Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going to?
It’s a title of Paul Gauguin’s great masterpiece, but people must have thought the same thing when they were teenagers, or they do even now as an adult. It seems to be an eternal theme of the human beings.
I still don’t have the foggiest idea about it, but I think that there might be something related to in and around the area I often visit. Laos is one of my favorite countries and I think that the reason why I’m hooked on the nation is my nostalgia for something we Japanese already had lost. However, there might be more to it than that.
There is a theory in cultural anthropology called “East Asian evergreen forest culture theory” that Kansuke Nakao and Koumei Sasaki advocated more than 45 years ago. It explains that the major elements of Japanese traditional life and culture are also seen in Yunnan province and its adjacent areas, Eastern India, Nepal, Thai, Laos, Southern China and Taiwan. In this theory, the area is called East Asian evergreen zone.
People in the zone share many customs and habits, for example, eating sticky rice, fermented foods such as natto and a kind of sushi, using urushi lacquer and growing cocoons for silk weaving. And also, we can see some similariies in housing, clothing and more.
The more I get to know the theory, the more I’m interested in the area. What I have seen in the villages of Laos is not just nostalgia, but it might be the things that have the same roots.
photo: Laos Japan research & consulting
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