Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 10
Regional Resilience: Lessons from Local Food Systems for Japanese Agricultural Reform
One of the key constraints that has impeded trade liberalization in Japan is a politically-connected and uncompetitive agricultural sector that has opposed market opening for decades. With Japan’s decision to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which continues to move forward even without the United States, Japan’s internal debate on agricultural reform and regional revitalization has intensified. While there are signs of progress, rural Japanese communities continue to face significant challenges in adapting to the more open market that TPP, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), requires. In addition, rural Japanese communities are severely impacted by three major trends affecting almost all highly developed nations: population decline and aging, low economic growth, and urbanization. These interconnected forces are most acute in the countryside because economic activity is concentrated in urban centers such as Tokyo, which draws a majority of young job seekers and leaves rural communities bereft of human capital. In response, the national government has made rural revitalization a primary objective in its official campaign for economic structural reform. Since rural areas are primarily driven by various forms of food production, proposals to tackle rural decline focus on leveraging change through the agricultural sector. Thus, changes in food production policy present an effective lens through which public initiatives aimed at tackling the aforementioned social trends can be assessed. An analysis of central reform themes, informed by firsthand perspectives from local food producers, reveals both potential for success and shortcomings in reform proposals.
About the Author
Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura is the Career Exploration and Outreach Coordinator at Oberlin College. For the 2015-16 academic year, he received a Fulbright research grant to study agricultural reform policy in Japan. He would like to thank the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright-Japan) and the Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Agriculture, at Hokkaido University for their invaluable support of this project.
About the Sasakawa USA Forum
This paper serves as Issue No. 10 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a platform for research and analysis related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional, and global context. In order to gain a more comprehensive view of U.S.-Japan relations, the Sasakawa USA Forum publishes research from experts outside of our organization. Click here for details on how to submit research for consideration.