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The giant Asian monsoon has formed a diverse climate and natural environment. The Asian monsoon climate manifests itself in manifold ways depending not just on the latitude or altitude of an area but also on physical conditions such as topography and vegetation and even the size of its human population. Likewise, the livelihoods of people in the affected area are diverse. This book focuses on nature and agriculture, food, and climate and culture as an excellent framework for understanding the relationship between humans and the environment in complex Monsoon Asia. Through the discussions in this book, what the authors have sought to demonstrate is that the livelihoods in Monsoon Asia demonstrate unique forms in a limited environment, while the Asian monsoon climate has one of the largest movements of any natural phenomenon on a macroscopic scale. These manifest forms are diverse both on a time scale and on a spatial scale and are extremely diversified in limited regions. Such diversity is not only due just to the effects of the natural environment but also results from social and cultural forces. In this area of Monsoon Asia, traditional and religious social norms are becoming entangled with “new” economic and political norms brought in from the outside world by globalization.



Nature and Agriculture


Rainfall, Floods, and Rice Production in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basin

The regional characteristics of the relationship between summer monsoon rainfall variability and rice production within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basin, and those between flood-affected area variability and rice production in Bangladesh are examined for the period from 1961 to 2000 and 1947 to 2010, respectively. In the relatively dry upper Ganges River Basin, local rainfall and rice production were positively correlated. On the other hand, in the lower river basin the positive correlation was not clear and flood influences were dominant. In Bangladesh, a clear relationship has been observed between severe floods and rice production. The production of the dry season rice (Boro) gradually increased after the mid-1960s, in particular after years of severe flooding. After the severe flood of 1998, the production of Boro exceeded that in the rainy season for the first time, and the difference in production between these two varieties has increased since then. As such, rice production in Bangladesh has increased almost continuously in the late 20th century, even with recent frequent severe flood damage during rainy seasons, implying farmers’ adaptation to the recent climate changes.
Jun Matsumoto, Haruhisa Asada

Global Warming and Agricultural Production in Asia

In Japan, a rise in temperature of up to 3 °C will reduce the risk of cold-weather damage and increase biomass due to the CO2 fertilization effect, especially in the northern part of the country, which is the main rice production region. As a result, rice production in Japan would be increased. However, there is concern about the quality of rice if the rise in temperature is extremely high. Also, research in Southeast Asia has raised worries about the negative effects of climate change on rice cultivation in regions such as northeastern Thailand and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, which strongly depend on the hydrological environment. In general, agriculture around the world depends on the amount of rainfall, and water is essential for agriculture. This resource is itself on the verge of crisis due to climate change, and numerous political and economic issues. It is said that “the twenty-first century is the century of water.” The same can be said about agricultural and food issues around the world, especially in the Monsoon Asia region. In short, the twenty-first century is “the century of agriculture.”
Motoki Nishimori

Cultivation of Glutinous Rice in Northeast India, and Its Food Products

The glutinous rice cultural sphere is the region spanning East Asia to Southeast Asia where the cultivation of glutinous rice variety and consumption of its food products is prominent. This area has long had a preference for sticky food products, and is known for the diverse ways glutinous rice grains are processed. However, a preference for glutinous rice products is not observed west of the glutinous rice cultural sphere, the region of South Asia from the Himalayas to the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Thus, it can be said that there is a discontinuity in food culture between these two regions. Northeast India is located in the nexus of this discontinuity. The region is the only part of South Asia to which the Southeast Asia-centric glutinous rice cultural sphere has extended. Thus, the case of Northeast India holds special significance in studying the characteristics of the glutinous rice cultural sphere in Monsoon Asia. In this chapter, diverse food products made from glutinous rice in Assam, a major state in Northeast India, are introduced to compare the characteristics of glutinous rice used in this region with those of other regions.
Haruhisa Asada

Fog and People in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China

The Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, located in the extreme south of Yunnan Province (China), comprises 49 basins and is known as a region that experiences frequent foggy days. Different ethnic groups have long coexisted in this region, separated from one another by this fog. The Dai people inhabit the basin floors, where they have traditionally maintained trees, which are the water source for the fog, in order to use the latent heat of the fog droplets to protect their crops from cold nighttime temperatures. Meanwhile, the mountain ethnic minorities inhabit the nighttime thermal belt that exists on the slopes above the fog layer and also receives early morning sunlight, where they have traditionally practiced a form of swidden agriculture that promotes forest regeneration. The peoples in this region have thus been able to maintain stable geoecosystems over entire basin areas. Since the 1960s, however, large-scale development driven by national policy has started to erode the geoecosystems of this region.
Seiki Nomoto, Satoshi Yokoyama

Food and Regionality


Yamato-Shijimi and Environmental Changes in Lake Jusanko, Northern Japan, Over the Past Several Thousand Years

This work involves the reconstruction of environmental changes regarding Yamato-shijimi (Corbicula japonica) over the past several thousand years based on a geomorphological study. Although a large amount of Corbicula japonica is currently available in Lake Jusanko located in northern Japan, a brackish lake, the environment has been observed to have experienced significant changes over the past several thousand years. In the study area, the effects of seawater became strong about 6,000 years ago because of the Holocene transgression. However, a period from 4,000 to 2,500 years ago, a stratified lake was formed in which has the halocline between epilimnion strongly affected by freshwater and predominant hypolimnion of seawater. During this period, an unsuitable environment for the growth of Corbicula Japonica spread. Subsequently, rivers transported large amounts of sediments through heavy rains generated in monsoon Asia, and the lake became shallow. Seasonal winds that are characteristic of East Asia frequently agitated the lake water, leading to the development of a brackish water environment that supported the conditions for Corbicula japonica to thrive.
Naoto Koiwa, Mio Takahashi

Natto in Mainland Southeast Asia

In the mid-1960s, the “lucidophyllous forest culture” theory was proposed. This proposal notes that lucidophyllous forests range from Japan to mainland Southeast Asia to the Himalayas, and that commonalities could be observed in the use of vegetation in these regions, suggesting the existence of similar cultures. Non-salted fermented soyfoods (natto) are also widely found in the lucidophyllous forest range, and is considered an element of lucidophyllous forest culture. There have been many theories proposed and debated concerning the origin of non-salted fermented soyfoods and how they were propagated, but no clear proof has yet been established. In this paper, we compare between regions and peoples the forms, production methods, and uses of natto made for countless generations in mainland Southeast Asia to shed light on the characteristics and universality of the soyfood in each region. We then discuss the approach, based on our field surveys, to elucidate the origin and propagation of natto within mainland Southeast Asia.
Satoshi Yokoyama

Distribution of Traditional Seafood Dishes and Their Background in Miyazaki Prefecture, South Japan

In this article we clarify the spread of traditional seafood dishes in Miyazaki Prefecture, South Japan. We then discuss local factors that support these traditional dishes. The results of the research can be summarized as follows: for analysis of data obtained from an interview survey conducted throughout the entire prefecture, nine types of distribution patterns of seafood dishes can be discerned: (A) prefecture-wide consumption, (B) coast-wide consumption, (C) wide consumption in coastal and mountainous areas, (D) wide consumption in mountainous areas, (E) other prefecture-wide consumption, (F) consumption in specific coastal areas, (G) consumption in specific coastal and mountainous areas, (H) consumption in specific mountainous areas, and (I) other specific area consumption. Looking at the background of the distribution patterns, we find that traditional dishes consumed prefecture-wide are dishes familiar in the prefecture in terms of both ingredients and methods of preparation. Many dishes consumed in coastal areas use locally produced ingredients. Dishes consumed in mountainous areas use ingredients that come from over-mountain routes from neighboring prefectures. These distribution routes are connected on a countrywide scale, resulting in dishes like bodara, which originated in Hokkaido and were brought to Miyazaki Prefecture.
Shusaku Nakamura

Society and Culture


Nepalese Food and Its Sociocultural Climate: Changing Dāl-bhāt Inside and Beyond Nepal

Nepal is located on the southern face of the Himalayas; as a result, geographical and cultural diversities have nurtured its unique gastronomic culture. It is difficult for people living in remote areas to obtain fresh vegetables and meat because of a lack of transportation and electricity, and these restrictions have sparked several local gastronomic cultures. For example, to preserve vegetables and meat, people living in rural areas tend to dry and smoke them. In Nepalese Hindu society, there are taboos on the consumption of certain food and drink, such as meat and alcohol. Recent data suggest that Nepalese people began to eat meat because of economic development and globalization. These sociocultural changes and the development of transportation networks have together promoted homogenization of food throughout Nepal. However, people also seek locality and “authenticity” in their food. For example, dāl-bhāt, an “authentic” Nepalese food, has been particularly prevalent in Nepal since the development of transportation services. Furthermore, as Nepalese people have begun traveling abroad, dāl-bhāt has spread even beyond Nepalese national borders.
Izumi Morimoto

Contesting Values of Brewing “Chang” in a National Park of Bhutan

Many commonalities can be seen in people’s eating habits in the Himalayas, and home brewing and distillation of liquor have constituted an indispensable part of these. Home brew or so-called chang in Bhutanese is made from a variety of staples. Chang is deeply incorporated into people’s everyday lives through daily offerings to deities, receiving guests, showing appreciation for family and neighbors’ labors, and occasional events and religious ceremonies. The recent attempts of the Bhutanese government to restrain people from brewing and distilling chang have been justified mainly on the grounds of national health and social issues. However, they are also connected to the environmental policies regarding swidden agriculture, which produces grain for brewing in rural areas. By restraining themselves from making alcohol and drinking, people choose to restrain themselves from conducting conventional shifting cultivation, which the government intends to end. This study examines how those governmental policies have transformed people’s value systems, and how people interpret them in rural areas in relation to their everyday practices.
Mari Miyamoto

Satsuma Shochu and Geographic Indication

In this chapter, I take up the subject of Satsuma shochu, which has developed into an industry representative of Kagoshima Prefecture, by examining the relationship between the supply of its ingredients and its local culture and environment. Historically, alcoholic beverages have been created in all regions using local ingredients and have been consumed by local people. Satsuma shochu is no different. These days, Satsuma shochu has currently acquired a geographic indication of its area of production, and the spirit has become established as a global brand. The key to this identity is locality. Using local ingredients, skillfully exploiting the regional climate, and maintaining the flavor beloved by local people is vital. For Satsuma shochu to continue as a spirit loved by local people as well as the Japanese nationwide, diligence by the producers is needed. It is also crucial to recognize the significance of producers and consumers working together to cultivate the rich local culture and climate through their involvement in the natural environment, and to take care to maintain this relationship.
Masatoshi Motoki

Dietary Habits and Kitchens of the Sundanese in West Java Villages

This chapter focuses on West Java villages inhabited predominantly by Sundanese people and uses them as a case study. It reveals the actual conditions of dietary habits and kitchen equipment in Indonesian rural villages in recent years, with statistical data and field surveys. Sundanese cuisine is generally considered to be healthy because it uses large amounts of vegetables. However, compared with meals in other provinces, those in West Java villages actually tend to use rice more than vegetables. The idea that Sundanese meals are replete with vegetables probably comes from the fact that the group has the dietary habit of frequently eating raw vegetables while other ethnic groups do not consume them as often. The economic upper class in West Java is also experiencing diversification in food items consumed not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. Although the popularization of foreign cuisines is slow, its eating patterns and menu items have left a mark. As for cooking fuels, the author’s surveys revealed that the Sundanese used fuels they can easily procure in accordance with their economic conditions and the fluctuations in fuel prices.
Nao Endo

Creating a New Relationship with the Environment Through Food: Learning from Community Development Initiatives in Kaneyama Township in Yamagata Prefecture, Northeast Japan

Kaneyama Township in Yamagata Prefecture, Northeast Japan, neither grew buckwheat nor had a culture of buckwheat in its past. It is not the case that the natural environment of this township was ever basically unsuitable for growing buckwheat; rather, the crop was not grown because no economic or practical rationale had ever been found to do so. However, the buckwheat in this area has now been found to have unique value through exchange between local residents and urban residents. This chapter will look at how buckwheat has been positioned as a local food in these community development initiatives. We will consider the possibilities for creating a new relationship with the environment through food. We may be able to visualize how what is taken to be a “relationship with the environment” is not some latent or inherent presence, but rather a product of human activity and intervention over time.
Toru Sasaki


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