Being a hunter in modern society: Shinya Senmatsu at TEDxKyoto 2012


Translator: Masako Kigami
Reviewer: Claire Ghyselen Here is hardwood forest in late fall. Light filters through leafless trees. Many birds are singing. I go in the forest to track down animals. When I see animal footprints
left on a trail, I think that a wild boar walked here last night. Or that three of four deers
with their Bambi were here. These scars and mud in the trees tells me that this boar is about 50 kilograms.
It must be a male. It tells me that some deer come here
once every three days, but that they were not here yesterday. Trap hunters gather hints
about animal’s behavior. quite clearly from its trail. I am also a hunter in the city. For example, many people move in March. They discard many bulk waste
that are still functional, such as furniture or electrical equipment. I remember that the collection day
of Bulk Waste is every Tuesday. (Laughter) WhenI find a house being demolished, I ask the foreman:
“Hey boss! Can I get this wood refuse?” “Sure. Take as much as you want. Anyway, we will throw them away.” I feel there is no difference between the city and the mountain when it comes to getting
valuable things for free. Do my words make you feel
that I consider wild animals as refuse? In fact, this is the way
our modern society considers them. In 2009, 156,700 deers were hunted. About the same number, 154,800 were killed because they were considered as harmful. They were eating our rice
and vegetables, you see. So they are considered a nuisance. Most of them are burned or buried. People think like this: “They’ve become a pain in the neck. So let’s burn them like waste. We can kill and bury them.” That’s the idea. When I kill a deer that I’ve trapped, I hold her head and cut
its arteria carotis with a knife. It takes her 10 minutes to bleed and die. Same as this speech. During these 10 minutes, we are alone in the mountains, the dying deer and me. The moment of her passing away,
her breath gets rough, her legs get cramped and stiff,
ans she opens her eyes widely. People often ask me: “Do you adjust to killing animals?” My killing skills
have definitely improved, but I’ve never adjusted to the killing. I always ask myself whether the killing is really necessary. It is strange for a hunter to say that. But as much as possible,
I don’t want to kill any deer. I hunt as little as possible, so that my family and my friends
may live and eat. It’s my only purpose. One year before I started to hunt, I was in East Timor. I was a member of the UN mission that had the responsibility to implement a legitimate independence referendum. After the referendum,
the opposition forces, Indonesian army and civil militias, against the independence of East Timor, burned many houses,
shot, and killed many people. I also flew away fromEast Timor. I could go back six months
after the independence was voted. I was shocked by the fact that local people
didn’t have a house to live, while UN and NGO members lived in unburned buildings. Many foreigners were visiting
the country by cupidity. I was appalled that only bars
and restaurants for foreigners were open, while food markets and canteenes
for East Timor people were not yet built, and that, in these foreigner places, local people’s salary was only 1$ a day. It was terrible! I couldn’t believe this was the situation
of a newly independent country. And it disturbed me to be one of the many foreigners there. So I decided to go back
to Japan immediately. This was not my place anymore. On the positive hand, people in East Timor
had achieved independence andthey had begun
the construction of their new nation. That made me feel that it was time for me to go back
where my responsibilities lie, and tackle my own issues. I wanted to ponder
my way of living in Japan. I wanted to get the meat I eat by myself. That’s why I started hunting. Surprisingly, hunting made me feel better. I didn’t want to eat packed meat from an animal killed
by someone I did not know. I was feeling guilty. Hunting freed me from guilt. Mountains have rich and varied foods, like wild vegetables,
mushrooms, and river fishes. And there are also many fallen trees
that were left abandoned: cedars and cypresses. I use them as firewood. My family has started to use firewood instead of oil and gas,
to heat the house, the water. I feel pleasure and a sense of freedom to make my own life by myself. I am responsible for everything. I have a simple life,
away from any intrusion. Money became gradually
necessary in my life. Some people pursue convenience, while we live in an inefficient
and wasteful modern society. As if to fill the void, we earn a living. In exchange for the convenience, don’t you have to do things
you do not want to do? Although there are many deer
in nearby mountains, we eat foreign venison in restaurants. We throw away products in working order because of the sales strategy of companies
pushing new products on the market. Is it Eco-friendly?
What about CO2 reduction? When did they become slogan
on an advertisement? Purchase is cheaper than repair. It is not profitable. These are the causes of too much waste. The meaning of hunter-gatherer
lifestyle lies in the recovery of products abandoned by our economy-first society, and of forgotten technologies and values. I don’t shout, “Let’s change our society,” because I believe
that applying change in my life is the ultimate empowerment. The value between the meat
hunted by my East Timor friends, and the meat that I have hunted,
is the same. I’m looking forward to the day
I can enjoy time with my friends and discuss the taste difference
of the meat we have hunted. Thank you very much.

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