The University of Findlay
Faculty mentor: Hiroaki Kawamura, Associate Professor of Japanese
Student fellows: Valerie Jacksack, Garrett Brown, Amy Evaniuk
Rural Communities in Japan: Challenges, Revitalization Strategies, and Future
Our team will research on issues facing rural communities and their revitalization strategies in Japan. All three students are majoring in Japanese. They also study computer science, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and creative writing. The faculty mentor is a cultural anthropologist teaching Japanese language and culture.
The issue of rural community revitalization is one of the pressing issues in contemporary Japan. An alarming number of communities have become “marginal communities [限界集落, genkai shuraku])” where more than half of the residents are over the age of 65. According to the Japanese government (2015), about 190 communities disappeared between 2010 and 2015 and more than 14,000 communities are “marginal communities.” These communities find it difficult to carry out cultural activities as well as economic activities. This arises from a combination of urbanization, aging and declining birthrate. The Japanese government has been trying to address this issue, and the current Abe administration makes it one of their top policy priorities. Review of the previous studies suggest three possible strategies to address this issue: tourism, immigrant workers and international marriage. The current project will examine how these strategies are working in rural Japan and also aim to identify other strategies adopted by rural communities.
Most data collection will take place in two prefectures, Fukui and Hokkaido. These prefectures were chosen for their rural characteristics and institutional affiliation. In Fukui, our team will conduct a short joint fieldwork with students from University of Fukui. The team will also collect information on tourism, immigrant workers and international marriage with support from Fukui International Association and Fukui Prefectural University. In Hokkaido, we will work with Rakuno Gakuen University that has a wide network among dairy farmers and farming communities for rural community visits and interviews. The final phase of our fieldwork will be spent in Saitama, a suburb of Tokyo, in order to learn urbanites’ perception of rural community issues.
Japanese language skills development will be one of the main goals of the project. Language training will take place during the preparation phase (e.g., interview practice, literature review, document preparation), during the fieldwork in Japan, and after the fieldwork (e.g., transcription of interviews). The team will produce several artifacts that are tied to the students’ future career.
The students will develop a digital portfolio, write and submit a short story to a student literary magazine, develop a TESOL lesson plan about rural community issues, and develop a data storage system. The students will also engage in various outreach activities on and off campus. In fall 2019 and spring 2020, the students will do a presentation in high school and on campus (e.g., campus-wide symposium). They will also share their experiences through university publications. We hope that this project will prepare the students for their future career as well as promote Japan and Asian studies on campus and in the community.