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The Lost Wolves of Japan (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) Paperback – March 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Well illustrated and stylishly written, The Lost Wolves of Japan is a wolf's-eye view of premodern Japanese culture and the modern state's drive for modernization. . . . an excellent book easily worth the time to read it. Well written and imaginatively illustrated, this monograph is as fascinating as it is timely."―Journal of Japanese Studies

"The Lost Wolves of Japan by the American historian Brett Walker features everything one should expect of a book on such a topic: high scholarship yet a good read; an intelligent selection of useful and―- in the West at least―- presumably seldom-seen illustrations; an author with a[n]. . . infectious enthusiasm for the subject."―International Zoo News

"The Lost Wolves of Japan is not just a history of the wolf in Japan, but is also about Montana (the author's home) and North America, about nature and wilderness, and about what it is to be human and animal."―Monumenta Nipponica

"Walker has written a well-researched book with a message to all who are interested not only in our representations of wolves but in human-nature relations in general."―American Historical Review

"This exquisite book provides an excellent introduction to the history of taxonomy and the development of ecological science throughout the world; it is also a wonderful examination of the human dimensions of wildlife in Japan . . . Highly recommended."―Choice

"Brett Walker may be the only true environmental historian among Japanologists publishing in English. Unlike other scholars who have written on environmental themes in Japanese history (this one included), Walker’s work places him squarely in the company of the leading environmental historians and ecologists.. (He) has given us a fascinating study of wolves and humans in early modern and modern Japan. In doing so he has raised important questions about links between changes in national identity and views of nature. He has also challenged scholars of Japanese environmental history to go beyond Japanology to situate themselves in the company of scholars of environmental history in other regions of the globe."―Journal of East Asian Studies

"This book's particular brilliance lies in its ability to trace the contours of this absent presence, telling us the history of wolf annihilation while revealing the impossibility of fully recovering that history.. This book's immense achievement is its elucidation of the problem of writing history where all elements―- human and nonhuman, climatic and cultural―- are continually reconfigured. . . . The Lost Wolves of Japan is not only compelling environmental history but a deeply intelligent meditation on the historicity of our environment."―Isis

"Few books offer as intricate a view into another culture's attitudes toward an animal's extinction and disappearing wilderness as The Lost Wolves of Japan. Eloquently written and rich with notes that make this book highly appropriate for undergraduate and graduate course..Lost Wolves shows not only the global influences on species extinction but also how the loss of wilderness and signature species such as the wolf are deeply situated within rich, human worlds of rituals, stories, and legends that are themselves disappearing."―Journal of the History of Biology

"Inventive and heartfelt, The Lost Wolves of Japan is the kind of book many historians declare they will write when they earn tenure. But it is easy to say that you will be bold in the future. Walker actually keeps the promise."―The Journal of Asian Studies

"[An] excellent book. . . . Walker provides a wide-ranging perspective on the interactions between human and wolf culture, drawing on historical, religious, ecological, political, ethnological, and anthropological data― mostly from original Japanese sources. He adds a personal narrative engagement with his topic which enlivens the text and tale. Moreover, he dares to consider the fate of Japan's wolves from not only a human historian's perspective, but from what he calls a 'wolf's-eye view' of history."―ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Review

"A stunningly original book about the Japanese veneration and then extermination of wolves."―Alex Lichtenstein, Houston Chronicle
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Product Details

  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Washington Press (March 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780295988146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295988146
  • ASIN: 0295988142
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book. It places a cultural study of Japanese wolves in a carefully considered historical context from which the reader is allowed to draw some significant concerns about America's own treatment of wolves and exactly what that treatment implies about our national character (or lack of character) and our entire relationship with nature since our arrival on this continent. It is an informative and intriguing read even for those who don't think about the plight of wolves very often.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in wolves, the mechanics of extinction, or the relationship of the Japanese people to the environment, this is a fascinating read. The spiritual and cultural relationship between the Japanese wolf and the Japanese people is explored in this well-written volume. Illustrations enhance the text, and the author's own experiences with wolves in the American west are relevant and provide a contrast to his experiences researching the history of the disappearance of wolves and wild dogs in Japan.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We don’t always get the book we expect. I expected Walker’s book to be something like the 1880 classic “British Animals Extinct Within Historic Times”, in which J. E. Harting bemoans the disappearance “beyond recall” of wild boars, bears, and wolves. (He was wrong: wild boars are back in Great Britain, and there is talk of reintroducing the wolf.) In lively writing Harting describes the animals, their range and habits, humans’ wars against them, and accounts of both real and legendary last individuals. He never blames anyone but the British for wiping out their large animals.

Walker takes a different tack. Reading like a 1993 term paper for an environmental studies class, blame for the demise of Japanese wolves is laid almost entirely on the West. This relies on the easy answer that modern humans – and especially modern humans viewed as “technological” – are solely responsible for extinctions and other environmental catastrophes. And yet we know that pre-industrial societies, especially on islands, destroyed countless species. Island-like Australia began loosing its large animals as soon as humans arrived 50,000 years ago; animals on Hawaii, New Zealand, and other Pacific Islands were driven to extinction by Polynesians, Melanesians, and other peoples; most large British animals were wiped out during the Neolithic Era, and nearly all of the rest before the Middle Ages had passed.

Comparing Britain and Japan would be interesting – the British, living on an archipelago slightly smaller than Japan, and with less rugged terrain, were able to wipe out their wolves more than a century before the Japanese managed to kill off theirs.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Walker's exhaustive coverage of wolves in Japan, with the wolf situation of the US sprinkled in for good measure, runs a little dry but is very, VERY informative. A perfect read if you want to find out how wolves went from worshipped deities to hunted villains to extinction.
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Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like this book and once I got my hands on it, was deeply interested, as far as finishing the preface. In that he gives wolves what is sometimes called "agency", which means the animals have some power to resist being victims of one or another human schemes. Then I got to the book main text and it became a disappointment.

The book is more about Japanese ideas about wolves that about the wolves themselves. These views of wolves changed from seeing them as semi-sacred to threats to prosperity. This is connected to the development of the northern island of Hokkaido, still something of a frontier in the 1800s, and wolves would be a threat to farmers' livestock (Hokkaido was less densely settled and cattle could be profitably raised). Wolves in Hokkaido were not extirpated until the 1920s. The taxonomy appears to be somewhat ragged, in that it is not clear if these were really wolves, or wolf-dog hybrids.
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