Craft, Rural Revitalization, and Transnationalism: Preliminary Findings Concerning Three Case Studies in Shimane, Shizuoka, and Tochigi, Japan | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This paper investigates three grassroots craft-related enterprises in rural Japan that take advantage of natural and cultural resources, local identity, and infrastructure, as well as transnational flows of people and knowledge, to energize their communities faced with depopulation and economic decline: an international cultural exchange program for young makers in an individual potter's studio in Misato, Shimane; a biannual international ceramic art festival that holds lectures, demonstrations, and exhibitions in Sasama, Shizuoka; and a 200-year old lodge and hobby pottery school that receives volunteers from abroad in exchange for accommodation in Mashiko, Tochigi prefecture. Based on preliminary field research consisting of participant observation and interviews with creators, coordinators, and participants of these programs, I will consider their background, goals, and possible role in triggering human social transformation and local development. Aiming at rural revitalization and community invigoration through the selling and exchange of knowledge and experiences on-site, these enterprises constitute a sustainable alternative to predatory tourism by drawing on a "relationship population" (kankei jinkô) in between one-time visitors and permanent settlers. By encouraging the establishment of ties between locals and international artists, as well as amateur and veteran craft makers, such enterprises have not only led to the transmission of traditional craft skills beyond national borders but can also lead to the creation of cosmopolitan transnational communities in rural areas. Through the three case studies, I aim to bring a new perspective on the role of art, crafts, and creativity in a more sustainable, integrated, and humane concept of development.


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