The Precarious Balance between Old Residents and New Settlers in Japan’s Rural Community: Inclusion or Novel Development?
Motoki AKITSU and Kei OTSUKI (Kyōto University)
One of the most crucial challenges facing Japan’s rural areas is depopulation and aging. Central and local government policies have struggled to attract to depopulated rural areas not only new settlers with an urban origin, but also U-turners who out-migrated in their youth. While the narrative of urban-to-rural migration has a long history in the modernization era in Japan, the current trend in which settlers pursue new lifestyles based on environmental consciousness and healthy living only started in the middle of the 1980s. The image of rural livelihoods held by many rural in-migrants, which is influenced by various idyllic media representations, is substantially different from that of older residents. This divergence in perception can manifest in some cases into open conflict, or can simmer for a long time under a superficial veneer of mutual understanding. In this paper, we introduce and analyze how this precarious balance is achieved with reference to a case study in Ayabe City, Kyōto Prefecture. The conclusions we present are important for predicting whether new settlers can readily be integrated into the existing rural context or produce novel and separate forms of social development.