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English / Japanese

[Department of Japanese History and Culture, School of Japanese Studies]
Associate Professor IDO Satoshi

Raise questions by accumulating field surveys and grasping/analyzing the current conditions of local communities. This will become a foothold for thinking about which direction to go in the future.

How Doubts Toward Common Knowledge Inspired Me to Learn Sociology

 

The department I studied in at university was a department of literature, but there were many subfields other than literature, such as history, geography, psychology, philosophy, and sociology. Among those, why did I get interested in sociology? That is because I was interested in the gap between what an individual senses and what is considered to be common knowledge or obvious in the world. For example, just as they say that you should behave like a student if you’re a student and you should behave like an adult if you’re adult, each person has what are called social attributes, which define appropriate behaviors and actions. Even if there are times when you feel yourself not fitting those attributes or you think that they aren’t quite right, most people just comply and keep their feelings to themselves. Sociology is a form of scholarship that considers how those gaps come into existence and what those gaps are to begin with, so it was easy to connect my original interests and critical consciousness to the scholarly field just like that.

Thinking about Local Communities and Cultures Within the Opposing Axes of Center and Region

 

What I am working on now is research on local communities and local cultures. There are oppositions such as core and periphery, center and region, cities and farming and mountain villages that exist within the social structure of Japan. Within those oppositional axes, farming and mountain villages are exposed to the waves of depopulation and an aging society with fewer children, so it has become extremely difficult for them to establish and maintain their own societies. In order to find clues for solving these problems, I am exploring how local communities have come to be built, what kind of condition are they in at present, will they be maintained from now on, and how are they people who live in them trying to survive?

Still, when you mention regions or farming and mountain villages, inevitably there is a tendency to imagine isolated and insular communities, but many of these communities have strong urban connections in various respects. For example, businesses such as tourism have been expanding by promoting the special characteristics of local areas to bring people in, so another big topic is to think about what kind of structure has given rise to this.

When we look at the area of Nagakute, where Aichi Prefectural University is located, a distinctive point is its location right on the border between Nagoya, the central area within the prefecture, and the other surrounding areas, particularly the rural areas. Moreover, urbanization districts and urbanization improvement districts have been set up. In the urbanization improvement districts, rice paddies, fields, and woodlands still exist in their original state, and there are noticeable traces of traditional communities where not much housing land development has been done. On the other hand, the areas designated as urbanization districts are being turned into bedroom communities and commercial zones. These special characteristics of this area are, I believe, extremely related to why it also became the site for the Aichi Expo, which was held in 2005. Because it aimed to be an environmental expo, the Aichi Expo chose Nagakute and Seto as venues in order to keep changes to the surrounding environment to a minimum, but a major factor was probably the fact that there was an abundance of nature in a place on the city’s boundaries.

You might say that Nagakute is an area undergoing a popular revival precisely because of its ambiguous nature. It is not good policy to destroy, through the principle of development, what is left of the environment in urbanization improvement districts and other areas and to lose the dominant position of ambiguity that is so hard to come by. I think the ideal way to go is development that places an importance on balance.

Starting From Environmental Issues, My Interests Moved Toward the Local Tourism Industry

 

Actually, during my student days, the topic I took up for my master’s thesis and my doctoral dissertation was environmental issues. I originally was interested in environmental issues, but sociology is supposed to deal with human society. Environmental issues had not been dealt with in the past. However, when the 1960s and 1970s came around, environmental issues became more apparent. During this time, the environment also came to be seen as falling under the category of sociology, since it was one factor with large ties to human society.

To explore how environmental issues and human society are linked and connected, I began by tackling rivers. First, I proceeded to areas where the environmental burdens from modern development were becoming a problem, such as levee protection works and dam construction projects, and studied what kind of logic was being used to promote them or to oppose them. In that process, I came across areas that were marketing nature by turning it into a resource. There was also an environmental boom, so a phenomenon was occurring whereby previously ignored mountains covered with virgin forests were found to have new value and people started visiting them. Wondering what that was all about, my interests in tourism began to bubble up. While on the one hand the tourism that regions are involved in has a positive side of wanting to improve their local communities through such means as economic revitalization, job development, and exchanges with city residents, there are also situations where there is no choice but to rely on tourism in the relationship between cities and regions. From both aspects, I hope I can decipher what kind of initiative the people in these regions are trying to show.

The basis of my research is fieldwork. Sometimes I invite my seminar students on field surveys, but only about half of them show an interest and come along. Rather than read something they have compiled by examining only documents, it is more satisfying to read something they have compiled by thinking about it in their own way through the process of going to a site and interviewing various people, even if the papers have the same level of polish. I think that’s because they come up against realities they did not anticipate and desperately try to reflect on them. I even had a student who decided which career to pursue based on field study. The importance of fieldwork becomes visible through the figures of such students.

I Want Students to Acquire the Power to Navigate Our Fluid Contemporary Society

 

My specialty of sociology looks at contemporary society after modernization. Contemporary society is something with an extremely fluid and unpredictable nature. Even knowledge and technology that are considered new and necessary right now might become unusable ten or twenty years down the road. Sooner or later, people will need to have things like new knowledge suited to the environments in which they live and methods for approaching problems that must be solved. I want students to become able to think about those things and collect them on their own. For that reason, what I strive to do is to not treat them too kindly. In other words, that means resisting the temptation to give them all the directions from one to ten. The younger generations of today often say, “That’s too much trouble.” But if they are told to do something, they do it without worrying how much trouble it is. Well then, what is “too much trouble” is doing thing like thinking on one’s own, choosing things on one’s own, and discovering things on one’s own. However, it is precisely those “troublesome” things that will help them navigate the murky future. It may be difficult to get students to learn this over the course of four years in college, but by making a point not to give students everything, I hope I can bring out the ability in them to think on their feet and come up with questions on their own.

Profile

Department of Japanese History and Culture, School of Japanese Studies

Associate Professor IDO Satoshi

Areas of Specialty: Sociology

After completing a doctoral course in the Graduate School of Letters at Kyoto University, he engaged in postdoctoral research. In 2003, he took a position as Associate Professor in the Department of Japanese History and Culture in the School of Japanese Studies at Aichi Prefectural University. His main research topics include “A Sociological Grasp of Changes and Restructuring Caused by Modernization in Local Communities” and “A Structural Grasp of Sociocultural Relations Between Cities and Farming Villages.” On campus, students call out to him like a friend and sometimes ask him to take their photograph to commemorate the moment. But he really dislikes being in the photograph himself.

Interview: HAYASHI Yūgo; Writer: MIYAUCHI Kyōko

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