Satoyama (里山) in Japanese means a rural landscape (e.g., woodlands, rice paddies, or even people's backyard) where people work and live alongside the natural world. In the above video, host Peter Barakan says the word Satoyama (里山) is pretty much like the word Countryside in English—where the human society intersects with the nature. Or, as Professor Kevin Short in the film also describes:
Satoyama is the landscape in which the culture and wildlife of the people overlaps with the natural habitats of the ecosystem. It is the natural landscape that people in Japan had built up over the millennia (over 2 or 3 thousand years) and locals understand the need to live in harmony with the nature and not to exploit it. Because people use the land in a sustainable manner, it also supports a rich biodiversity.To recap, the most important aspect of satoyama is people living in harmony with nature.
The Crisis of Satoyama
The problem with satoyama is —Satoyama is not quite like wilderness. It's beautiful in one sense; but, not spectacular.
For many Japanese, satoyama is the kind of landscape they see in all their lives. They see it so much and they are so used to it that they don't think it as an important cultural or natural treasure. Not until satoyama is disappearing to some extents, have people started to realize the importance of preserving it.
A great photographer named Mitsuhiko Imamori has played an important role of spreading the interests and knowledge of the satoyama around Japan. The idea of "Slow Living"—emerging yourselves for the natural world and growing your own foods—is a buzzword in Japan recently.
Special tours are organized for children. The aim of programs is to give kids the full experiences of the satoyama environment. Gaining first-time experiences of slow living stimulates people's appreciation for the access of nature offered by satoyama. In many corners of Japan, it has been making a headway to ensure the charm of satoyama remains alive.
Without much ado, I'll let you enjoy some of the best videos conveying the concepts of satoyama.
Secret Water Garden
Life in a Vibrant Satoyama Forest
Satoyama—the Traditional Japanese Lifestyle
Satoyama—Living in Harmony with Nature
Harvest time in Satoyama
- The biggest differences between western's natural landscapes and Asian's natural landscapes is the wet rice paddies. For centuries, rice paddies are used to grow rice and it also serves as an environment that animals (birds, turtles, and frogs) can forage and hunt, whose activities in the paddies help to enrich the soil.