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DFG-Projekt RE 4234/2-1 Urban-rural migration and rural revitalization in Japan

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Reiher

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. 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 inmigration, inmigrants’ 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 different actors. In a nutshell, this project will shed light on how mobilities contribute to reconfigurations of rural spaces in Japan.


Subproject 1 (PhD 1) “The periphery and the center: Support schemes for urban-rural migra-tion and their local appropriation”

This project will explore the dynamics of rural-urban and central-local relations in Japan by fo-cusing on the Japanese central government’s policies and support schemes for urban-rural migra-tion and for rural revitalization, their conjunction, underlying ideas and objectives. The doctoral researcher will analyze local actors’ dependencies on resources from the center, and their agency in exercising greater independence. The researcher will compare similarities and differences across four municipalities in Kyūshū with regard to their appropriation of central government programs and attracting in-migrants. This includes a comparison of strategies used by municipalities and prefectures to showcase themselves to urbanites in order to convince them to relocate.


Subproject 2 “The center moves to the periphery: Urban-rural migrants and rural revitalization in Kyūshū”

The second subproject is conceptualized as an ethnographic study in two municipalities that will be selected during exploratory fieldwork in Kyūshū that focuses on the life worlds and everyday practices of newcomers and return migrants in rural Japan. The doctoral researcher will study urban-rural migration in Japan from the perspective of newcomers’ and return migrants’ experiences, everyday practices and local structures. This includes the analysis of social dynamics in these communities between newcomers and ‘natives’, among newcomers and between local governments, residents and other local organizations involved in rural revitalization activities. It should further explore how newcomers participate in existing community organizations like neighborhood associations and village assemblies. The doctoral researcher will investigate how these institutions and the community itself (have) change(d) against the backdrop of demographic change and the influx of newcomers and return migrants and how in-migrants contribute to the respective communities and rural revitalization.

Jetzt online: Blog zum DFG-Projekt „Urban-rural migration and rural revitalization in Japan

Der Blog zum DFG-Projekt „Urban-rural migration and rural revitalization in Japan“, das von Prof. Dr. Cornelia Reiher geleitet wird, bietet Einblicke in den Forschungsprozess sowie erste Ergebnisse des Projektteams und gibt aktuelle Informationen zu Stadt-Land-Migration in Kyūshū. https://userblogs.fu-berlin.de/urban-rural-migration-japan/