2012 年 2012 巻 169 号 p. 169_16-29
The concept of civil society has changed throughout history and across regions: its meaning shifted in Europe from “political society” in the 16th century to “civilized society” in the 18th century, while in 1930s Japan, the concept was understood as “capitalist society.” The current article suggests a new kind of civil society is emerging, a civil society that attempts not only to influence the state in a pro-active manner, but also to transcend the governance framework imposed by the state. It does so by examining local activism in Japan's Boderlands: (1) the Nemuro District (Nemuro City, Betsukai, Shibetsu, Nakashibetsu and Rausu Towns) close to the Northern Territories currently governed by Russia, (2) Wakkanai City near Sakhalin, a Russian territory, (3) Thushima City in close proximity to South Korea, and (4) the Yaeyama District (Ishigaki City, Taketomi and Yonaguni Towns) adjoining Taiwan. Geographically, these regions are all in the periphery, far away from the central government and directly exposed to Japan's neighboring countries. In terms of their politico-economic power as well, they constitute the periphery, to use the language of the World-Systems Theory, while the central and prefectural governments occupy the positions of the core and semi-periphery, respectively.
Japan's borderlands have been faced with twin economic challenges since the Koizumi government years (2001–2006): on the one hand, they are suffering from reduced supports from the central government (their local governments receive various subsidies in accordance with special measures acts designed to sustain their economic viability), and on the other hand, they are witnessing rapid economic developments in its neighboring countries (Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China). For these borderlands, then, a logical solution for prosperity in this situation is to seek closer economic relationships with the neighboring countries; yet, Japan's national border regulations in the areas of customs, immigration, and quarantine would hinder that. Accordingly, local civil organizations and local governments in the four cases under study are seeking changes in the border regulations set and controlled by the central government. Although technically speaking, local governments could not be part of civil society, in each case under study, the local government and civil organizations operate as one unit, in their common struggle against the central government and its framework of border regulations. Thus, analytically, these cases can be conceptualized as cases of civil society.
By highlighting the challenges and struggles of Japan's borderlands, the article opens up a new avenue to revise the concept of civil society, yet once again to reflect the ever-changing realities of citizen politics.