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Population decline, municipal amalgamation, and the politics of folk performance preservation in northeast Japan

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Chapter Summary

In rural Japan, post-war population decline is drastically changing the way local folk traditions are situated in community life. This chapter explores a relatively unknown consequence of the Great Heisei Era Amalgamation Initiative, instituted in 1999 as one of many state mandated decentralization policies designed to mediate the effects of the nation's declining total fertility rate currently at 1.26. The chapter begins with a historical overview of state mandated amalgamation initiatives during Japan's modern period (1868-present) to establish the connection between municipal consolidations, population decline, and funding for folk performance preservation in the nation's rural, regional areas. Next, Ishihatooka Kagura is situated within the heritage of its age-old tradition, and inside the boundaries of Towa-cho, itself a product of an earlier state mandated municipal merger in 1955. Research for this chapter was conducted during biannual visits to the Tohoku region from 2002-2006 utilizing an ethnographic approach.

Keywords: folk performance; Ishihatooka Kagura; population decline; Towa-cho



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