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Considering other nations’ treatment of nature, ecological traditions and their connections with Baikal subject area it is necessary to make a stop at corresponding reality objects and events, related to the Land of the Rising Sun. On the one hand, a lot of Asian peoples feel their ties of blood. Researches of Japanese language mention the existence of lexical and grammar forms of Altaic languages in it. It means that the Japanese faraway ancestors have visited our places. No wonder, Masaru Emoto blessing the waters of Baikal, told buryats about the likeness of two nations and, somehow, of the environment they live in. “There is a legend in Japan… When God started to measure the world, he drew some soil and water filled the pit. That is how Baikal was created. But God didn’t need that piece of soil, and threw it into the sea – that is how Japan was created. Indeed, if you take a look at the map, you will see that their contours match.

On the other hand, Russian explorers, reaching remote corners of the East, couldn’t stand to communicate with their neighbors. Trade relations with Japan have always been of great interest for Siberian authority and merchant class. Irkutsk province governing body – the biggest and closest to the East in Russian Empire have tried to inquire the terms of trade with Japan already in 18th century: assortment of goods, possible places of contact and etc. There was at least one good reason for it – establishing trade relations with Japan would bring the same abundant inflow of custom fees, as it did after establishing relations with China. Trading with China brought hundreds of thousands rubles to the state treasury every year. G.I. Shelekhov, famous manufacturer from Irkutsk, was eager to establish such relations and bring that idea to life.

“Dreams about Russia”, a novel by Yasushi Inoue, tells about the visit of Japanese people to Russia long ago and all the misfortunes they had to suffer. It tells about Russia of the times of Catherine the Great, through the eyes of Japanese travelers, whose ship suffered a wreck by Aleutian Islands. Main character, historical person, the captain of Japanese ship Daikokuya Koday – man of honor and duty along with his survived crew takes a long and difficult journey through Petropavlovsk, Okhotsk, Yakutsk to Irkutsk and lives there for a short time. There had already been more than five graves of Japanese travelers in the Irkutsk cemetery, oldest one dated 1725 year.

Further, Koday visited Saint Petersburg and even returned home. Care for Japanese travelers in Siberia depicts wish of Russian authorities to establish trade and business contacts with self-isolated Japan. First Russian expedition to Japan was organized in 1739, headed by lieutenant Shpanberg. He was instructed to get in touch with Japanese government. Russian lieutenant was given a hearty welcome, though he didn’t achieve any positive result or agreement.

Another unsuccessful attempt was made by Adam Laxman, son of a famous professor, who was sent to Japan by Catherine the Great in 1792-1793 (according to the novel “Dreams about Russia”, Koday returned back home during that mission). There was a verbose message prepared for Laxman “ About establishing trade relations with Japan”, in which said: “ You know about the Japanese merchants and their shipwreck by Aleutian Islands, and how they were embowered by manufacturers of that place, then conveyed to Irkutsk and supported by government maintenance for a while. The case of their homecoming gives a chance to establish trade relations with that people, moreover, none of European countries has such comfortable circumstances, like Russia, on the score of less distance by sea and close neighborhood itself.”

It was told about the fate of Koday’s companions, for whom there was predestined another way: “As two of the crew are naturalized by our, Christian law, they cannot return to their fatherland, we shall make use of them to teach Japanese language, which will become quite useful after relations with Japan are established. Therefore, you are ordered to place them in national college in Irkutsk, with balanced wages, and for a start, give them five or six boys, chosen by seminarians of that place, to make them serve as translators, at length. “Japanese language class in college was opened 1st of June 1792 and existed until 1816, it was abrogated, because of lack of teaching skills of one of the Japanese survivors.

In 1792 brigantine “Catherine” with Laxman’s expedition group visited Japan, they had “written permit” – permission to annual Nagasaki harbor visit with diplomatic or trade purpose. But, unfortunately, all the relations were stuck for different reasons permanently.

Visits to Baikal region by Japanese renewed in the course of Civil and World War II. After the intervention in Vladivostok spring 1918 Japanese troops under the command of generals Muto and Oba Jiro, in number no less than division, reached Irkutsk and quartered there. Following the troops, a lot of civilians from Japan arrived to that region, most of them were merchants. In Jule 1919, when the Civil War had intensified, there was an attempt to send a Japanese squad to hold Bolsheviks. But, eventually, it didn’t happen. In January 1920, because of the victory of the Red Army in Western Siberia, Japanese troops had to leave Irkutsk. After the World War II soldiers of the Land of the Rising Sun visited Siberia once again, but as prisoners of war.

History is history. But the most important things to save the nature and Baikal we should learn from Japanese are their attitude towards nature, traditions and, of course, actions. We can call people of the Land of the Rising Sun most sensitive and receptive to nature. There are solid argumentations for it.

First, traditional Japanese religion – Shinto – slightly “flows out” from ancient beliefs of that people, simply speaking, from animistic, shaman or other conceptions about the essence of space and existence. As in, for example, Baikal shamanism, there were multiple “landscape” gods, that is local gods and gods that rule the elements, apart from tribal gods. Rain, earthquake, mountain, pool, road – it is all under the control of the gods, for whom Shinto priests were praying. An interesting opinion was told by famous researcher of Japanese studies V.Ovchinnikov: “…Japanese are almost nullifidian. It is no exaggeration to say that religion is replaced by the cult of beauty, created by divinization of nature.” Though, the power of such kind of deities wasn’t unlimited and covered rather small region. Wherever a human is, if he sees a manifestation of the elements, he tries to explain it by present religio-ethnic stereotypes (of course, with “territorial” shade of inhabitant of certain area). In 1741, there was a large earthquake in Baikal region, Japanese that lived in Irkutsk, called it Nai – Idrimas and described it according to their national conception: “In the underworld, there is some great beast Bannin-Fito, whose orca with sharp teeth, along them by feather Sandji, coming from the sea, touches underground hollows, so it trembles because of it, and it shakes the earth, and if it gets wounded, it makes pits.”

The feature of traditional attitude towards nature in Japan is the concept of “Man as a part of nature”. Japanese expression “nature” (“shizen”) means “to be, how it is” or “to be in harmony with nature” (by the way, Japanese expressions “to use a man” and “to exploit nature” sound similar). Japanese have never opposed themselves to nature. Daisetsu Suzuki - philosopher and culturologist, characterizing Asian peoples’ attitude towards nature wrote that the idea of subdual of mountains and rocks, as the nature in whole, is an integral feature only for western man, and Japanese people don’t share it. “Yes, Japanese from time immemorial went to the peak of Mount Fuji, but not with a purpose of subdual, but with the only wish to be imbued with its stately beauty, embrace first beams of the morning sun, flashed above the motley cloudy storm.” Researcher S. Akimoto agrees and writes: “Though culture is considered as antithesis to nature, main feature of Japanese culture is that that culture is nature-imitative, that is based on example of nature, thereby it sharply contrasts with other Asian countries culture, especially with China.” It is also contrast with western countries’ attitude, in which man often seizes the right to control or manipulate the nature. Mentioned earlier table can serve a certain proof, in which citizens of the Land of the Rising Sun choose the “Nature stands above the man” answer more often, than Chinese or Russians.

Japanese, like all other nations, have their own rituals, which connect everyday needs of man with nature. For example, there was a custom to plant flowers together with beloved ones, trees in memory for love or while thinking about the future. Japanese had a variety of herbs, connected with superstition and beliefs, and psychological condition of a person, as well: herb “do not speak” (nanoriso) keeps secrets of your heart, herb “tell your name” or “say a name”, herb “forget” (wasuregusa) helps to forget unhappy love affair, separately – “forget love” (konwasuregusa) and etc. Also, there were shells “forget” – shells of extraordinary beauty that could make a person forget all his misfortunes, sorrow or unrequited love. By analogy, there were flowers, which meant a chance of separation, and were “forbidden” in some cases. For example, crape myrtle sounded like saru-suberi, a word for “to get separated”.

Thirdly, insignificant size of Japanese Islands, in comparison with China and Russia, formed thoughtful care of the nature much faster, understanding that any pollution can lead to physical and moral damage to natives. Japanese poet T. Takarabe in his poem “Flying over Siberia” described a great number of nameless mountains on vast space of Siberian land, and mentioned that in his country “every hillock, every hummock has its own name”.

Japanese were trapped in limited space from the very beginning, where they could survive only by intensive methods. Balanced nature management has always been the most necessary condition of survival for Japanese. It allows harming the nature in line with its self recovering. That taught them to be more sensitive, feel the impulses and rhythms of nature, find limits of the influence empirically, beyond which irreversible changes occur, and hold on to them. For a Japanese a little strip of the land once made home, stayed as a permanent residence, unlike temporary ones of inhabitants of vast lands. That isolated type of environment (like a spaceship) made them to solve ecological puzzles for survival, told its own logic of behavior, which is hard to understand for other people. In rather “small” Japan, even in comparison with Baikal region, as Takarabe said “every hummock has its own name”, so Japanese had to fertilize and decorate every plot of land, make it an object of pride. Russian have always been amazed by this fact, visiting Japan. Here is an impression of Boris Pilnyak, Russian writer of 30s, after visiting Japan: “Japanese land is so beautiful, it hasn’t cooled down from volcanoes yet, the land, which gave to human labor only one seventh of itself… I was looking around and – bowing to the human labor, inhumanly human… I saw every stone, every tree being tended, touched by a hand. Forests on steeps are planted by hand, as on a chessboard, in line. Only centenary colossal labor is able to struggle against the nature like this, to tend, to touch, to forge all rocks and valleys.” Most important idea In that example by Pilnyak is the idea of a man “struggling” against the nature for its own good, to decorate it, “tend” it, bring creative elements in it.

Fourthly, citizens of the Land of the Rising Sun differed by certain habits to individual and collective aesthetic perception of the environment. From the ancient times Japanese had a custom to admire nature’s beauty and glorify it in poems. Aesthetic attitude towards nature had specific forms: kannami – admiring flowers, tsukimi – admiring moon, and yukimi – admiring snow. Japanese were gathering to “admire” the nature, inviting guests, friends, beloved ones to that “festival”. In an ancient book “Man'yōshū” (IV – XIII b.c.) one of those “events” is described:

When touched, those bright and brand-new drops of dew,

They dissapear irrevocably at once.

So let us, dear friends,

Admire splendid Hagi,

As yet the drops of dew are shining on its blooms.

Even maple leaves, or any other attribute of nature, could become an object of admiring. Nowadays, the hanami tradition can be traced by graphic examples of admiring blooming sakura.

There was also a custom to adorn oneself by autumn flower garlands. Originally, it was connected with autumn and spring ceremonies, but it became a usual decoration at feasts.

It is a noticeable fact that glorifying nature in poems, using it as a decoration, as well as careful treatment of it was a common and traditional practice in the highest (actually, not only there) circles.

It should be mentioned that there was a special attitude towards ponds with fresh water. Pure water from the springs wells and etc. was considered as a gift of gods and thought to be sacred, together with the wells themselves:

There, in the shadow of basilic palace,

Which stands in light and pierces glowing sky,

There flows for evermore a wondrous water,

The clearest water from the sacred spring.

There was an ancient ceremony connected with the water – misogi – “sacred cleansing” , that is ablution in the river to cleanse of a sin. (Apparently, Japanese admire Baikal, mostly because of given circumstances of the “sacred sea” - giant reservoir of transparent, “crystal pure” water).

Thereby, positions of trembling aesthetic attitude towards the nature in time of centuries have been transforming into organic psychological guidelines, they’ve been living and developing by their own spiritual rules, predeterming most of the actions and deeds of Japanese towards nature.

Fifthly, Buddhism, as another form of religion, came to Japan and favored the development of a “compassionate man”, tolerant in not only personality and social spheres, but also in an ecological sphere. That comes from Buddhism’s demand for equal relations between men and mercy for all living beings in this world. That stimulated universal and active charity, sharply decreasing a number of conflicts between man and the nature. There is a historically proven fact that commandments, denouncing murders of living beings were taken more seriously by rulers of Japan, than the monks. As a result a law was taken, that prohibits hunting and fishing. Those measures could lead to the destruction of the entire country, as they deprived a population majority of most of means of subsistence. Only by separating actual power from monarchs, they have avoided such a threat.

Buddhist propositions of preservation of all the matters and denial of killing any living thing have created original features and beliefs in minds of Japanese people. D. Suzuki tells about ordinary and at the same time unique destiny of a monk – ascetic of Buddhist sect Soto, who lived in the second half of XVIII – first third of XIX century. Ryokan was not only a brilliant lyric poet, treated nature with love at all its manifestations, but also a friend of louses, fleas and mosquitoes, feeling sincere mercy for all living beings. Some facts of his biography testify to his trembling care towards fleas, as he saw “a precious piece of life in them”. (Same behavior was witnessed from Buddhist monk of XIX century from Baikal region E. Galshiev).

As if the author tried to cease the negative feelings of fastidious readers, D. Suzuki reminds that at those times and even later parasites were constant companions of, for example, English ladies and gentlemen from the highest society. He provides an interesting fact of 14 years old George Washington learned the paragraph from the “Book of etiquette” “do not kill parasites, whether those are fleas, louses or ticks in the public eye…If you see a louse on the dress of your interlocutor, try to take it off without being noticed; if that louse occurred to be on your dress, thank a person, who took it off”

As another example of Buddhism influence on nature perception of Japanese can serve the similarity of Japanese and Mongolian beliefs about earthquakes (Japanese one has been described earlier). Mongolian lamas explain it as the Great Buddha’s decision to confide Earth to specially created frog. As that frog moves earthquakes occur. That myth is a good example of peoples’ tendency to deify fauna.

Sixthly, ikebana had the same positive effect, as various forms of admiring the nature and developed special attitude towards the nature. Interestingly enough that ikebana came into the Japanese way of life in the course of spreading of Buddhism and first works of it came from China. Translation of “ikebana” has multiple shades of meaning: “flower arrangement”, “integration of flowers in two vessels”, “flower enlivening” , “help a flower to express itself”, “flowers that live” and etc. In its very conception some sort of “the second birth” of a flower is observed, as another piece of nature.

The art of ikebana is popular and realistic; it is hard to find a Japanese, who doesn’t want to express his vision of the world and people through the flower composition, make natural objects to self-express. It is another display of Japanese belief in living spirit of flora and perception of them as attributes of nature’s joint spirit. It is one of the most important motives in the art of ikebana. “The ikebana creators aim not to express their taste or individuality, but to express the very essence of a flower, ritual deep meaning of their combinations, position – composition in whole.”

Ikebana symbolism is closely connected with symbolism of flowers, plants, trees we’ve talked earlier. For example, it is forbidden to include crape myrtle into ikebana composition, as it is believed to provoke break up. Every combination has its own meaning. Pine and rose symbolize eternal youth and long life, pine and rohdea – youth and infinity, pine and peony – youth and prosperity, peony and bamboo – prosperity and peace, chrysanthemum and orchid – joy. All that allowed, on the one hand, to express someone’s wishes and, on the other hand, to influence a person or develop some qualities.

Enlivening, second birth of flowers in ikebana is also some kind of a ritual of nature protection, nature objects’ prolongation of life, and it has positive effect on ecological perception in whole.

Ikebana – one of the most favorite hobbies of all classes and estates. That art helps not only to create fine, expressive and unique “bouquets”, but to give any person a way for individual creative self-expression, enriching his inner world. “Ikebana is a kind of art, made by a nation, which has been fostering abilities to treat the nature as a treasury of the beautiful. The art of ikebana is popular, because of its accessibility; it helps a person, even if he is poor, to feel himself spiritually rich.”

But even “nature centralized” Japanese didn’t avoid misfortune of technological progress. Thus, in the beginning of rapid development of Capitalism in the end of XIX century, a case of Japanese copper mine attracted public attention in the Watarase river valley. Here, nature had to suffer tragic changes, because of industrial development: fertile layer of soil was totally destroyed in many places, flooded by poisonous river, in which all fish had died. All birds and insects had to flee away from the area of the mine. Citizens felt worse. Children’s mortality increased, number of severe diseases among nursing mothers increased as well. Plants died, bamboo groves and weeping willow bushes, along the Watarase River, withered.

That and followed ecological tragedies caused by industrial boom in XX century taught Japanese to struggle for their nature harder. In 1967 “The Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control” was enacted; in 1971 Environment Agency was established. These measures lead to all citizens and organizations activation for the nature’s benefit.

In Japan, project of any industrial object, sociocultural structures or apartment block goes through obligatory ecological expertise. Among various ecological standards, to which any projected structure or housing unit should correspond, there is a standard for arrangement of green spaces. There are 10 indexes of arrangement: space without green – 1, grass – 2, bushes or bamboo – 3-4 and etc., and the last one – old-growth wild forest. After completing the construction, there should be no below than 6th index of arrangement. Sometimes, having completed the construction, construction workers had to plant already grown-up trees – that’s the demand of ecological standards.

For Russian governmental and business corporations there is one interesting example of Nihon Denkei company experience, in which has been organized a whole nature protection system of certain measures and control of them. System had deliberative body hierarchy:

  1. Environmental status control Central Committee – highest deliberative body, headed by the corporate president.

  2. Regional environmental control committees, made in company activity areas.

  3. Control Boards, in which urgent environmental protection problems, whether they are external or internal, are being discussed.

  4. Executives Council, responsible for certain environmental protection activity areas.

  5. Conference, convened monthly and concerns specific questions of environmental activity of industrial complexes of the company and separate enterprises.

  6. Annual symposiums, discussing environmental activity of the company, which is attended by whole administrative staff machinery of the company.

It is necessary to adopt and copy, in the finest sense of word, all these ecological directions of the Land of the Rising Sun citizens, conditions of its forming, establishing traditions of cautious treat of the nature in the minds of individuals and in the work system of an enterprise. But there is one more no less important thing. There are a quite number of features of Japanese perception of Baikal world provided in this book. It is important to learn take into consideration given nuances by direct interaction with the visitors of our places. It is essential, from our point of view, to remind Japanese visitors the facts of connection between citizens of distant land and Baikal region. It is easy to find those. At least there is one considerable fact that after the World War II, a lot of Japanese have been to Baikal region as prisoners of war, some still remain buried in Siberian lands. But that’s a subject for a particular discussion. We shall stop at other points.

A noticeable mark in the spiritual life of Baikal region have been left by Japanese researcher of the frozen water crystals M. Emoto and his ceremony of blessing the waters of Baikal. We’ve talked about it earlier. It was notable that he talked about likeness of two peoples – Japanese and Buryats. He told two facts of similarity principles of their life. Firstly, he told the Japanese legend, according to which, when God started to measure the world, he drew some soil and water filled the pit. That is how Baikal was created. But God didn’t need that piece of soil, and threw it into the sea – that is how Japanese Islands and Japan itself were created. That’s why their contours match. Secondly, professor also told that there was a Lake Biwa in Japan. If Lake Baikal is called “Father Baikal”, than Japanese call their lake “Mother Biwa”. Emoto mentioned the fact when Biwa could nearly become a “victim” of foreign driftweed – got rotten and began to stink. When professor with volunteers carried out a special ceremony by the lake, apologized to it, it has cleared itself at once. That story, though a bit mythologized, is a good example for inhabitants of Baikal region of how to treat Father Baikal.

As a sensational event of Japanese visiting Baikal can be considered the race of a school teacher Ikarasi Ken, who had become the first to succeed to swim across the lake from its eastern shore “Cape Srednii” to the western one – village of Buguldeika, 13th of September 2004. He covered the distance about 40 kilometers. That historical race became the 8th achievement of Japanese sportsman: earlier, he swam the Strait of Tartary in France, the channel between Hokkaido and Sakhalin (40 km), Lake Biwa in Japan and the channel between Japan and Korea.

The hero of the race can pretend to write himself into the Guinness Book of Records, because of several reasons:

  1. Baikal have never been swum across by anyone before. An American Lynn Kons in 1998 swam along the shore 14 km, making regular stops to warm herself on the escort boat (soon after the race, she died at home from brain disease, which was caused, as it’s thought, by exposure to cold).

  2. The temperature on the water surface was very low – 10-11 degrees Celsius, and that was quite an obstacle.

  3. During the race I.Ken had to “fight” with Baikal’s streams, which were natural for that part of the lake.

Nowadays, interest in Baikal of Japanese grows due to many known and unknown reasons. Twin ties between the citizens of the region and Japan are developing. That should be used as a long-term plan.

But visiting Baikal by Japanese is limited, because of several subjective reasons, among which the first place takes the quality of service. Several articles by Japanese citizens, in which they share their advices to and impressions of the tourist service at Baikal. Those people believe that service of our travel agencies is far from requirements of exacting customer. Among the specific facts are:

  • Japanese tourists prefer to have required service before they ask to. As a first-rate importance service is considered to be the service, which impresses and satisfies requirements of customers, as it foresees them (though, In Russia, that kind of service is often never done, even after the corresponding request is made).

  • It is impossible to receive any information on English in the airports, never mind Japanese language.

  • There are no “civilized” restrooms at local communications (roads, waterways),that becomes a serious problem for tourists; the condition of many roads is the same.

  • Currency exchange can become a serious difficulty for foreigners.

  • Some manners of personnel in cafes or restaurants cause rejection.

  • A few special programs and events for attracting foreign tourists.

Those named and unnamed defects of service, in the judgment of the guests, further the fact of foreign mass media and internet societies waging PR campaigns, which make a negative image of Lake Baikal region, and Russia as well. In consideration of positive attitude of Japanese towards Baikal inhabitants (we will tell about it further) all those negative facts make our places repulsive for tourists.

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

Примечание: "Авторский коллектив" означает совокупность всех сотрудников и нештатных авторов Иркипедии, которые создавали статью и вносили в неё правки и дополнения по мере необходимости.

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English