February 5, 2018
Contest: Culture Photography
€ 504
Matagi /media/flashcomm?action=mediaview&context=normal&id=39533
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Ito Ryoichi, guardian of the matagi museum in the Oguni region, wearing traditional clothes of the matagi hunters from the 19th century.

Matagi are traditional hunters living in small villages and settlements in the highlands of northern Honshu, the main island of Japan. From its origins, back in the middle of the XVI century, they have made a living by selling meat, skins and other products derived from the hunting. Its main prey is the Japanese black bear, a subspecies classified as vulnerable and threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

These communities recognize nature as a conscious presence that sustains them, but expects responsible behavior in return. Matagi believe that they can hunt because the Mountain Deity (Yama-no-Kami) allows it, and therefore, hunting is carried out with a sense of utmost reverence and respect for the natural balance.

In the context of a highly globalized, industrialized and metropolized Japan in the midst of the 21st century, matagi face a more than likely extinction of their cultural heritage. The global aging of the Japanese population, legal and regulatory limitations on hunting, and attachment to values that no longer germinate among the younger generations - who migrate massively from the rural to the urban environment - are some of the main reasons that leave these hunters without much hope of preserving their legacy.

Disciplines: Photography Annual Awards Reportage VIPA 2017

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