Rural Japan in Transition

| Brief description |

Based on its long-term engagement with the Aso Region (Kumamoto Prefecture) in Southwestern Japan, the Japanese Studies Division has developed a comprehensive interdisciplinary research focus on the socio-economic, political, and socio-cultural developments transforming rural areas in contemporary Japan. It covers a wide range of topics, including rural well-being, demographic change, rural-urban migration, local governance, and agricultural politics. Apart from the project “Aso 2.0”, which picks up on the institute’s historical research in the region, a central pillar of the research focus is the doctoral research group “Shrinking, but happy? The Impact of Social Capital on Subjective Well-Being in Rural Japan”. One core objective is to integrate research on rural Japan into the curriculum, including occasional excursions and field schools (“Social Capital Field School Wachau 2016”, “Wellbeing Field School Dienten 2017”, “Aso Summer Field School 2018”; Dienten Summer Field School 2021), research seminars, and the promotion of master theses.

| Associated projects |

| Main contributors |

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfram Manzenreiter, working group leader;
  • Dr. Hanno Jentzsch,
  • Dr. Isabelle Prochaska-Meyer,
  • Dennis Askitis, MA,
  • Stefan Hundsdorfer, MA,
  • Antonia Miserka, MA,
  • Sebastian Polak-Rottmann, MA

in collaboration with

  • Prof. Dr. Marina Hennig (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz; sociology)
  • DDr. Barbara Holthus (German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo/DIJ; sociology)
  • Prof. Dr. Ichinose Tomohiro (Keio University; land planning)
  • ao.Prof. Dr. Franz Kolland (Karl Landsteiner University for Health Sciences; sociology)
  • Prof. Dr. Ralph Lützeler (University of Hamburg; demography)
  • Prof. Dr. Ivo Ponocny (MODUL University Vienna; psychology)
  • Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna; political studies)
  • Prof. Dr. Shinya Ueno (Kumamoto University; public administration)
  • Dr Johannes Wilhelm (Kumamoto University; ethnology).

| Third party funding |

Ca. 500,000 EUR by ÖAW, Japan Foundation, Toshiba International Foundation


| Major publications |

Manzenreiter, Wolfram, Ralph Lützeler and Sebastian Polak-Rottmann, eds. 2020. Japan's New Ruralities. Coping with Decline in the Periphery. London/New York: Routledge. Link:

Jentzsch, Hanno. 2020. “Japan's Changing Regional World of Welfare: Agricultural Reform, Hamlet-based Collective Farming, and the Local Renegotiation of Social Risks”. Pacific Affairs, 93 (2): 327–351. DOI: 10.5509/2020932327

| Knowledge transfer and public outreach |

  • Conferences and workshops
    • Asia’s New Ruralities (Online Conference, July 2020)
    • Shrinking but Happy? The Impact of Social Capital on Subjective Well-Being in Rural Japan (Doc Team Workshop, March 2019)
    • Rural Japan Revisited: Autonomy and Heteronomy in the Peripheries, Annual Conference of the VSJF (October/November 2017)
    • Rural Society in Austria and Japan”, Workshop at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna (2016)
    • Japanese Studies in Vienna 50 years ago: The Aso Projekt, Workshop at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna (2015)
  • Talks and lectures: 70 presentations at national and international conferences, universities, and museums
  • Media presentations
    • Aso Summer School Blogs (2018)
    • Radio interviews
    • Newspaper reports
  • Other research products
    • Prochaska-Meyer, Isabelle. (Director), Kieninger, Pia (Director), & Nutz, S. (other role). (2014). 65+ Active Aging in rural Japan: documentary film. Web publication.

| Project pages |