Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Geography of Human Life

Typically works about geographical theory and applied geography are found in separate books. There is one, easy to read tome which defeats this rule of books. The book is over one hundred years old yet still worth anyone's time who is interested in geography. A Geography of a Human Life by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi is a must read.

Makiguchi realized his students were receiving subpar texts and instructions on geography. None of their work could be tied into the practical world. He feared geography would be abandoned by his students and his country which was experiencing growth in the era of first globalization (sound familiar?).

So Makiguchi wrote A Geography of Human Life. At first the book discusses how one views and thinks of the world. Makiguchi writes how one's homeland is the template for a person's worldview. So for the rest of the book Makiguchi writes about the various features of the world through a Japanese's perspective. The following chapters are broken down into physical geographical features. Makiguchi then gives known Japanese examples of each feature and how it has affected Japanese culture. For example, when discussing islands Makiguchi writes how islands are isolated, that isolation breeds an individualistic mindset, and uses it to explain Japanese uniqueness compared to other Asian cultures. When discussing rivers and how they form, Makiguchi ponders how China would be altered without its waterways. He points out the rice-based culture would be destroyed and control of such a large landmass would be neigh-on-impossible.

All this ties together to form a great book. The first chapters I especially enjoyed because it complemented ideas of how one views the world and touches on the Japanese equivalent of natural and revealed law (long story which I will save you from). A Geography of Human Life is especially hard to come by but if one can buy it or check it out from a library, they will be greatly reward by a rich text.

For more information and a little bit of background read the essay The Significance of Makiguchi Tsunesaburo’s Jinsei chirigaku (Geography of Human Life) in the Intellectual History of Geography in Japan: Commemorating the Centenary of Its Publication (PDF).


Deaner said...

"isolation breeds an individualistic mindset" Does this apply for Appalachia as well?

Soka Educators International Network said...

I am wondering how you came into contact with Makiguchi's work. I have been researching the use of his ideas in elementary and middle school classrooms and would appreciate any leads you might have. I especially am drawn to his concepts of community-based education and "humanitarian competition."

Catholicgauze said...

I stumbled across Makiguchi in grad school. The department head said he had an extra copy and offered it to me.
Hmm, would you be willing to share your research with me either personally via e-mail (catholicgauze at gmail dot com) or even a blog post? That would be most fascinating.