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Economic development and social change in rural Japan : a case study of Shiwa Community, Iwate Prefecture Shinpo, Mitsuru

Abstract

This study examines post-war social change in a Japanese farming community. Social change is defined as changes in the three sets of rules for social behaviour in a social system. Three sets of factors affected social change in rural Japan: (1) changes in the policies and programmes of the central government, (2) changes in the national economy, and (3) the adoption by farmers of new farm techniques. The central government has aimed at the industrialization of Japanese agriculture. Through its policies and programmes the government removed or modified obstacles to economic growth and provided conditions favourable to the growth of the farm economy. The Japanese economy has grown at a rapid rate. National economic growth together with governmental policies and the farmers' incentive to increase farm output has resulted in significant changes in rural Japan. For example, these factors have increased farmers' access to economic resources, absorbed rural young people into industrial centres, motivated farmers to mechanize farm practices thereby raising production costs, and made necessary an increase in household income. Farmers have adopted new farm techniques. Despite the exodus of youth from the rural areas, as farmers mechanize their practices they developed a surplus of labour. Farmers have diversified production activities by investing the surplus labour into non-farm operations, or into farm operations when competent change-agents existed. Their adoption of new farm techniques modified the old sets of rules for social behaviour, and social change took place in rural Japan. If the present trends continue, Japanese farming communities will look very different in the future. First, present suburban communities will disappear as "farming" communities. Second, the majority of present farming households will leave farming, and only a small number of larger farmers will remain in those communities in which the residents make no deliberate efforts to differentiate their farm operations. Third, a large number of farming households will remain farming in those communities in which the residents will differentiate farm operations; these communities will be small in number, but the community I studied will be one of them.

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