Regional process of dependency and changes of endogenous self-organizations in a depopulated remote area: A case study of Namiai Village, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

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This study analyzes the regional process of dependency and changes of endogenous self-organizations in a depopulated remote area of Japan, via the case of Namiai village, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Namiai village lost almost half of its population during the period 1952 to 1995. As a result, the population of the village was reduced to 778 persons in 1995, with the aged ratio (over 65 years old) being almost 30%. Since the 1960s, in an attempt to counteract depopulation, Namiai village has implemented a pioneering and grass-roots resort development. As a result of grass-roots efforts, tourists in this village have increased from 80 thousand persons in 1967 to currently 300 thousand persons. This rise in tourism is related to an increase in employment and income. At its peak, more than 100 persons were employed by the resort-related facilities, where the total population was less than 800 persons. Rapid depopulation was thus curtailed. As the tourist industry grew, however, it fell under the control of the logic of capital. This in turn prevented the voluntary involvement of residents. From the 1970s, the Central Government of Japan started to implement financial transfers to local governments on a large scale. As a result, with subsidies from the Central government the village government was able to continue investing in the resort development. In other words, the village government didn't need to negotiate with the residents on their policies. But at times these policies opposed the wishes of the residents who needed more investment in education, helth and other public services for themselves rather than for tourists. And the village government no longer needed to organize people for the community mobilization. As a result the foundation of the village government changed from the community to the Central government. In the meantime, with the increase in public investment, only the construction sector could continue growing rapidly. Finally, the owners of construction companies appeared as a new political elite, with the result that unnecessary public construction by subsidy increased. In short, the resort development of Namiai village deteriorated to a situation of dependency. This was due to an over-emphasis on economic aspects such as employment while ignoring social aspects such as organizing the development actors. The institutional intervention resulted in two conflicting phenomena - the strengthening of the financial autonomy of municipal governments and the weakening of self-reliance capabilities. As a result, most of the traditionally endogenous organizations of a community have been disorganized or reorganized under the leadership of the municipal government. The endogenous self-organizations thus changed roles to pseudo-organizations of the local government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-49
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes



  • Depopulated remote area
  • Endogenous self-organization
  • Local government
  • Namiai village
  • Resort development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development

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