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Should japan eat more...


10 Jun 2003
as one of the countries that consumes a huge amout of the world's resources, should there be some sort of movement towards , well, less? You have political figures argueing that whales are stealing food from humans. You have significant drops in the fish population. Japan cannot even feed itself with food it grows on its own anymore, and depends on imports. I am wondering what people think about vegetarianism and Japan.
Not sure if I really understand what you're asking but i'll weigh in with my thoughts on the subject. I've always thought the Japanese diet was pretty nutritious for the most part. Rice continues to be a staple and most Japanese enjoy a healthy share of fruits and vegetables all year round. Fish, chicken, and fresh seafood are always popular and pork is on the rise from what I understand.

Beef, while nowhere near consumed as much in Japan as in the U.S., has also found it's way into most Japanese dinner tables at least once a week in some way, shape, or form. On average, I suspect the typical Japanese diet is by far and away much healthier and more appealing to vegetarians/vegans than traditional American fare (steak, potatoes, burgers, barbecue everything, etc.).

The Japanese also find far more favor with soups, noodle dishes, salads, etc. than here in America (as opposed to frying for instance). Of course, you can throw all that health consciousness out the door when combined with the Japanese penchant for mass consumption of alcohol and tobacco use, but I digress...
I appreciate the reply. I wholeheartedly agree that the japanese diet is much healthier than a north american one. However, my concern is environmental rather than health-related. Much of the food consumed is imported (which has environmental costs in itselt), and of a healthy portion of the wolrds fish. I am wondering if for the sake of the earth japanese people can scale-down their fish/imported food intake and work towards locally grown foods again? (I am assuming that with Japans limited farmland that vegetation would be more optimal than animal husbandry, of course)
I broached the topic at a enkai not too long ago with the young elementary teacher next to me. I talked about what vegetarianism is, some of the ideas behind it etc. In short, the environmental argument held some weight with her, but it was still a very foreign idea that people would not eat meat of any kind, no matter the reason. On a side note, the idea that people shouldn't eat meat because the production and consumption of it is immoral was met with a reaction similar to if I had told her I monkeys would inherit the earth. She understood the viewpoint, but thought it completely out of step with her conception of the Japanese way of thinking. For example, the idea that a cow or meat animal can be happy or feel any emotion struck her as very odd. She does own dogs and can see emotion in them, but a cow is a cow, destined to be a cow and treated as a cow. Ever see Pulp Fiction? Remember the scene about pigs being filthy animals? It was kind of like that. As far as fish go, you think Japanese people are biased about their rice, just see how long it takes before someone asks you if you like Japanese fish if you live here (when did fish aquire a nationality? salmon is a salmon is a salmon to me). Japan will sooner give up its right to cellular phones than the catching and eatting of fish (though it would be a close run thing).
ha ha ha. I know what you mean. I was talking with a japanese co-worker (we work in a sushi bar, by the way. hypocrite) Anyways, she has this rather uncomprimising view (along with other staff members) that fish have no feeling. I talked about how on japanese cooking shows, when tey cut off an octopus' tentacle, they recoil, as if it hurt. She said, "well, they just don't like people touching them". I said, well, if they can't feel anything, why would they care if people touched them or dismembered them?" .I could see something cracking behind her eyes for a second, and then she walked of repeating "well, they just want to go home".
I would love it if someone knew of a link to a japanese university website that talks about the nevous system of fish(ie: if they can feel pain or not).
Should japan eat, OR Import

Japan should not feed itself

It doesn't have the space, and is better done in
other countries.

Its more effecient, in resources, to have Japan be
an industrial power, and import food. They pay for
food by selling their industrial products !



Originally posted by ben

I would love it if someone knew of a link to a japanese university website that talks about the nevous system of fish(ie: if they can feel pain or not).
As far as I know fish do feel pain because of receptors in their brian & nervous system. The same way they would feel cold and hot. It's a response mechanism so they will recoil away from danger.

As for Japan feeding themselves i saw a doc on tuna farming in Japan. It could be a way of subsistence farming for the future. I don't know but they should have hydroponic farming as well.

I think the whole world has come to a point where countries rely on the rest of the world for support. Take Singapore for instance, they soley rely on imports because there isn't any land for agriculture anymore.

vegetarianism is a way of life and i don't think you could force people to change. I'm not a vegetarian but I have had many usuccessful agruments with vege friends, the vegans are the worst no matter what, you can't win that argument.
It's an interesting point I wonder if there are any other countries like Japan & Singapore?

You have all raised some very interesting points. Who knew such an innocent thread would raise so much stimulating discussion on a topic often over looked. :cool:
i appreciate your reply. from my understanding, japan has historically had a relatively high population density compared to its land mass, especially its farmed land mass. And interestingly enough, one of only two known societies on earth where such high populations were ecologically sustainable(the other was in pre-industrial England).
I realize Japan is a huge player in the industrial sector, but should that be its only contribution to the economy, and more importantly, the rest of the world?
I question the economics of importing food, and the dependance for people to depend on outside sources for the most basic of human needs.
Importing food (especially to an island nation) requires a lot of resources, does it not? Ansd what of countries that have to support their own population in terms of food, as well as japan's? To my knowledge, Taiwan is Japan's main supplier of pork. But in an effort to suppy japan, the waste products associated with livestock is having an environmental impact on Taiwan. But usually such things are not factored in with economics. The same may be true with other countries. Time magazine (while not always the most credible source) recently ran an article about the worldwide drop in fish stocks. SERIOUS drops. I recall that japan is the world's largest consumer of fish (does anyone oput there have some reliable stats?), meaning japan is directly responsible for any damage incurred by overfishing. The same may be true for a number of resources that japan will have to import if it goes that route. While I am not an economist, i feel that a particular place should not have a population that its natural resources cannot support. To me, that seems like common sense. Some environmental economists idealize cities with high pupulation density fed by surrounding low-density rural areas. Japan has had it before, perhaps with technology it may do it again. A single family may now easily havest a single paddy in a day, instead of a whole village.
As for food production being better done in other countries, i will have to disagree. Japan has a long history of agriculture, and a beautiful one at that. The variety of food and its seasonal variance (not to mention place in japanese society) is something that i admire and think is a special gift to human culture as a whole. I would be very sad if such a(n agriculture) should dissapear.
Not to mention, while Japan may have economic problems in the future, farming in a high-intensity fasion (for me, meaning people are intimately involved in the practice rather than machines), is to my mind an excellent source of employment and national pride.
I will step off my soapbox now. Thanks for listening, anyways, even if i am way off.
there's also somewhat of a danger when it comes to relying on other countries for the majority of your food. in such an interconnected world with an occasionally hostile political climate, this dependence on others to fulfill such a basic need makes it very difficult for a nation to speak out against something they don't agree with. granted, there's many different factors when it comes to decisionmaking, and i can't admit to knowing a whole lot about politics, but a government shouldn't put itself into a situation where they must either side with a cause that they do not agree with, or lose 40% of the food that their people consume.

on a small scale this happened a lot in south america. villages were persuaded to give up their traditional crops to farm cashcrops instead, and they could no longer support themselves without outside assistance. when those companies abandoned the farmers, they were left with nothing they could survive on.
and what if japan's high-tech industry took a hit or someone else got the market? Should the whole country starve?
(PS-I would rather not leave Japans fate to the corporations, like it is now).
On a side note, the idea that people shouldn't eat meat because the production and consumption of it is immoral was met with a reaction similar to if I had told her I monkeys would inherit the earth.

Well if you think about it, it is a pretty odd idea. Humans didn't end up on the top of the food chain by eating nuts & berries.
This was not intended to become a discussion on whether vegetarianism is our natural path (that could perhaps be another thread), but rather the implications of the current japanese diet on the earth and other societies(such as the intense fish consumption fosters intense fishing, which may be fostering intense damage to the seas). And although i choose not to participate,I don't wish to see fish dissappear completely from the japanese diet, but i do believe that japan's appetite (along with other countries') are beyond what is reasonable. But this is just my opinion. I am interested in what the rest of you think.
My opinion is that Japan's diet is probably the least of the world's problems. Is not bovine and other animal farming far more destructive to the environment than fishing? If Japan starts eating less fish they will likely be replacing that lost protein with chicken or beef and other red meats, not lentils. If the problem you're trying to solve is possible damage to the seas then of course it makes sense to manage the industry so that it is sustainable and does not cause damage. It doesn't necessarily make sense to change the nation's diet.
First off, thank you for your reply. Truthfully, i am not sure which is more damaging to the envoronment, overfishing or animal husbandry. I know that cattle like pigs and cows use a huge amount of resources, but the main consumers of these animals are "western" countries i think (and I am not sure about it). However, japan is my focus. And as such, i feel we need to focus on what Japan may do to lessen its environmental impact (assuming you share my view that there is a need for such things).
You mention for management of resources that is sustainable, and i agree with you. I do not think fish should dissapear 100% from the japanese diet. However, i feel that with current consumption, sustainable fishing is not likely (however if there is someone who knows anything about this, i whould love to hear about it). I think there is simply too much of a demand for it, and i can see only three outcomes. One is that Japan voluntarily reduces its consumption (my ideal). Two is that fish stocks get to a dangerously low point where either it will be too expensive to eat fish, and other avenues will be sought. And probably most likely, three; people will become informed about the problem, and slowly switch for both reasons.
As for the protien issue, japan has such a great basis in soy-based products, that wouldn't mind seeing less fishmongers and more tofuya-sans. Miso, tofu, eda-mame, tonyu, amoung other products have ample protien for one's diet (and i can attest to that personally).
However, i feel that with current consumption, sustainable fishing is not likely (however if there is someone who knows anything about this, i whould love to hear about it). I think there is simply too much of a demand for it

Where is this opinion coming from? Do you actually know anything about the subject or just have a "feeling" that Japan is not practicing sustainable fishing? Personally, I don't have enough knowledge the subject to talk intelligently about the current situation let alone make any judgments.
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