The Show Must Go On

On a quest for our own sites for “fireflies watching” in Isumi (いすみ) in Chiba Prefecture, we found unusual animals several times in the bush. They looked like deer but they were smaller, specifically, their legs were shorter than deer’s. Deer are normally found in groups of a mother deer and fawns, and fawns are rarely found alone. Moreover, they “freeze” for a while when they notice our presence. These are the characteristics of deer that we discovered with our experience. However, the ones that we found were alone and ran away quickly without freezing.

We thought that they were normal deers with some unique personalities, I mean “deernalities” on the first day. But, the more we got familiar with these “short legged deer”, the bigger our doubt became. Of course, I gooled it at home and I came up with a kind of deer called “Reeves’s muntjac” in English.


Reeves’s muntjac (Chinese Muntjak deer) in Cologne Zoo, Germany.
Photographed by Sarefo

The description goes;

Reeves’s muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi; Chinese: 山羌) is a muntjac species found widely in southeastern China (Gansu to Yunnan) and in Taiwan. They have also been introduced in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (south England, the Midlands, and east Wales) and Ireland by 2008. It feeds on herbs, blossoms, succulent shoots, grasses and nuts, and was also reported to eat trees. It takes its name from John Reeves, who was appointed Assistant Inspector of Tea for the British East India Company in 1812.

This muntjac grows to 0.5 metres (1 ft 8 in) high at the shoulder, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) in length, and weighs between 10 and 18 kilograms (22 and 40 lb) when fully grown. It is dog-like in appearance but has striped markings on its face. The male has short antlers, usually four inches or less, and uses them to push enemies off balance so he can wound them with his upper two inch canine teeth. The Taiwanese subspecies (M. r. micrurus), commonly known as the Formosan Reeves’ Muntjac, is relatively dark compared to the other subspecies. Reeves’s muntjac is also called the barking deer, known for its distinctive bark, though this name is also used for the other species of muntjacs.
(excerpt from Wikipedia)


That’s it!

The “deer like animal but smaller than deer” that we came across was Reeves’s muntjac but not Saionji’s muntjac, unfortunately… I went on with the Japanese version of Wikipedia and found more important information…

It is called “Kyon” in Japanese, which was after the pronunciation of “羌” in Taiwanese, ”kiong”.

To tell you the truth, I’d never seen this Kanji “羌” before and I didn’t know how to pronounce it. But I didn’t have to feel ashamed because it was not imported to Japan as it stands for Qiang people and is used as a surname.

In Japan “Kyon” is found in Izu Ōshima and Bōsō Peninsula, exactly where Isumi is located. But why is Kyon found only in these areas??

According to Wikipedia, some Kyons escaped from zoos and reverted to wild. Their existence was first reported in 1984 – 1990 and from 2002 they increased sharply and it was recorded that around 17,000 wild Kyons were living in Chiba prefecture in 2011.

The Kyons living in wild are the descendants of the ones which escaped from a theme park in Chiba Prefecture, which was closed in 2001. It was established in 1964, when the Olympic Games were first held in Tokyo. It was very popular and famous with its various types of exotic birds and the flamingo shows, in which numerous flamingos danced to the music, and its annual visitors were more than 1 million in 1970 and a train station was constructed especially for its visitors.


flamingos which are dancing a waltz

However, its popularity got on the wane after the opening of Kamogawa Sea World constructed on the same coast about 10km (6.2 miles) away, which shifted the attention of tourists. The opening of Tokyo Disney Land (1983), which monopolized the tourists in Chiba, and the collapse of the bubble economy influenced it for the worse. Even the opening of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (1997), which was built to simplify the way to Chiba Prefecture, did not bring any fruits to it. Many tourists stayed in the West coast of Bōsō Peninsula, where there was the exit of the Aqua-Line, and didn’t go to the East coast where it was located. Nothing could stop the decreasing trend and in 2000, its annual visitors were around 19,000 and its profits were reduced to 50% of the amount at its peak. Another problem was the aging of the flamingos. The owner of this theme park should have taken some approaches like adopting new flamingos or creating some new attractive shows, but they took the choice of closing it. The theme park was purchased by a company of a hotel chain in 2004, but their projected new construction was in the deep freeze after the world financial crisis in 2008 and, surprisingly, the theme park was left untouched as it was in 2001…


“a skydiving” of a peacock

To avoid any misunderstanding, I looked for information where all the animals and birds were gone after it had been closed. They were not left in the park but all of them were transferred to other facilities, which relieved me so much, and the Kyons that we found in Isumi were not the descendants of the ones who left behind but the ones which escaped while it was opened.

I think Kyons that we found in wild are trying to tell us that we, the Japanese, have to learn a lesson now, when the Olympic Games in Tokyo are only six years ahead. I guess many buildings and facilities are going to be constructed for the Olympic Games. I think, however, it is important NOT to create another facility like the theme park I wrote about today. The population of Japan is in the decrease trend and nearly 900 villages, towns and cities will be extinct by 2040. So the situation is much worse than 50 years ago, when Japan was in the growing term.


a mother deer and a fawn
Photo from Creative Commons Japan


In Edo period, after Meiji Restoration in another word, Japan was a county where everything was reused and we were ashamed of wasting things. If you read this very interesting article presented in Resilience.org, “Japan’s sustainable society in the Edo period (1603-1867)“, you will know that Edo was a sustainable society.

I would like to share with you one of my favorite traditional concepts of the Japanese; Tsuchi ni kaesu / 土にかえす, which means to give something back to the soil. Everything that we create including our body should be given back to the nature. But unfortunately, the artificial structures made in recent 100 years with irons and concrete will not be given back to the soil.

During the “developing” and “modernization” process, I think Japan has lost its own philosophy, which had made Japan very unique. Heavy investment was made only for the visible properties, such as infrastructures, factories and buildings. But how are they going to be if there will be no one to use or take care of them? Will the whole Japan be like the theme park which I introduced in the future? A theater does not mean anything if the show is not performed inside. If the show must go on, we will have to take more care for the actors and the audiences.

Kyon is one of the wild animals living in Japan even though they originally came to Japan as “foreigners”. In 2005, the Ministry of the Environment designated it as “an invasive alien species” which may destroy the ecosystem of Japan and they want to eliminate them all… I would rather search for the way which may realize the coexistence with the aliens, as it was not them that wanted to come to live in Japan but us, the Japanese, that brought them here. Moreover, if it were an “invasive alien species” which might destroy the ecosystem, it would be us, human beings, that destroy the ecosystem of the earth, wouldn’t it?


a male deer with antlers in Nara which coexists with a raven
photo from a blog, Nara Zakki

にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ

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