This Spoiled Soil: Place, People and Community in an Irradiated Village in Fukushima Prefecture
← 200 | 201 → TOM GILL
This Spoiled Soil: Place, People and Communityin an Irradiated Village in Fukushima Prefecture1
What constitutes a community? At the simplest level, a community is a group of people who live in the same place. In rural Japan, the link between people and place, between the soil and the people who work it, retains an overwhelming ideological significance – a significance encapsulated in the word ‘furusato’. It is translated as ‘hometown’ or ‘native place’. Yearning for the furusato is expressed in countless sentimental ballads, many of which praise the mountains, valleys, woods and rivers of a particular furusato. One particular song, simply entitled Furusato, has been sung by all children attending state schools in Japan since 1914.2 As Jennifer Robertson correctly observes, ‘the ubiquity of furusato as a signifier of a wide range of cultural productions effectively imbues those productions with unifying – and ultimately nativist and national – political meaning and value’ (Robertson 1988: 494). Love for one’s home community is an emotion endorsed by the national culture in a similar way to love for one’s mother.
Yet there is an irony here. The cultural emphasis on the furusato has persisted despite the fact that most Japanese long since ceased to live in the prototypical rural village. Nowadays 90 per cent of Japanese people live in urban areas, and the rural/urban imbalance in population is more acute ← 201 | 202 → than in any other major industrialized society.3 Thus the gap between the furusato as...
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