Being and Landscape
An Ontological Inquiry in a Japanese Rural Community

ISCTE-IUL, Portugal

My ongoing project focuses on landscape perception in rural Japan. Works on landscape tend to separate man from landscape, objectifying the latter by means of theoretical accounts. Martin Heidegger has coined being-in-the-world to show the fundamental position human beings occupy in this world – a position that rejects accounts based on the assumption that man stands in opposition to a world out there.Hence, when dealing with something as a landscape,one should never refer to it separated from being– from its inhabitants. In the last two decades, the Non-Representational Theory has been freely used as a useful platform for landscape studies by focusing on the acts of interaction with it, rather than on symbolic or historic accounts.

In Japanese studies, works with rural landscape as its subject have been focusing on the notions of furusato or genfūkeiand their nationalistic and nostalgic origins, when approaching it from an anthropological or sociological perspectives; or on the notion of satoyama, when dealing with environmental and sustainability issues. Culturally speaking, all these notions – regardless of their origin – show a clear and marked affection and concern for landscape in Japan, especially the rural landscape. Taking this key aspect as a motivation for inquiry, I intend to show that by transcending the political and historical meanings of such notions, valuable ontological insights can be found in the intimate and affectionate relation that rural inhabitants have with their landscapes – which are no more than the form that the world discloses itself to them.

For that, my fieldwork will focus on one rural community and the way their relation with the landscape is processed daily. The ultimate aim is not just to engage on a description ofthat same perception of landscape. Rather, within a cultural background where landscape is of the most importance and by turning to a more primary status of the ‘being-landscape’ relationship (the rural community), I want to search for insightful ethical hints on an ontological condition that we all experience: beingin the landscape. I would appreciate any comments, advices or feedback via e-mail. Thank you.