What Facilitates Moving from Urban Cities to Rural Depopulated Villages?: "I-Turn" Phenomenon in Ayabe City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 67
Oral Presentation
Kosuke HIMENO , Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
The Japanese countryside is suffering from severe aging. Due to the lack of job opportunities, many young people migrate from their home villages, leaving the elders in difficult living environments. Moreover, according to government reports, 423 villages will be deserted within the next 10 years due to the decline in population.
However, nowadays in Japan, some people living in urban cities are willing to move their residence to those depopulated village. This movement is so called “I-turn” phenomenon. In this report, I use data from my fieldwork, which includes a case study and social surveys of Shigasato town, Ayabe city, and Kyoto prefecture in Japan. Shigasato (1,444 people live in here) town has warmly invited about 40 families in the last 10 years. Almost 10% of their population is “I-turn” residents from other urban cities in this town. What kind of social factor fascinates these “rural-oriented” people in Japan?
Answering from my studies, 2 factors are accountable. First, Shigasato Town has plenty of “bridging” social capital (Putnam 2000). Shigasato’s local neighborhood association called “KODAKARA-Net” hold various events of cultural exchange with other cities, and they introduce their vacant houses for “rural-oriented” people.
Second, Ayabe city is located in Kyoto city's neighborhood. It enables residents of Shigasato town to run various side jobs besides keeping farm. As is often the case with “I-turned” people abandon their rural lives due to the lack of job opportunities, this case avoid the problem.
These social and geographical factors have strong influence for people who intend to “I-turn” in urban cities, and those points makes different Shigasato’s case from other east Asian rural villages.