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In Session: The Rural as Method: Culture, Politics, and Society beyond the Cities in 20th Century Japan
4: Facing Aging: Elderly Group Formation in 1950s-1960s Rural Japan
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Osaka University, Japan
This presentation discusses the modes of group formation of the elderly in 1950s rural Japan. With the democratic reform that drastically changed the Japanese family system, women and youths became the main targets of ‘democratization’ in rural areas. On the other hand, the elderly were rarely seen as such, and often marginalized by authorities. However, in parallel with rural exodus during the rapid economic growth, the elderly people began to form their own groups. Through the engagement in various cultural activities such as learning and sport, they sought to live up to the new era. For example, associations such as Rakusei-Gakuen , which was established in a rural area of Nagano Prefecture in 1954, encouraged the elderly to get involved in society through learning and communication. Such groups of elderly people spread throughout the country as “senior citizen’s clubs” (Rōjin Kurabu), a powerful institution that still exists today. Despite the scale of this movement, the history of cultural groups for the elderly in rural Japan has not been uncovered yet. The proactive social participation of the elderly, including politically conservative activities- such as promoting the hoisting of the Japanese flag during National holidays-, provides us a hint to understand the so-called ‘postwar rural conservatism’. By understanding the agency of the elderly as part of a rural history of Japan that has been overlooked, we can rethink about the generational and gender relationships in agrarian communities and build a comparative historical perspective in this global aging era.