Between the Fox God and high-tech

Japan: where eco-disasters live alongside an obsession with trees, animals and streams.

In Katsuomi’s hyper-tech office, atop a Tokyo skyscraper, a small altar enshrines a statue of Inari, the Fox God, and an oddly decorated pine bonsai tree.

A young manager with an eye to the future, Katsuomi nevertheless does not scorn the prophecies of soothsayers and believes Inari will help him avoid bad deals. He never turns the lights out when he leaves work, so that the rice straw rope (shimenawa) and zigzag paper streamer (shide) around the bonsai can ‘shine’ at night. Katsuomi is a perfect example of the paradoxes of Japan, with its futuristic cities and primeval rituals, where the veneration of nature goes hand in hand with a hyper-consumerist and resource- hungry culture.

This second aspect is perhaps the most striking. Japan is globally synonymous with high technology and industry, certainly not environmental protection. If anything, it is associated with the slaughter of whales and intensive tuna fishing.

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