Hunting is readily defined in terms of the primary relationship between the human hunter(s) and the hunted animal. Human hunting centres on an elemental confrontation between hunters and unrestrained wild animals that results in the violent killing of these animals (Cartmill 1993:29-30). But there is also a secondary set of hunting relations in the form of the social context in which the activity of hunting takes place. This wider set of relations is especially significant in the case of recreational hunting in urban—industrial societies. As an activity that combines violence and sport, recreational hunting is often subject to disapproval and moral critique in the wider human society As a result of the intensity and ubiquity of such criticism, hunting ceases to be simply a physical activity and tends to develop a capacity for rhetorical self-defence. Recreational hunters do not just hunt, but must also justify or rationalize hunting to the wider society in which they live. Hunters are often obliged to represent their hunting as consistent with the larger public interest. This is the background to the familiar utilitarian justification of hunting as a form of pest control found among hunters and shooters in many societies, including English fox-hunters (Marvin 2000) and snake and pigeon shooters in rural America (Weir 1992; Song 2000).
This chapter examines hunting in modern Japan, with specific reference to representations of the hunt and its dangers among hunters and non-hunters in rural areas. Three sets of representations of hunting in Japan are discussed: hunting as a contest with animals and among men, hunting as protection of the wider rural community from dangerous animals and hunting as itself a danger both to the practitioners and to the wider rural public. In Japan, hunting (especially wild boar-hunting) is marked by a symbolism of contest and conquest, while also represented by Japanese hunters in instrumentalist terms as a means of protecting the wider rural society from wildlife pests. On top of these symbolic and utilitarian representations of the hunt, however, hunting in Japan is viewed as a source of danger. This includes both the physical danger posed by the