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CENTRAL AFRICAN HUNTER-GATHERER RESEARCH TRADITIONS - page 10 / 43

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Japanese traditions

Mitsuo Ichikawa is the most prominent Japanese Congo Basin forager researcher (one monograph and first author on over 25 journal articles and book chapters in English or French; several more in Japanese). In high school and his undergraduate college days he was an avid mountain climber and enjoyed fishing and gathering edible wild plants while hiking. After completing college he traveled to Bhutan, the Hunza Valley and several countries in southeast Asia. He wanted to make a living where he could continue mountain climbing and traveling, and would not have to take rigorous methods courses. He decided to go into anthropology at Kyoto University and joined a research group directed by Junichiro Itani, a primatologist, to study human-nature relationships in hunter-gatherer groups. Itani, who was in the department of human evolution, and helped establish the Institute of African Studies at Kyoto University and the Japanese Society of Ecological Anthropology, was his mentor. Itani and Reizo Harako, a surgeon and anthropologist, conducted a brief survey of the foragers in the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire at the time). Harako returned to conduct the first Japanese study of Mbuti subsistence patterns (Harako 1976).  Tadashi Tanno replaced Harako to study subsistence patterns (1976) in another part of the Ituri and Ichikawa replaced Tanno a few years later (1978). Ichikawa’s training at Kyoto took place in the Faculty of Science and emphasized a broad approach to ecology that adhered to Western theories or methods. Descriptive and inductive approaches were emphasized; “Let the data speak” was the guiding motto at Kyoto. He hoped to “become a researcher akin to a small time inventor who would never become part of the mainstream, but who would invent something that nobody had ever thought of” (Ichikawa 2004a, 3). Ichikawa is now director of several research programs at the Center for African Area Studies at Kyoto University and indicates that Kyoto’s African studies program is distinct from the one at Tokyo University because it emphasizes fieldwork rather than armchair contemplation

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