Urban-rural migration and rural revitalization in Japan (DFG, 2020-2024)
Project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: October 1, 2020 to October 31, 2024
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Cornelia Reiher, Freie Universität Berlin
At the interface of social anthropology and political science and with a focus on Kyūshū, Japan’s most southern main island, this project aims to understand the impacts of urban-rural migration on rural revitalization by empirically studying interlinkages between urban-rural migration and rural revitalization as well as between local practices, urban-rural migration and larger societal, political and economic structures. In order to contribute to debates on the future of rural areas in Japan, the project will analyze how mobilities change social structures and orders, power inequalities between centers and their peripheries and central-local relations in Japan. Project data will be produced qualitatively via ethnographic fieldwork, formal and informal interviews and content analysis of documents and visual materials produced by different stakeholders.
Urban-rural migration is not unique to Japan. Retirees seeking relaxed sunset-years or younger people, who strive for more sustainable lifestyles, move to the countryside in many post-industrial societies. What is particular about Japan, are the programs and subsidies initiated by different stakeholders to attract people to move (back) to rural Japan and in turn to revitalize local economies and agriculture. We will compare 1) how municipalities of similar size in different prefectures in Kyūshū appropriate central government’s programs and 2) how these programs impact on in-migration, in-migrants’ experiences and local rural revitalization practices in the respective municipalities. In order to understand the different trajectories of urban-rural migration, we will also compare 3) different types of urban-rural migration according to their initiation by central and local government actors, private, civil society or business actors. In a nutshell, this project will shed light on how mobilities contribute to reconfigurations of rural spaces in Japan.