The Geography of Human Life
Makiguchi's first position was at the elementary school attached to the Hokkaido Normal School. One of the subjects he taught was geography, and the approach he developed to the teaching of the subject may be understood as an attempt to reconcile these competing worldviews. Geography can, of course, be a vehicle for instilling a narrow attachment to the land on which one lives--an unthinking commitment to the putative superiority of the mother- or fatherland--to the exclusion of the other regions of Earth. This was, in fact, the function geography instruction in the 19th century was often enlisted to fulfill--not only in Japan, but in Europe and the United States as well.
For his part, Makiguchi was interested in geography instruction as a means for empowering students with a dynamic and critical understanding of the world. His interest was always in guiding learners toward a sure grasp of the principles underlying the relations between geographic features and human activities. This overarching project--Makiguchi's quest for universal principles--would evolve and develop in various forms over the course of his life. The 1903 publication of The Geography of Human Life may be seen as its first full expression.
The book consists of three major sections: 1) the land as the site of humanity's life activities; 2) nature as the medium for mutual interactions between humans and the land; and 3) the phenomena of humanity's life activities with Earth as their stage.
For Makiguchi, the local community was both the site of the activities of daily life and a point of observation from which to take in the entire world. Makiguchi believed that, with careful observation, it was possible for learners to discern within the local community crucial aspects and elements of national and even international society.
Although the physical setting which I attempt to discuss in this book may be limited in this way, when we observe the local community in a careful and ordered manner, we can discover that there is an infinite array of materials for study and learning. The conditions of vast expanses of heaven and earth are largely revealed in even the tiniest plot of land. Thus it is possible to grasp in outline the great and complex phenomena of the geography of the nations of the world through the examples found in a small and isolated village or town. If we first clearly understand the geography of the local community, the phenomena of a single town or village, we may easily understand the geography of all nations. Thus the proper order for research in geography is first to scrupulously observe the local community and from this to derive and settle the principles to be applied to geographic phenomena generally. Let no one take this lightly or disregard it as the shallow and too common first stages of geographic studies. 1