Environment and Nature: Japan

  • John A Tucker
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8567

In traditional Japan, the word shizen, also pronounced jinen, meant naturalness, or the mode of being which is natural. Its literal meaning is “from itself (shi/ji) thus it is (zen/nen).” In modern Japanese shizen by extension came to refer to nature, or the environment encompassing all between heaven and earth, especially the earth, oceans, mountains, rivers, flora, and fauna.

Premodern Japanese had no single word signifying nature as a unified entity. Nevertheless passages about nature abound in their ancient literature, philosophy, and religion. Words like ten, literally meaning heaven, and tenka, meaning heaven and earth, meant something like nature. An understanding of traditional conceptions of nature can be garnered by examining Japanese thoughts about aspects of nature such as heaven, earth, mountains, rivers, trees, flowers, and fields.

Ancient Japanese evinced an unabashed intimacy with the natural world in their earliest poetry as compiled in the eighth‐century anthology,...

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  • John A Tucker

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