International Symposium on Japanese Studies in Global Contexts

Open Japan Closed Japan: Towards Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Mobility

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Population Outflow and Regional Attributes of Peripheral Regions in Japan: Two Cases of Mountain Village and Former Coal Mining Regions

Kenji Tsutsumi, Osaka University

The high economic growth of Japan in the 1960’s had been sustained by spatial redistribution of labor forces with large migration flows. Especially, taking a finite role of supplying population for big cities, peripheral regions experienced drastic depopulation, rapid aging, and atrophy of regional living functions. On the one hand it has been observed that there is a problem of “depopulation” caused by out-migration flows from peripheral regions such as mountain villages, remote islands, peninsulas, heavy-snowfall areas, forestry areas, charcoal industry areas. On the other hand, because of the national policy of “scrap and build”, most of the coal mines, big or small, had been closed by the turn of the century, and in such regions large out-migration flows and rapid decay of regional economy occurred over a relatively short time. Existing statistic data do not allow us to fully understand the detailed situation of out-migration flows and the impact on the regions. Moreover, depopulation study in Japanese academia has focused either on analyzing statistical population from a standpoint of macro-scale or studying depopulated settlements through field research within a micro-scale scope. There has been almost no linkage between the two approaches and little research has been done with a meso-scale perspective. This presentation will show the results found in the presenter’s research. In order to link the two aforementioned fields, this research relies upon the presenter’s framework of “three factors of migrants, regions, and flows,” and the patterns of out-migration flows and attributes of migrants have been analyzed. This is made clear by using individual records of thousands of out-migrants and regional characteristics of mountain villages and former coal mining regions. Concretely speaking, Kamitsue Village (Oita Prefecture, now in Hita City) was characterized as a mountain village, and Takashima Town (Nagasaki Prefecture, now in Nagasaki City) as a former coal mining region. Regarding the former, it has become clear that difference in out-migration patterns is influenced by family status and age, and remoteness of the region. For the latter difference of out-migration patterns according to social classes has been recognized; also cultural conflict in a daily life which migrants have experienced at their destination areas has been observed.

Short Biography

Kenji Tsutsumi, Dr. Lit., is a professor in the Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University. The keywords of his major research are: environmental land use, modernization, depopulation, peripheral regions, regional community, social capital, shrinking cities, and regional change.