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Ogata-Mura: Sowing Dissent and Reclaiming Identity in a Japanese Farming Village

Donald C. Wood
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Following the Second World War, a massive land reclamation project to boost Japan's rice production capacity led to the transformation of the shallow lagoon of Hachirogata in Akita Prefecture into a seventeen-thousand-hectare expanse of farmland. In 1964, the village of Ogata-mura was founded on the empoldered land inside the lagoon and nearly six hundred pioneers from across the country were brought to settle there. The village was to be a model of a new breed of highly mechanized, efficient rice agriculture; however, the village's purpose was jeopardized when the demand for rice fell, and the goal of creating an egalitarian farming community was threatened as individual entrepreneurialism took root and as the settlers became divided into political factions that to this day continue to struggle for control of the village. Based on seventeen years of research, this book explores the process of Ogatamura's development from the planning stages to the present. An intensive ethnographic study of the relationship between land reclamation, agriculture, and politics in regional Japan, it traces the internal social effects of the village's economic transformations while addressing the implications of national policy at the municipal and regional levels.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-526-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction. The Village and the Issues
    (pp. 1-24)

    At the close of the Second World War the occupation government of Japan was heavily concerned with feeding the population. Unable to foresee demographic and cultural changes in store for the country over the remainder of the century, political leaders placed the issue of securing a stable domestic supply of rice high on their list of priorities. However, the repatriation of thousands of citizens who had been living in the imperial state of Manchuria and other colonized areas and the return of soldiers placed an extra strain on already scarce land resources (see Nishida and Kase 2000: 311–314). One...

  7. 1 Agricultural Policy and Regional Politics in Japan
    (pp. 25-42)

    For centuries Japan’s food producers, and the regions in which they live, have had relations with a central government (Tokugawa, Meiji, Taishō, etc.) marked by high degrees of control and regulation. Policies formulated at the center have been at times designed to boost outputs and at times designed to do the opposite. In the years immediately following the Second World War, building and maintaining an egalitarian farm base took precedence over all else. Soon, though, it became more important for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to keep farmers happy and to ensure that their incomes would not merely remain...

  8. 2 Reclamation and the Old Social Order
    (pp. 43-90)

    The reclamation project that transformed Hachirōgata into Ogata-mura is particularly notable not only for its creation of a new and rather unique village but also for its vast scale. But it does not stand alone in its greater regional and historical environment—it was actually part of a large postwar movement that began with a focus on rejuvenating Tokyo and the heavily populated Pacific belt and then spread toward the outlying areas, resulting in a flurry of regional development projects, of which dam building and land reclamation have probably been the most noticeable and politically charged. This was made possible...

  9. 3 The Storm and the Aftermath
    (pp. 91-124)

    Impediments to Ogata-mura serving as a symbol of all that is good about modernity and as a model for efficient agriculture—an inspiration for farmers across the country—did not end with the kinds of problems outlined in chapter 2. As mentioned earlier, things got worse after the settlers found themselves pitted against one another over rice production and marketing issues. The village became generally known as a focal point for dissent and subversion, and somewhat less as an ideological battleground (Anbai 1991). Moreover, the fighting even spilled over into the district courtrooms in Akita City, and caught the attention...

  10. 4 Rice: Alliances, Institutions, Frictions
    (pp. 125-161)

    Farming in Ogata-mura is big. With the exception of Hokkaido, where rice is of minimal importance, the Hachirōgata reclaimed land area probably has the greatest concentration of large-scale farms in all of Japan. According to village office data, 271 of the 523 farming households in Ogata-mura still owned exactly fifteen hectares of land in 2010; about one-half had neglected to increase their holdings beyond the original allocation. One-hundred and ninety-four households owned more than fifteen hectares but less than thirty hectares, and 26 had more than thirty hectares. Two households (one of them being Tōru Wakui’s) now possess over fifty...

  11. 5 Politics and the New Social Order
    (pp. 162-188)

    Politics in Ogata-mura is serious business. One result of the small size of the community is that candidates—especially those who run for council seats—can essentially count their fellow villagers’ votes and tell with surprising accuracy how people from whom they expected to receive support actually voted. In this situation, the secret ballot loses some of its meaning. Although candidates can sometimes garner a few votes based on old ties—having the same place of origin, belonging to the same cooperative farming group, or simply living on the same street—how people actually cast their ballots depends far more...

  12. 6 What Can We Learn from Ogata-mura?
    (pp. 189-220)

    Ogata-mura today is largely a product of its planning and settlement. At the same time, subsequent agricultural and regional policies have also had a great impact on the village. This chapter represents an attempt to bring evidence of these from previous chapters together in a coherent whole, and also to answer the question of how the village might be able to fulfill its intended role as a modern model for the future of Japan’s agriculture—a problem that also involves government policy and international trade. As for the issues of planning and settlement, policy, and structure and individual agency, there...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 221-229)

    Studying Ogata-mura over the past seventeen years has been like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with a piece count that perpetually grows: each time you think you’re almost finished, you find more pieces to deal with. For example, on March 31, 2012, a 156-page booklet about the village based primarily on interviews with Seiki Miyata, mayor from 1978-2000, was published by Tokyo-based Kōjinsha, but by the time I obtained a copy it was too late for me to incorporate its contents into this book. Miyata is listed as primary author and the three university professors who conducted the interviews...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 230-239)
  15. Index
    (pp. 240-248)