The community-based integrated care system, which the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare aims to fully implement by 2025, relies on the cooperation of local inhabitants in community life-support services called “mutual aid”. However, the cooperation of local inhabitants in communities with significant population decline is problematic. Elderly people tend to be reluctant to ask for help from neighbors. This study investigated the implementation of activities to assist community life-support services using “mutual aid” by examining a previous activating principle of primary health care.
One reason for the introduction of the Alma-Ata declaration was that the way in which people depended on health professionals meant that the system was ineffective in protecting people’s health. Thus, if the quality of daily life cannot be ensured by using healthcare insurance and government aid in the coming years, it is important to increase citizen participation in community life-support services. How can we best nurture a sense of ownership in daily life-support services using “mutual aid” among community residents? This requires a change in perception with regard to helping others. We should acknowledge one another as equals, and the idea that “vulnerable people can play a role in accepting help”, should be promoted.
This study examined the validity of using social capital (SC) as an indicator in anthropological surveys in areas of declining population. In recent years, the definition of SC according to Putnam has been commonly used in the context of practical sciences, which emphasize the functional aspect of SC, omitting the agency concept defined by Bourdieu. A questionnaire evaluating SC using Putnam’s definition failed to identify the social bonds that have been sustained in traditional village societies in Japan; the questionnaire indicated that participation in civil activities was very low. However, participation in the old people’s association and the fire service, which are representative voluntary associations in Japan, was not counted among civic activities, probably because participation in such voluntary associations was too “obvious” for informants. This study suggests that the concept of SC should be reinvestigated in future studies.
Purpose: This study examined the historical nexus of ways in which self-efficacy mediates past and present among the residents of Ogawa Village, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.
Method: The author used semi-structured interviews and unpublished materials to examine, ethnographically, collective activities from the mid-1980s to early 1990s and relate them to present-day village-making. The activities were conducted in Zuku, a famous Shin-syu dialect. The word “zuku” means the spirit to take on the challenge of productive and creative activities without minding difficult tasks.
Results: The study identified the following five characteristics. Various events were held by the voluntary group, Zuku-Dase Souzoukyoku. Active members in the organization’s management and operations’ teams were young, in their twenties and thirties. Through informal but intensive interaction and cooperation, they freely planned activities and put them into operation using their own funds. These activities were successful and achieved a positive evaluation inside and outside the village, which ultimately contributed to the revival of dynamism and social coherence in the village. The experience of the various activities increased the self-efficacy of the organization’s members. Even after the dissolution of Zuku-Dase Souzoukyoku, members have continued to engage in promoting sustainability and revitalization in the village from their various different positions.
Discussion: In Ogawa, self-efficacy increased through the experience of Zuku-Dase Souzoukyoku and has been manifested through behavioral factors and cognitive efforts such that former members are now contributing positively to their village, including the implementation of counter-measures to address depopulation, ageing and a declining birthrate. Thus, motivation for supporting the village is embedded in their own history and place. This case study indicates that, in considering contemporary regional revitalization, which tends to depend on national/prefectural subsidies and policy, indigenous motivation and the will of villagers should not be overlooked.
Purpose: This study investigated how traditional and ecological knowledge (TEK) has been lost or inherited in transformed manners.
Method: We performed a systematic literature review on the following three topics associated with TEK in Japan: beekeeping and honey production, relationships among knowledge systems in shiitake mushroom production, and geographical indication (GI) scheme and knowledge sharing in the case of an edible plant called Tonburi.
Results: This study showed that TEK is not static but, rather, is extremely dynamic. Diverse approaches, such as traditional educational methods, the use of branding, and promoting regional brands, can be used to address depopulation in local communities. Native beekeeping is important for promoting sustainable forestry and conserving biodiversity. In shiitake mushroom production, TEK and its associated techniques can be useful, but they can also present obstacles to the adoption of new technology. GI shared TEK with newcomers in the case of Tonburi.
Discussion: To minimize a decline in the value of TEK in local communities, the development of a system that reminds local people of the ways in which TEK is relevant and valuable to them could offer an effective solution to local depopulation. We suggest that a shift from maintenance and conservation of TEK to regeneration and creation can be beneficial to a society where TEK is an inherent part of the community.
The Japanese government has encouraged rural farming communities to develop master plans for sustainable agricultural production. Consensus building is indispensable for this process, although it is usually difficult due to conflicts of interest among the community members. In this study, I used a questionnaire survey conducted in Minamiawaji City and an analysis of the 2010 Agriculture Census to examine the community characteristics associated with the success or failure of consensus building in developing a master plan. The following three factors were identified: whether community-based farming was being conducted, the proportion of farm households with agricultural workers below the age of 65, and the availability of a successor to the farm. The presence of a management entity that sustains regional agriculture in the long term facilitates consensus building in rural communities.
In this study, I report recent trends in the export of agricultural products from Japan. Owing to government policies that encourage export, the amount of agricultural products exported from Japan has undergone a continuous increase, despite temporary stagnation following the East Japan Great Earthquake and Nuclear Accident. The main vegetables exported are Chinese yam, sweet potato, mushroom, and cabbage. Field studies in two production areas in Hokkaido Prefecture, from where Chinese yam is exported, revealed that the main incentive for exporting the crop was to cope with the lower market price caused by occasional good yields. Competition among production areas has increased the possibility of expansion to new export countries.
This study examined the potential of “neighborhood organizations” (Machizukuri Kyogikai, which are similar to neighborhood councils in the US) to engage in community planning in the context of the aging and shrinking population of Japan. Since ca.2000, the number of neighborhood organizations has increased dramatically. The organizations have umbrella structures and are formalized by city ordinance or formal guidelines. Out of a total 1,741 municipalities in Japan, over 400 have established neighborhood organizations. For example, in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima, neighborhood organizations directly implement community programs, such as watching over isolated elderly people. This can be contrasted with neighborhood councils in the US, which do not take on any responsibility for community programs directly. The neighborhood organizations have the potential to become the “urban service delivery system” proposed by Vincent Ostrom, offering a solution for addressing problems related to aging and depopulating societies.