Rural Communities at Risk: How ‘Perishing Municipalities’ in the Japanese Alps Are Actively Seeking Ways to Revitalise Their Populations

Isabelle Prochaska-Meyer



As current discourses on “perishing municipalities” predict a dark future, especially for municipalities with a population of less than 10,000, this paper looks at three case-study sites (with populations of less than 1,500) in Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures and how they deal with demographic change. The main  objective  of  revitalization is to attract newcomers, either for short-term urban-rural exchange or ideally for residents. Consequently, rural municipalities advertise those assets that cities cannot compete with: their natural resources. Agriculture is fostered in the communities in various aspects. For the aged population, farm  work is a way to stay physically active and socially engage with others. For those retired locals, newcomers and visitors who are not involved in agriculture, there are groups involved in hobby farming and food processing as new leisure (or educational) activities. Lastly, for newcomers who are expected to contribute to the revitalization of the municipality, agriculture is an important driver and represents a precious asset of rural communities. Referring to Baltes & Baltes’ SOC-model, which is usually linked to successful ageing, I investigate how the elements of selection, optimization and compensation can be seen in the municipalities’ strategies to overcome demographic challenges.

Słowa kluczowe

rural Japan; depopulation; Masuda Reports; revitalization programs; case study; Nagano; Yamanashi

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