Two Japanese Villages: Matsunagi, a Japanese Mountain Community

Two Japanese Villages: Matsunagi, a Japanese Mountain Community

Two Japanese Villages: Matsunagi, a Japanese Mountain Community

Two Japanese Villages: Matsunagi, a Japanese Mountain Community

Excerpt

Since 1950 members of the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, operating from the Center's field station in Okayama City on the Inland Sea in southwestern Japan, have undertaken the study of a number of Japanese communities, materials from which are now in the process of analysis. This work has focused, for the most part, on the elementary community unit in the social structure of rural Japan, the buraku. The two monographs presented here are based on field work done by the authors, Robert J. Smith and John B. Cornell, in two particular buraku, Kurusu and Matsunagi. Smith was in Kurusu from September, 1951 through August, 1952. Cornell was in Matsunagi from October, 1950 through August, 1951.

These two studies, written originally as doctoral dissertations and revised here for presentation in a combined volume, bring together essentially different approaches to the same kind of social unit. Cornell's main concern is with the social and kinship aspects of buraku life; Smith deals with the general picture of life in a buraku. Both the specialized and the more general approach, it is hoped, will contribute to an understanding of the rural scene. Each report, in its own way, examines a buraku against a background of anthropological and sociological theory about the life of common people, and in this respect the two studies are alike, diverging and becoming complementary only in respect to details of presentation.

An important element of the theoretical background referred to here is the concept of the "folk society." This concept, originating in Latin American studies and refined and brought to maturity through other field studies in various world areas, has become a useful tool for study of the way of life in rural Japan. The two community studies brought together in this volume have much of the flavor of Redfield's Yucatan studies or of various other descriptions of Central and South American folk community life. But because they are set in a Japanese cultural context, and because they examine peasant communities in a rapidly industrializing society, the present studies provide a further test of the usefulness of this concept.

These two projects were conducted in close sequence but not simultaneously, and neither author knew the other's buraku at first-hand. No systematic comparison of the "feel" of each community is possible. However, the joint publication of the two monographs gives the authors an opportunity to call attention to the similarity at large and in certain details between the two communities, and at the same time to underline differences of a sort which make Matsunagi closer to the "folk society" and Kurusu closer to the "urban society" archetype.

Both Kurusu and Matsunagi, however, are in part self-contained Japanese folk units. They are traditional communities that retain many features of a style of life a century or more old. Part of this folk conservatism is due to sheer isolation, and part to the retarded pace of industrialization in these Inland Sea provinces so remote from the modern industrial centers of Tokyo and Osaka. Yet each community has long been at least indirectly dependent on the commerce and manufacturing of the urban centers in their immediate areas.

Besides this fundamental similarity between the two datum communities, there are more detailed resemblances. Kurusu and Matsunagi are comparable because they may both be regarded as "mountain" or "upland" buraku. Their topography requires an emphasis on dry-field farming not found in the paddy buraku in the lowlands. In addition, the abundance and proximity of forests and of other untillable areas of natural vegetation that seem to . . .

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