Showing posts with label center and periphery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label center and periphery. Show all posts

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rural and Urban? Think Again

Is it my imagination, or do I keep seeing English-language commentary about the rural-urban dichotomy in Japan? Specifically:
Rural (conservative, communal, loyal) Japan is losing out to (liberal, individualist, fickle) urban Japan economically (less income, fewer jobs) and demographically (fewer, older). The collateral argument is that rural Japan is overrepresented in the Diet, skewing public policy in favor of preserving an aging, decaying society.
There is a measure of truth to this line of argument, but it does the injustice of obscuring the much broader narrative:
Japan is a profoundly urban nation, where the agricultural (and forestry and fisheries) population is only a small fraction of the total even in the poorest provinces. Japan’s problem, as any one of you who reads Japanese will know, is the growing gulf between the center (中央) and the regions (地方).
Center and region, of course, depend on where you (literally) are coming from. Take Tokyo. From an Omotesando perspective—okay, even from a Tachikawa perspective—my neighborhood definitely belongs to the boondocks. But a 20 year old in Gifu might happily trade his lot for a freeter existence (and second guitar in an indies band) and a one-room apartment near my local train station. No, it’s not about foreclosed farms in North Dakota, it’s the shuttered storefronts on Main Street, Youngstown.

Pockets of vibrant anomalies aside—broadcast TV does not lack for anecdotes of successful municipalities and even prefectures—and barring massive fiscal transfers to the periphery—as advocated in principle by the DPJ manifesto—nobody has offered the general public a credible course of action that will stem this tide…assuming that it is a desirable course of action.