htm

Baird, M. (n.d.). Symbols of japan. Retrieved from http://www.cherryblossom.co.nz/Articles of Interest/Symbology.html

Jirousek, C. (1995). Japan: Historic background. Retrieved from http://char.txa.cornell.edu/nonwest/japan/japanhis.htm

Nippon Communications Foundation. (2013, July 25).Mount fugi is japan's latest world heritage site. Retrieved from http://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00031/