Japanese Journal of Human Geography Vol.62 No.3 (2010)

Vol.62 No.3 (2010)



KUSAKA Masayoshi Professor Heishiro Yamaguchi, the Late Former President of the Human Geographical Society of Japan 1


Semiotic Principles of Naming Methods for Folk Plot Names: The Cases of Three Japanese Villages that underwent Agricultural Land Readjustment in Shiga Prefecture 5

The Selection of Placenta Ritual Sites in the Ancient Japanese Capital, Heijo kyo 27


A Survey of Geographical Studies in Japan, 2009 47

Book Review 88

Meeting Report

100th Research Seminar of Geographical Thought Study Group 90

News 91


Semiotic Principles of Naming Methods for Folk Plot Names: The Cases of Three Japanese Villages that underwent Agricultural Land Readjustment in Shiga Prefecture

Department of Arts and Sciences, Osaka University of Education

Numerous geographers, folklorists, and social linguists have studied minor place names within Japanese villages. However, rural Japanese people have recognized and used agricultural plot names, which are given to patches of rice paddies, dry fields, and woods; these areas cover smaller units than those represented by minor place names. Although it is usually difficult to clearly determine the origin of minor place names originating in the distant past, it is relatively easy to elucidate the origin and naming method of folk plot names that circulate within a single household. Few studies, however, have systematically examined the historical changes in and universal principles of naming methods for such plot names within villages either inside or outside Japan.
Accordingly, this paper examines the naming methods used by residents themselves for plot names within the villages of Kominami, Toba-kou, and Kibe in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. These three villages are located on the Omi Basin near Lake Biwa. Two households were selected in each village to investigate the historical changes in plot names and their naming methods during the agricultural land readjustment project undertaken from the 1970s to the 1980s. Based on interviews, households land registers, and cadastral maps, the paper clarifies that each household used six to twenty plot names before the land readjustment and that drastic changes in the boundaries of agricultural plots and in their folk names occurred as a result of the readjustment.
Finally, it was determined that both before and after the land readjustment, the six case-study households used four semiotic principles in naming each plot: parts-to-whole relationships (59 cases), spatial adjacency (25 cases), distinctive features (17 cases), and temporal adjacency (9 cases). In the first type, the parts-to-whole relationship corresponds to the relation between a plot and a parcel represented by a cadastral minor place name, which has often been directly applied to the plot name, as well as to the relative location of a plot within a series of plots. In the second type, spatial adjacency is based on a particular reference point such as a resident’s house, a stream bank, or a major road near the plot. In the third type, distinctive features include the area, landforms, and the crops grown on the plot. In the fourth type, temporal adjacency is based on the owner or tenant farmer of a plot in the recent past. From the perspective of cognitive linguistics, these four principles are based on metonymical recognition, which can be related to universal schemas of human spatial perception.

Key words: metonymical recognition, minor place name, folk plot name, agricultural land readjustment, Omi Basin

The Selection of Placenta Ritual Sites in the Ancient Japanese Capital, Heijo kyo

Department of Humanities, National Defense Academy of Japan

This study examines the ideas of ancient people about places for placenta rituals in Heijo kyo, the 8th century capital of Japan. The placenta is the material that comes out of a woman’s body after she gives birth to a baby, which is necessary to nourish and protect the baby in utero. Traditionally, the treatment of the placenta has been associated with the health and future of the baby, so there are many forms of related ceremonies around the world.
In Japan, placenta rituals took different forms in different periods. In many modern instances, the placenta was wrapped with paper or cloth and put in a pot, then buried underground in an auspicious direction. The pot contained, if the baby was a boy, a brush or an ink stick with his placenta. If the baby was a girl, there was a thread or a needle with her placenta.
Archaeologists have cited placenta rituals in folklore for their interpretations of pottery buried remains. Many archaeologists have believed pottery was ritually buried around the front door of houses since in folklore, the placenta was frequently put in a pot and buried under the entrance of a house. But placentas were actually buried in various places apart from the front door; for example, in the shade, on mountains, by the roadside, in estates, under the floor, and in lavatories.
The oldest attested pottery buried remains are found at the capital, Heijo kyo. It is difficult to determine the purposes of burying earthenware during the Nara period. Yet two major purposes are for ground purification ceremonies and for placenta rituals. So this paper first attempted to classify them by the kinds and the contents of the ritually buried pottery. The typical pottery used for placenta rituals is Sue ware jars called “Sueki tsubo A”, resembling a medicine pot that was associated with Yakushi or the Buddha of healing. The typical contents of the pottery are ink sticks, brushes and pieces of cloth.
The sites where pottery buried remains were unearthed are large in size and near the Heijo Palace. This fact suggests that placenta ceremonies were carried out by government officials of the Heijo kyo capital. And the sites of rituals were not always at entrances, but in many cases around the houses. According to ancient Chinese medical books, burying the placenta in the shade was taboo. But in modern folklore of Japan, the shade was often chosen as the place for burying the placenta, and many placentas were buried under the floors of houses.
In this respect, the sites where pottery buried remains were unearthed in Heijo kyo differ from those of placenta rituals as described in modern folklore. We came to the conclusion that though in Heijo kyo they had their own idea about the placenta burial site, the rituals were typically performed by government officials on the basis of ancient Chinese medical books.

Key words: placenta, rite, pottery buried remains, Heijo kyo, Nara period

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