The Misunderstood Philosophy of the Agrarian Past

by Nold Egenter

The following study on Japanese rice culture is not a nostalgic report on long gone agrarian ways of life in Japan. It is rather a scientifically objective attempt to understand the philosophy of a village society without using the Eurocentric schematas like "primitive belief", "rice soul" etc., as projected on Japanese cult traditions by early Japanology (Aston, Satow, Chamberlain) or, later, by Western folklore studies related to Japan (e.g. Eder). It describes agrarian 'rice culture' as a complex system evolved traditionally around a territorial demarcation system which, through its existential meanings and morphological conditions, developed into a concept of high ontological values. In the anthropological framework we find a socially and spatially protective system which is not at all primitive. It clearly makes sense. It produced a harmonious life philosophy and an aesthetic outfit from which - since we have lost this harmony - we still can learn today. The paper had been published first in 'Swissair Gazette' 2/1989 which was devoted to various aspects of rice cultivation.

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