The Lost Wolves of Japan by Brett L. Walker

The Lost Wolves of Japan

byBrett L. WalkerForeword byWilliam Cronon

Paperback | March 14, 2008

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Many Japanese once revered the wolf as Oguchi no Magami, or Large-Mouthed Pure God, but as Japan began its modern transformation wolves lost their otherworldly status and became noxious animals that needed to be killed. By 1905 they had disappeared from the country. In this spirited and absorbing narrative, Brett Walker takes a deep look at the scientific, cultural, and environmental dimensions of wolf extinction in Japan and tracks changing attitudes toward nature through Japan's long history.

Grain farmers once worshiped wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching the elusive canine to protect their crops from the sharp hooves and voracious appetites of wild boars and deer. Talismans and charms adorned with images of wolves protected against fire, disease, and other calamities and brought fertility to agrarian communities and to couples hoping to have children. The Ainu people believed that they were born from the union of a wolflike creature and a goddess.

In the eighteenth century, wolves were seen as rabid man-killers in many parts of Japan. Highly ritualized wolf hunts were instigated to cleanse the landscape of what many considered as demons. By the nineteenth century, however, the destruction of wolves had become decidedly unceremonious, as seen on the island of Hokkaido. Through poisoning, hired hunters, and a bounty system, one of the archipelago's largest carnivores was systematically erased.

The story of wolf extinction exposes the underside of Japan's modernization. Certain wolf scientists still camp out in Japan to listen for any trace of the elusive canines. The quiet they experience reminds us of the profound silence that awaits all humanity when, as the Japanese priest Kenko taught almost seven centuries ago, we "look on fellow sentient creatures without feeling compassion."

About The Author

Brett L. Walker is Regents' Professor and department chairperson of history and philosophy at Montana State University, Bozeman, and the author of The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800.
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Details & Specs

Title:The Lost Wolves of JapanFormat:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 9.1 × 6.09 × 0.85 inPublished:March 14, 2008Publisher:UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295988142

ISBN - 13:9780295988146

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Table of Contents

Foreword: A Strange Violent Intimacy / William CrononPrefaceA Note to the Reader

Introduction

Science and the Creation of the Japanese Wolf

Culture and the Creation of Japan's Sacred Wolves

The Conflicts between Wolf Hunters and Rabid Man-Killers in Early Modern Japan

Meiji Modernization, Scientific Agriculture, and Destroying the Hokkaido Wolf

Wolf Bounties and the Ecologies of Progress

Wolf Extinction Theories and the Birth of Japan's Discipline of Ecology

Appendix: Wolves and Bears Killed and Bounties Paid by Administrative Region, 1877-1881NotesWorks CitedIndex

Editorial Reviews

Many Japanese once revered the wolf as Oguchi no Magami, or Large-Mouthed Pure God, but as Japan began its modern transformation wolves lost their otherworldly status and became noxious animals that needed to be killed. By 1905 they had disappeared from the country. In this spirited and absorbing narrative, Brett Walker takes a deep look at the scientific, cultural, and environmental dimensions of wolf extinction in Japan and tracks changing attitudes toward nature through Japan's long history.Grain farmers once worshiped wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching the elusive canine to protect their crops from the sharp hooves and voracious appetites of wild boars and deer. Talismans and charms adorned with images of wolves protected against fire, disease, and other calamities and brought fertility to agrarian communities and to couples hoping to have children. The Ainu people believed that they were born from the union of a wolflike creature and a goddess.In the eighteenth century, wolves were seen as rabid man-killers in many parts of Japan. Highly ritualized wolf hunts were instigated to cleanse the landscape of what many considered as demons. By the nineteenth century, however, the destruction of wolves had become decidedly unceremonious, as seen on the island of Hokkaido. Through poisoning, hired hunters, and a bounty system, one of the archipelago's largest carnivores was systematically erased.The story of wolf extinction exposes the underside of Japan's modernization. Certain wolf scientists still camp out in Japan to listen for any trace of the elusive canines. The quiet they experience reminds us of the profound silence that awaits all humanity when, as the Japanese priest Kenko taught almost seven centuries ago, we "look on fellow sentient creatures without feeling compassion."A stunningly original book about the Japanese veneration and then extermination of wolves. - Alex Lichtenstein, Houston Chronicle