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The Natural Places that Nurtured My Sense

A case submitted by


I am an international student from a rural Japanese area. I am living in NYC, and this is my first experience living in a city. I recently felt a sense of out of place, and I would like to think of why I have it and share my thoughts.

 私にとって、土地とは重要な意味を持つ。特に、故郷の土地は。 私は子供の頃、よく友達と近所で遊びまわり、川や沼、山や海などを探検し、自分たちが知る場所を開拓していった。それらの土地の景色は、私の世界観を作った。私の家族は、日本の神道的なアニミズムの価値観を大事にする人々で、またその土地の人々も同様だった。近所の山は、人のいる場所は安全だが、人の手の入っていないところに入ると、途端に景色を変えて恐ろしものとして私の目に映った。それを、山の神の場所に入りかけ、叱られていると感じたものだ。川も、排水溝も、家の庭にも神様がいて、叱られるような経験をした。友達と排水溝に物を落として遊んでいたら、あるとき突然に、底が見えない深い穴が怖くなった瞬間があった。突然、見える世界が変わったような感情や印象を受けた時、神と目が合ったといつからか思うようになった。森の中を歩いていて、突然木々の色が違う場所に出会った時、または陽が沈んで暗くなってる最中に、その暗さが何かの境界点を超えたような感覚を覚えた時、引き返す時だと何かから教えられた感じがした。そんな子供時代の経験によって、アニミズムは私にとってもう一つの現実になった。(当時は、これをアニミズムとも思わず、世界中のみんな持ってる感覚だと思っていたが。) いまだに漁師や農民、猟師などは自然に向き合い、自然の知恵と感覚に優れていると思うが、多くの人が都市に住むようになって、そのような自然に対する直感をもつ人が減ったと思う。山を読む目、海の機嫌を聞く耳、明日の空の天気を嗅ぐ鼻は、都市では育ちにくいだろう。そこにある土地から育てられず、都市という似た景色、同じ世界観の中で成長するなら、人間は平均化していく気がする。自然の土地は恐ろしさと引き換えに多くの感覚、知恵、経験を授けてくれるが、土地から隔離された都市では皆同じものを食べ同じ世界ばかり見る。閉塞的な息苦しさがある。

The land has an important meaning for me, especially my homeland. When I was young, I usually explored the neighborhood with friends, went to a river, a swamp, mountains, and the sea. We pioneered places to make it known. These sceneries of lands built my worldview. My family has a tradition of Japanese animistic religion, and we have taken care of it. Neighborhoods are also. I heard a lot of stories about the spirits living in my home, our land, the world.

The mountains in my neighborhood were safe where others were, but when I entered an uninhabited area, the landscape changed to terrify me. I felt such a scary moment as the mountain god found and scolded me. There were a lot of gods around my home, even in the drainage ditch, the yard, and the river, and I experienced being scolded by them. When I was playing with my friends, dropping things down the drain, I suddenly noticed and was terrified by the deep hole that was there at a certain moment. Whenever I got a feeling or impression that the world I saw had changed, I began to think that I was seeing eye to eye with a god. When I was walking through the woods and suddenly came upon a place where the trees had a different color than usual, or when the sun was setting and getting dark as if the darkness had crossed some boundary point, I felt something tell me that it was time to turn back. Through these childhood experiences, animism became another reality for me. (At that time, I didn’t think of such feelings as animism but kind of common sense everyone has.)

I still believe that fishermen, farmers, and hunters who face nature have great wisdom and sense of nature. However, many people now living in cities are losing such intuition for nature. If people are not nurtured from their land but grow up in a similar landscape, such as a city, I feel that human beings will become standardized or uniformed because people would have the same worldview cultivated by the city’s scenery and culture.

Natural lands give us many senses, wisdom, and experiences in exchange for terror, while in cities separated from the land, we all eat the same food and see the same world. There is a feeling of suffocation.


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