KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森

Hunting for Clues:Tracing the History of Humanity & Society for a Sustainable World Hunting for Clues:Tracing the History of Humanity & Society for a Sustainable World Faculty of Arts and Science Division for Humanities and Social Sciences	Associate Professor Akito Yasuda

Faculty of Arts and Science Division for Humanities and Social Sciences	Associate Professor

Akito Yasuda

Professor Akito Yasuda is an up-and-coming field researcher who examines how people coexist with wild animals, regularly visiting regions with established hunting cultures and living together with locals. His hunting research considers anthropology, folklore, history, as well as many other aspects of human activity, and he himself is a practicing hunter.

Professor Akito Yasuda is an up-and-coming field researcher who examines how people coexist with wild animals, regularly visiting regions with established hunting cultures and living together with locals. His hunting research considers anthropology, folklore, history, as well as many other aspects of human activity, and he himself is a practicing hunter.

Profile Details

Born in Hyogo Prefecture, Professor Akito Yasuda has loved animals since he was a boy. In the third grade, he moved with his family to Canada, where he experienced the vast North American wilderness and became fascinated with wild animals. While an undergraduate at the Department of Ecoregion Science in the Faculty of Agriculture at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, he ran into the fundamental question of what it means to hunt wild game and chose to major in a course that considered nature conservation from a sociological perspective, having met Professor Shuichi Kito, a leading figure in environmental sociology and the author of books such as Rethinking Nature Conservation. In his graduation thesis, he took up the issue of whaling, a subject of international debate, and conducted fieldwork in a whaling community in Chiba Prefecture. In 2004, he enrolled in the Division of African Area Studies at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies at Kyoto University. Led by Professors Mitsuo Ichikawa and Gen Yamakoshi, he first encountered trophy hunting while conducting a field survey in Cameroon. He earned his doctorate in area research in 2010, and served as lecturer at a number of universities in the Kanto area, including Rikkyo University and Hosei University, and worked as a researcher at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo before taking an assistant professorship in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Kyushu University in 2013. He became associate professor in 2016. He is the author of Killing for "Protection"? -Sport hunting in Africa and "Sustainability" of a local community- (Keiso Shobo) and serves as an advisor to the Kyushu University Society for Hunting Studies, a student group that catches wild boars on Ito Campus, which are then used for educational purposes.

What is your research about?What is your research about?

Professor Yasuda has a candid way of speaking. The fur pelt you see behind him is from his first Ezo deer, which he hunted in Hokkaido just after obtaining his hunting license. The skull in the foreground is that of of a boar, hunted right here at Kyushu University on Ito Campus!

The book Rethinking Nature Conservation, written by Professor Yasuda’s mentor, Professor Shuichi Kito, is foundation of his research. "I’m not exaggerating when I say this book changed my life," he says.

Together with friends in a town where he conducted fieldwork

Professor Yasuda has a candid way of speaking. The fur pelt you see behind him is from his first Ezo deer, which he hunted in Hokkaido just after obtaining his hunting license. The skull in the foreground is that of of a boar, hunted right here at Kyushu University on Ito Campus!

"I've loved animals since I was a kid, and I always entertained the idea of protecting wild animals and the natural environment, which is how I first got into this line of research. But what does it really mean to ‘protect’? If you think about it, you realize that it’s not so simple.

The book Rethinking Nature Conservation, written by Professor Yasuda’s mentor, Professor Shuichi Kito, is foundation of his research. "I’m not exaggerating when I say this book changed my life," he says.

Simply put, my research is the development of symbiotic relationships between people and wild animals, within which I focus on two main themes. The first is considering sustainability in terms of tourism, local communities, and wildlife conservation. In particular, I conduct empirical research based on fieldwork, paying close attention to so-called ‘trophy hunting’ (recreational hunting for horns or furs). In Africa, trophy hunting is said to bring in a considerable amount of tourism revenue and positively affect wild animal conservation and local economies, but can killing really lead to protection? And what negative effects might hunting have on local communities? In my research, I explore these questions and more from the viewpoint of environmental sociology and environmental ethics, looking at ecological and economical sustainability in addition to the local population’s relationship with hunting.

Together with friends in a town where he conducted fieldwork

The second major theme of my research is about taking life. I’m sure most people think that trophy hunting is cruel because animals should never be killed for fun. But what about the lives of animals that we eat every day?

By educating yourself on the history of hunting, analyzing human psychology, and approaching the issue from different disciplines like folklore and psychology, I think you can find some clues as to how mankind can, and should, coexist with nature and other living beings. I have become a hunter myself in order to fully realize how humans sacrifice the lives of other animals to survive and to explore what this means in practice.

These two themes form the basis of my research as I continue to explore ways for people and wild animals to coexist, through investigation in the field and integrated perspectives from environmental sociology and environmental ethics. In particular, whenever I conduct fieldwork, I am overwhelmed with the amount of information I absorb simply by living in the community. I’ve been to places like Cameroon, Hawaii, and Hokkaido for fieldwork, and those are the experiences that feed directly back into my research—seeing places firsthand, getting a feel for them, and interacting with local people in the community. Needless to say, I don’t plan to stop traveling anytime soon."

The key to this research course is here!!The key to this research course is here!!

Finding Our Humanity Through HuntingFinding Our Humanity Through Hunting

When you go out on fieldwork, you feel the differences of the local culture and the environment firsthand, and come to understand how people think and go about their lives. But a single visit does not an expert make. Repeated visits allow you to take the time needed to get to know the people there, sharing food and lodging with them. In my research, I apply this kind of micro view of communities as well as a more broader, macro view of society as a whole. I enjoy visiting different hunting grounds and employing these bug’s-eye and bird’s-eye views.

How long do you think humans were hunter-gatherers over the span of our species’ history? Humans have survived to this day having spent well over 99% of our time on this planet as a species of hunter-gatherers. That’s why humans are equipped with a basic instinct for hunting. One example: it feels good when you toss a crumpled piece of garbage into a trash can across the room, doesn’t it? That’s our hunting instinct at work. It’s the same feeling you get when your spear or arrow pierces your prey.

Thoughts on hunting living creatures vary greatly by era, region, and from person to person. Since long ago, hunting has been a pastime of the elite as a symbol of privilege, and animals were long used to relieve stress in games that we would now consider cruel. Nowadays, many people's desire to protect these cute and cuddly creatures conflicts with their dietary habits. That's what makes this research so interesting. I am able to see the many different aspects of human nature, rather than any one aspect—like hunting, or eating meat—in isolation. By necessity, my research spans fields like anthropology, folklore and history, in addition to environmental sociology and environmental ethics. These fields all have to do with how people live. Nothing intrigues me more than questions that ask us who we are as humans and what we are as society, when considering the coexistence of humans and wild animals.

Studying at Kyushu UStudying at Kyushu U

The best thing about studying at Kyushu University is that you can learn in so many different ways. A variety of professors are available to give you advice and help you grow, from advanced specialists to weird professors like me. [laughs] There’s no one clear-cut answer for anything in my research, yet it seems everyone has an answer to the question, “What is wildlife conservation?” I like to bring together people with different values, draw out their opinions to understand the many sides to an issue, and ultimately seek out the truth. From this process emerges the complexity of our human existence and the issues we face in modern society. I believe the earlier you experience this complexity, the better you can become at active learning.

DAILY SCHEDULEDAILY SCHEDULE


Time-out Session

Professor Yasuda belongs to the Fukuoka Hunting Club. If a request comes in to control harmful wildlife, a team will head into the mountains around Fukuoka. The Yasuda family is proud to be mostly self-sufficient: they source 100% of their meat, 80% of their rice, and 30% of their vegetables. He also tends to his fields in his time off. “Someday I also want to start fishing to improve our degree of self-sufficiency.” When asked about the ideal way to spend his time off, Professor Yasuda says that he enjoys hunting and camping with my family. His children enjoy picnics instead, as they are still too young to hunt with their father, but Professor Yasuda has a dream: “I can’t wait to go hunting for wild deer with my kids!”Professor Yasuda belongs to the Fukuoka Hunting Club. If a request comes in to control harmful wildlife, a team will head into the mountains around Fukuoka. The Yasuda family is proud to be mostly self-sufficient: they source 100% of their meat, 80% of their rice, and 30% of their vegetables. He also tends to his fields in his time off. “Someday I also want to start fishing to improve our degree of self-sufficiency.” When asked about the ideal way to spend his time off, Professor Yasuda says that he enjoys hunting and camping with my family. His children enjoy picnics instead, as they are still too young to hunt with their father, but Professor Yasuda has a dream: “I can’t wait to go hunting for wild deer with my kids!”

The Teacher's Must-have Items!The Teacher's Must-have Items!

Kei Truck

This Kei truck is owned by the Kyushu University, but for all intents and purposes, it belongs to Professor Yasuda, who uses it to capture and transport the wild boars that inhabit the vast area of Ito Campus. Every morning he changes into his work clothes and rubber boots and takes to the field!

Field Notes

For many years he’s used a Kokuyo "Surveyor’s Field Book" notebook, going through an entire notebook every month. With a ballpoint pen, he’ll quickly fill it up with detailed journal entries.

Tablet and Flip Phone

Professor Yasuda isn’t particular about the maker, so long as the tablet and flip phone he takes are SIM-free. He has realized having reception can be a matter of life-or-death, and as smartphone batteries tend to drain very quickly in the mountains, he has switched to using a flip phone.

Message to the StudentsMessage to the Students

Follow Your Heart and Explore the World:
A Unique Path of Discovery Awaits

Student life is all about freedom. It’s a liberated environment where you can do anything. I think students need to be aware of that in order to broaden their horizons. You don’t have to do something just because it might help you land a job. The working world demands results, and you have to come up with plans to meet your targets. But when you’re a student, there are no rules. When you get the urge, go out and experience the world. University is a time when you can take long vacations, so you have plenty of opportunities to try new things or travel the unbeaten path. What I recommend the most is going abroad. You can visit tourist spots anytime when you’re older, so use your youth to travel and explore the things that really interest you.

In this day and age, it’s important to know how to sift through the vast amount of information that is available at our fingertips. But I think people today are a little too cozy with connectivity, and they’re losing the ability to think for themselves. Smartphones and textbooks are still important tools, but when I see students playing games on their phones all day, I can’t help but think that they’re wasting their time. Your youth and your time as a student won’t last forever. Use that same smartphone to read the news. Use your whole body and all five senses to get out there and experience the world. First get moving, then explore, and when you’re done, sit back and reflect. It doesn’t matter what other people say. Follow your heart and get experience! Once you do, you’ll discover your own unique ideas and goals in life.

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