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Hard Times in the HometownA History of Community Survival in Modern Japan$

Martin Dusinberre

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835248

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835248.001.0001

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Furusato Boom, Kaminoseki Bust

Furusato Boom, Kaminoseki Bust

(p.136) 9 Furusato Boom, Kaminoseki Bust
Hard Times in the Hometown

Martin Dusinberre

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the concept of furusato, which literally means “old village.” It can also be translated as “hometown,” a term that captures the sense of roots, tradition, and nostalgic community harmony. The chapter examines the postwar wave known as the “furusato boom,” in which city dwellers idealized rural Japan, projecting their desire for an unpolluted and “natural” environment onto supposedly unspoiled hometowns. However, it also argues that the discourses of hometown life at the local level would develop in very different ways from those crafted by consumers of the furusato boom in the cities. To study the 1970s furusato boom is more to study the experiences of people who left the hometown than of those who stayed behind.

Keywords:   furusato, furusato boom, postwar wave, hometown life, rural Japan, city dwellers

Let us preserve nature: let us reconsider the cultural assets in our midst!

Cultural assets are said to be the furusato of our heart. Such cultural assets in the natural world—the various assets that over time have been nurtured in our midst—are now gradually being lost owing to pollution and the transformation of the social environment. We must therefore look anew at those precious assets, in the present environment, that have been passed down from old: we must become intimate with them, treat them with care, and preserve them as inheritances that will truly give pleasure to the next generation.

Thus began a front-page article in the Town News edition of 20 November 1971, some six months after the election of the new mayor, Kanō Shin. In part, the article is of interest because of the language of “cultural assets” (bunkazai): whereas in the mid-1950s, cultural discourse in Kaminoseki had been tied to the desired “improvement” of everyday living conditions and to the construction of a “culturally new” municipality, by the early 1970s, it instead looked back to the “old” (furui) times of the past. But exactly what should be preserved from that past and in what form it should be passed on to the next generation became the subject of increasingly heated debates in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The significance of those debates was heightened by the discourse of furusato, appearing in the pages of the Town News for the first time. Literally meaning (p.137) “old village,” furusato—which can also be transliterated as kokyō—has been translated by scholars as “native place,” “home village,” and “my old country home,” but to my mind “hometown” best captures the sense of roots, tradition, and nostalgic community harmony implied by the word. Before the 1970s, there had been two major waves of furusato/kokyō popular discourse in Japan, in the 1880s and in the 1920s—both periods that coincided with intense urbanization and that thus found young urban newcomers pining for the supposedly simpler, better community life that they had left behind.1 But the third, postwar wave, known as the “furusato boom,” was different: whereas the city dwellers who had yearned for their hometowns in previous periods were likely to be first-generation migrants who had specific memories of a particular village and who maintained ties to that village through older relatives, their counterparts in the 1970s were generally two or three generations removed from the countryside. As numerous scholars have argued, this meant that city dwellers idealized rural Japan to an extent even greater than in previous waves, as they projected their desire for an unpolluted and “natural” environment onto supposedly unspoiled hometowns—the real travails of which they were ignorant.2

The Town News article suggests that local administrators in communities such as Kaminoseki attempted to voice similar concerns over nature, pollution, and the social environment from the early 1970s onward. But as this and subsequent chapters reveal, the discourses of hometown life at the local level would develop in very different ways from those crafted by consumers of the furusato boom in the cities. Indeed, to study the furusato boom of the 1970s is more to study the experiences of people who left the hometown than of those who stayed behind. What, we might ask, did people in the hometown feel about their furusato?

The postwar history of Kaminoseki offers us one answer to that question not only because we can reconstruct the reality of everyday life in significant detail, but also because Kaminoseki became the particular object of idealized furusato representations in the mid-1970s. In April 1974, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) began to screen a new “morning drama”—a genre of television soap opera that regularly drew more than 20 million viewers right through the 1960s and 1970s.3 Hatoko’s Sea (Hatoko no umi) told the fictional story of a young girl, orphaned by the Hiroshima atomic bomb, who grew up in Kaminoseki, moved to Tokyo at the age of twenty, and then eventually returned to her hometown in the drama’s final episodes, set and screened in March 1975. By juxtaposing the fictional story of Hatoko with the concerns and expectations of Kaminoseki town councillors, this chapter highlights the extent to which another (p.138) postwar divide, between urban representations and rural realities of hometown preservation, had emerged in Japan by the mid-1970s.

But Hatoko’s Sea was also important for a second reason: the drama was made, and screened, at a particular time in Japanese history, when the aftermath of the first Oil Shock (October 1973) threatened to undermine the very foundations of the postwar economic model, thereby bringing the “bright life” to a premature end. A significant subplot in the drama is thus the importance of atomic energy as a substitute for Japan’s overdependence on Middle Eastern oil. Although the author of Hatoko’s Sea could not know it, this was a story line that resonated in Kaminoseki itself—not because of the nuclear power plant plan, which was still more than five years away, but because the livelihoods of hundreds of Kaminoseki households were tied to the evolution of Japan’s mid-twentieth-century energy policy. To understand the concerns and expectations of Kaminoseki’s town councillors at the time that Hatoko’s Sea was screened, we therefore need to understand those leaders’ experience of Japan’s postwar energy transformation—a story that will take us back, for the moment, to the early Meiji period.

The Kase and Katayama Households

On the northwest side of Nagashima island stands the village of Shiraida, a settlement whose 148 households, in the early 1840s, ascended steeply from a small port. In the Edo period, Shiraida “farmers,” like their counterparts in other neighboring settlements, engaged in by-employments: while young laborers from Iwaishima went to sake breweries and those from Yashima served as crew on whaling ships, Shiraida’s men went to work in the salt fields of Mitajiri, in central Chōshū. Early modern salt manufacturing entailed boiling concentrated sea brine to produce salt crystals. For this purpose, coal was transported to the Inland Sea from the rich seams of northern Kyushu; by the late nineteenth century, half of all the coal mined from northern Kyushu was used for salt production.4 The coal was carried in small, thirty- to forty-ton cargo ships, and, starting in the 1870s, Shiraida villagers began to join these ships as an alternative source of by-employment—one that was less back-breaking than working in the salt fields.

The wooden ships sailed not only between northern Kyushu and central Yamaguchi prefecture (as Chōshū had become), but also to the salt fields of Okayama and, on the northern coast of Shikoku, Ehime and Kagawa.5 Thus (p.139) the straits communities once again found themselves on a key shipping route through the western Inland Sea. As small harbors with a history of welcoming kitamae-ships, they were ideally placed to service the overnight needs of the coal transporters, which were themselves of an ideal size to navigate the narrow channels of the Inland Sea.

Similar to their Edo period predecessors, the small ships sailing through the straits at the turn of the twentieth century were generally operated by independent owners rather than franchised by large corporations such as Mitsubishi or Mitsui. As the demand for coal rose in newly industrializing Japan and as steel also began to be transported eastward from the huge new factory at Yawata in northern Kyushu (opened 1901), there were new employment opportunities for anyone who could afford to buy a ship. If there happened to be shipbuilders in the village (such as Kaminoseki’s Niikawa household, whose son went to Hawai‘i), construction costs could be kept local and thus somewhat reduced. If the aspirant ship owner was bound into a complex network of household and kinship ties (similar to the pattern on Iwaishima), then he effectively belonged to a mutual assistance association that could lend him money and thus keep debts within the community. And if there was a surplus of young workers who owned no land and who had no steady income stream, then there were many potential crew members who could be cheaply employed, helping to reduce operational costs and thus enabling the ship owner to repay his debts faster.6 Such was how the marine transportation industry (kaiungyō) began to develop in Shiraida, where the number of ships owned by hamlet residents increased from 31 to 50 between 1906 and 1913, and ship tonnage also increased by as much as eightfold, to more than 300 tons per vessel in the mid-1930s.7

For an enterprising young man such as Kase Mihosuke (c. 1877–1932), the development of the marine transportation industry offered an opportunity to restore battered household fortunes. Mihosuke was the third son of Kase Chūnoshin, a former sword smith who had worked in the mid-1860s under the professional name Seiryūken Moritsugu. The tsugu of his given name, meaning “next,” indicates that he was probably the chosen successor to Seiryūken Moritoshi II, a master sword smith who worked for Lord Kikkawa, daimyo of the Chōshū subdomain of Iwakuni.8 The Seiryūken swords were not particularly famous outside of Iwakuni, nor are they rated very highly by experts today, but to be a sword smith in the direct employ of a daimyo at least guaranteed one a steady income from the domain. Moritsugu/Chūnoshin, who was probably born in the mid-1840s and whose workshop was in the Kaminoseki (p.140) port area, may have believed he had a promising career ahead of him—especially given that Japanese sword smithery had revived in the first half of the nineteenth century, following the perception of a new threat from the West.9

Unfortunately for Chūnoshin, it was not to be. In 1871, the new Meiji government not only abolished the Edo period domain governments, but also, in an effort to be seen as “modern” by the Western powers, forbade the carrying of swords. Having effectively been made redundant, Chūnoshin was asked by the Shinto priest of Shiraida to use his metalwork skills to make agricultural tools for local farmers.10 Relative to farmers, rural blacksmiths could earn a decent income in mid-Meiji Japan: in nearby Ōshima county, their average monthly income was 4.7 yen in 1885 (5.7 yen for the most successful practitioners), while that of the average farmer was 3.2 yen—although both incomes were much smaller than those earned by Hawaiian emigrants in the same period.11 Three of Chūnoshin’s seven sons, including Mihosuke, also trained as blacksmiths, and, at some point between Chūnoshin’s death (in 1892) and 1905, Mihosuke established a branch household and a workshop specializing in the manufacture and repair of spades, scythes, knives, scissors, harpoons, and other agricultural and fishing tools.12

As he looked across the straits from his Kaminoseki workshop to the sail-powered coal transporters passing by, Kase Mihosuke realized that the village’s “culture” could no longer rely on the production of knives, scythes, and the like. In the mid-1910s, he began to hear about a new type of internal combustion engine that had been developed in the West and was now being manufactured in one or two Inland Sea shipyards. Known in Japanese as yakidama, the hot-bulb engine was safer, more efficient, and easier to operate than its steam counterpart. Thus Mihosuke decided to send his brother-in-law and apprentice, Nishiyama Yōichi (born 1892), to study the design of hot-bulb engines at the Nakatani Engineworks in Okayama prefecture.13 When Nishiyama returned, the Kase workshop began to manufacture engines for local ship owners. As demand picked up—with the Kase engines becoming known as far afield as Hiroshima, Ōita, Kōchi, and even Shanghai—Mihosuke also sent his eldest son, Kiyotoshi (born c. 1907), to study hot-bulb engines at technical high school in Hiroshima; he had chosen the toshi character for his son in memory of Seiryūken Moritoshi II, the given name of his father’s sword smith master.

From swords to ploughshares and now to engines: in just two generations, the Kase household had reinvented itself as a manufacturer not of traditional weaponry but of modern technology. In so doing, it entered a period of remarkable (p.141) prosperity: in 1914, Mihosuke paid the median rate of household tax in Kaminoseki, but by 1948 his son Kiyotoshi was the joint-highest taxpayer in the village municipality, with former apprentice Nishiyama Yōichi also ranked in the top 5 percent of taxpaying households.14 Nishiyama, for his part, bought a prime plot of land next to the Kase Engineworks in 1931 and constructed his own two-story house there five years later; his “unprecedented” success apparently caused him to be seen as a “hero” on Iwaishima, whence he originally came.15 At its zenith, the Kase workshop employed up to thirty local workers and apprentices, some of whom went on to establish their own engineworks on Iwaishima or in the outlying hamlets of Nagashima.

One of the Kase Engineworks’ first local customers would have been Katayama Shimazō, from the village of Shiraida. Although Shimazō was the son of a master shipbuilder, he decided to construct his own ship and then to make a living as a ship operator, not as a carpenter.16 As coal production continued to expand through the 1920s and the 1930s, reaching a peak of nearly 57 million tons in 1940,17 perhaps his decision reflected the greater profit a ship owner could potentially make: more coal meant more money for men like Shimazō. Although records from 1931 indicate that the Katayama household paid only the average rate of household tax relative to others in Shiraida, five years earlier, Shimazō had been one of the first men in the village to attach a hot-bulb engine to his ship.18 In so doing, he turned a sailboat (hansen) into a hybrid engine-sail boat (kihansen) and thus was at the forefront of a dramatic increase in such hybrid boats throughout the Inland Sea region.19 In Shiraida itself, of the 76 ships registered to the hamlet in 1939 (a ratio of more than one ship to every three households), 42 were hybrid engine-sail ships, while only 34 were traditional sailboats.20

With new power, Shimazō was also able to travel farther afield: in the 1930s, he regularly carried a cargo of timber from Mokpo in Korea to Osaka, at the same time initiating his first son, Hideyuki (born 1931), into the ways of the sea. From the outbreak of the Pacific War onward, Shimazō worked as a captain on an oil tanker, transporting that precious commodity from Southeast Asia back to the Japanese mainland. But as the United States tightened its submarine blockade of the archipelago in 1944–1945, the merchant navy was particularly vulnerable to attack. Shimazō’s tanker was sunk by a bomb late in November 1944: the captain lost both legs in the blast and died soon afterward in Taiwan.21

Katayama Hideyuki was just thirteen when his father died, and instead of entering high school, as he had planned, he joined one of Shiraida’s hybrid engine-sail ships as a junior crew member so as to support his widowed mother. (p.142) From 1947, coal production in western Japan began to recover from the devastation of war, and Hideyuki’s ship transported coal from the Ube mines, in central-southern Yamaguchi, to the generating plants of Kansai Electric Company in Amagaseki, near Kobe. The years 1947–1952 were a period of “easy money” for shippers,22 and Hideyuki, who had become a captain in around 1950, began to save money in order to buy his own engine-sail boat—a dream that he achieved five years later, when he bought a 100-ton secondhand ship from a friend in Shiraida. The cost of the boat was 1,000,000 yen: a mutual association fund raised one-third of the money, relatives lent another third, and the final 300,000 yen was given by his wife’s relatives to mark the occasion of Hideyuki’s marriage. Hideyuki now became one of Shiraida’s sixty-five hybrid ship owners—a ratio of one boat to every four households—and in a pattern repeated throughout the Inland Sea, his wife joined his ship as a crew member. The engine-sail boats were family businesses in every sense of the word.23

The first three months of 1957 thus saw Katayama Hideyuki continuing to make money at sea and Kase Kiyotoshi (Mihosuke’s son) entering the third and final year of his term as head (kuchō) of Kaminoseki district—a reflection of the ongoing political and economic status of the Kase Engineworks within the village. One of Kase’s duties in these months would have been to assist researchers from Yamaguchi prefecture as they gathered data on every aspect of economic life in the municipality. Their subsequent report, The Living Conditions of Residents in the Districts of Murotsu and Kaminoseki, highlighted the importance of the marine transportation industry to the town’s wider economy. In general terms, marine transportation accounted for 41 percent of the total income generated by town industries in 1955—equivalent to that generated by fishing and farming combined. The particular dependence of the local economy on the engine-sail ships could be gauged in three other ways. First, nearly a third of the town’s 160 manufacturing laborers were employed in engineworks such as that owned by Kase Kiyotoshi. These workshops, each staffed by no more than fifteen people in the 1950s, were the biggest single manufacturing employers in the municipality.24 Second, 95 percent of the 113 ship-owning households in the town employed between two and nine workers (the standard crew for an engine-sail ship was four or five people). Since the vast majority of these employees were locals, more than four hundred townspeople—around 8 percent of the total workforce—earned their living as crew-members in the hybrid ships. Third, 94 percent of the ships that docked at either Kaminoseki or Murotsu ports in 1955 and on which shopkeepers, inn (p.143) owners, and brothel proprietors were dependent, weighed below 500 tons—the majority of them hybrid boats from other regions of the Inland Sea.

In other words, the economies of several hundred ship-owning, engine-building, and crew-providing households in Kaminoseki plus several hundred more shop-proprietor households were either directly or indirectly dependent on the proliferation of engine-sail boats in the mid-twentieth-century Inland Sea. As long as coal remained the primary source of fuel for the Japanese economy, these households were assured some kind of livelihood—even if, as the report revealed, the standard of living in Kaminoseki was lower than anywhere else in Yamaguchi prefecture.

All this changed with the first energy revolution—a shift from domestic coal to the cheap imported oil that underpinned the so-called Jinmu boom (1955–1958) and thus coincided with the emergence of the “bright life” rhetoric in postwar Japan.25 As oil replaced coal, steel tankers came to be necessary: this meant a decline in business for Kaminoseki’s shipbuilders, who generally specialized in wooden construction. As steel tankers replaced wooden ships, stronger engines came to be necessary: this meant that traditional engine-works, such as the Kase/Nishiyama workshop, increasingly dealt not with hot-bulb but with diesel engines, which were too complex for them to manufacture on site and which also cost more. As the costs of tankers and engines increased, new forms of capital were necessary: for would-be ship owners in a small community with an already high poverty rate, this meant applying for bank loans, which were more difficult to acquire than mutual association arrangements between local friends. And as the size and navigational capabilities of ships improved, small harbors such as Kaminoseki and Murotsu became less convenient places to dock—especially once the licensed quarters had been outlawed in 1957–1958.

The 1960s thus witnessed a dramatic decline in the number of hybrid engine-sail boats not only in Kaminoseki, but also nationwide. Overall, the number of wooden cargo boats in the Inland Sea peaked at 25,600 in 1963 but declined to 6,600 in 1974. In the same period, the number of steel cargo ships (under 500 tons) increased fivefold, to 5,600, and the number of steel oil tankers (under 500 tons) increased almost threefold, to 2,200.26 No statistics survive for the Nagashima hamlet of Shiraida, but if the rate of decline in wooden engine-sail ships reflected the nationwide figures, then perhaps fewer than twenty households remained as wooden ship owners by the early 1970s. The nationwide shift from coal to oil, and its consequences for Kaminoseki’s marine (p.144) transportation industry, was surely one explanation for the exodus of young people from the town between 1955 and 1975.

As with the economic transformations of Kaminoseki and Murotsu in the late nineteenth century, not everyone was a loser. In the Japanese idiom, ship owners in the late 1950s and early 1960s could become “fat” by selling their secondhand ships to others and upgrading to newer, bigger ships whose greater tonnage brought greater profits.27 One such success story was Katayama Hideyuki himself: in around 1960, he became one of the first and only men in Shiraida to make the transition from wooden engine-sail ship to steel oil tanker—a 300-ton vessel that he bought with the help of a substantial loan from a local bank. Over the next decade, he kept upgrading to ships with a bigger tonnage, each time selling his older vessel cheaply to a neighboring ship-owning household.

By 1970, Katayama’s company, Matsuyama Kisen, operated five oil tankers, each of which employed several local crewmembers. In this way, he created a web of social and financial dependencies that would serve him well when, in 1970, he was apparently prevailed upon to become a town councillor. Aged thirty-nine, Katayama was the youngest of all successful candidates that year. In the following 1974 election he polled more votes than any other councillor in the town, and in 1978 he became speaker of the council assembly.28 His was a meteoric political rise in a town facing economic and population decline.

Hatoko’s Hometown, 1974–1975

Born in 1931, Katayama Hideyuki was, at most, nine years older than the fictional Hatoko; like her, he had lost his father in the war. But as the opening episodes of Hatoko’s Sea made clear, Hatoko lost everything in the war, including her name.

The opening scene of the first episode, broadcast on 1 April 1974, features Hatoko in her mid-thirties, strolling along an unidentified sandy beach—actually a beach in Murotsu—and gazing out to sea. As the camera zooms in, she turns to face us directly, and her tender features dissolve into a dark, featureless screen labeled “Shōwa 20 [1945], August.” We see the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and hear a child crying. A new scene opens: a scorching day, and a little girl limps along the side of a railway track, disheveled and in tears. As a passenger train trundles by, overflowing with refugees fleeing a destroyed city, a woman falls off and begs for water, her hands bearing the unmistakable scars of the bomb. The girl has nothing to give and must watch the woman die in agony.29

(p.145) Eventually, the girl is picked up from the side of the railway track by a friendly soldier, a deserter on the run. She is taken to his hometown, a place called Yanai, and then on to a village called Murotsu. Cast ashore from Murotsu to drift in a rowboat across the straits, her journey ends in Kaminoseki: there she is adopted by the local people and given—in reference to the Old Testament symbol of peace—the name Hatoko, “dove child.” She will be raised by a kindly family and attend school in the village until eventually she decides to strike off on her own for a new life in Tokyo. The year is 1959, and Hatoko is about to turn twenty: Japan is entering the Iwato boom as Hatoko enters adulthood.

As with many other NHK morning dramas broadcast since the genre’s inception in 1961, Hatoko’s Sea served as a lens on the social fabric of postwar Japan. At its most basic level, the story of an ordinary woman overcoming family hardships—a common theme in such dramas—was a metaphor for the recovery of Japan from the depths of war.30 Thus Hatoko’s memory loss, triggered (as the drama reveals) by witnessing at close hand the atomic bomb, stood for the collective trauma of 1945, while her growth to adulthood, according to a newspaper retrospective thirty years after the first broadcast, “traced the path of the postwar Japanese people.”31 In these ways, the protagonist was similar to that of another NHK morning drama in the 1980s, Oshin, in which grandmother Oshin is “Japan itself, and her life therefore takes the viewer on a guided tour of the landmarks of twentieth-century history.”32 (Along with Oshin, Hatoko’s Sea was one of the most popular series NHK has ever made, with an average rating of 47.2 percent of all television viewers across the twelve-month period of its transmission.)33

At a second level, Hatoko’s Sea was a story of a young woman’s search for her own identity—an identity effaced by the bomb but eventually rediscovered at the end of the drama. In this way, Hatoko’s life journey spoke to one of the central themes of the furusato boom, namely, the search for individual identity through domestic travel. The opening image of the drama, for example, echoed the iconic images of the 1970–1978 “Discover Japan” campaign, designed for Japan National Railways by the advertising giant Dentsu. Just as Hatoko was depicted walking alone on a deserted beach, so “Discover Japan” featured images of young women strolling pensively through beautiful but unidentified Japanese landscapes—crossing paths with a Buddhist monk on an ancient forest path bathed in sunlight, for example, or meeting a wrinkled old farmer near a quiet mountain shrine.34

The account executive of the campaign was Fujioka Wakao, a Dentsu employee who, like Hatoko, had been evacuated from Tokyo to western Japan (p.146) during the war (in his case to Iwakuni, roughly halfway between Kaminoseki and Hiroshima). Fujioka later recalled that “Discover Japan” stood not only for the anticipated discovery that young women would make of a physical landscape, but also for the discovery of themselves: they sought “a stage on which they might play out their own journey.”35 Just as rural locations reached by train could be “stages” for these women, so Kaminoseki was merely a backdrop for Hatoko’s journey of discovery. By watching the drama each morning, a viewer might learn plenty about the character of the protagonist but very little about Kaminoseki itself—about the depopulation crisis that was beginning, for example, in exactly the period she was depicted as leaving the hometown. In this way, both the drama and “Discover Japan” epitomized what one contemporary scholar called “the apparition of furusato,” in which metropolitan viewers and travelers expressed an interest in generalized hometowns that were themselves stripped of any individuality and referenced instead by idealized images of mountains, rivers, forests, and (in the case of Hatoko’s Sea) beaches.36

Hatoko may have discovered her own identity, but by the end of the drama’s screening, Kaminoseki’s leaders faced the loss of the town’s, especially in the wake of the hybrid shipping industry’s decline. In this regard, a third theme of Hatoko’s Sea was important, at least in hindsight. After Hatoko arrives in Tokyo, she is courted by a young man called Kiyohisa, a nuclear physicist who works for Japan Atomic Power Company on the development of the country’s first ever atomic reactor, located in the village of Tōkaimura, northeast of Tokyo. In a crucial scene, Kiyohisa attempts to convince Hatoko of the value of his research. “No matter how things ended up for you because of the atomic bomb,” he pleads, having heard the story of how she was brought to Kaminoseki in August 1945, “I don’t want you to mix that up with the research I’m now doing into the peaceful uses of the atom. Atomic power in itself is not evil; rather, it’s the humans dealing with atomic power who have the problem.”37

Kiyohisa’s arguments spoke to the particular aftermath of the first Oil Shock, when the market price for a single barrel of oil jumped from around $3 in early 1973 to nearly $12 by January 1974.38 With 62 percent of Japanese electricity generation dependent on oil,39 Tokyo bureaucrats had long been aware of the economy’s overdependence on imported oil: hence the construction of an atomic reactor at Tōkaimura in the early 1960s, a project on which the fictional Kiyohisa was working as he attempted to convince Hatoko to marry him. Indeed, a young politician and future prime minister called Nakasone Yasuhiro (born 1918) had been petitioning the US occupation authorities to permit Japanese nuclear research as early as 1951. Although Nakasone successfully requested (p.147) a budget for such research from the Lower House of the Diet in March 1954, the attempts of the pronuclear lobby to make a distinction in the popular mind between nuclear destruction and “atoms for peace” were undermined by the Lucky Dragon incident in the same month, when Japanese fishermen were fatally exposed to radioactive fallout from US nuclear weapons tests on the Bikini Atoll.40

This so-called nuclear allergy, from which Hatoko and millions of other Japanese suffered, was one reason that a direct transition from coal-generated electricity to nuclear-generated electricity was never realized; the cheapness of Middle East oil and various technological difficulties were also factors in the shift first from coal to oil.41 But the Oil Shock underlined the need for a second energy revolution, from oil to the atom, to be accelerated in the early 1970s. Apart from anything else, this was necessary for the maintenance of a standard of living by which millions of Japanese took it for granted that they could sit down and watch a fifteen-minute television drama each morning, on what was now in most cases a color television. The heroine of Hatoko’s Sea thus found herself drawn into a wider debate, through Kiyohisa, about the nature of Japan’s energy future. This was a fictional story line, depicted as occurring in the early 1960s, that nevertheless reflected a real debate that was taking place in Japan in 1974–1975, at the time of the drama’s broadcast.

In Kaminoseki, the convergence of post–Oil Shock energy policy, the landscape of Hatoko’s Sea, and the preservation of the furusato first occurred in November 1976, when Mitsubishi Corporation proposed the construction of a major storage depot for Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) in the municipality.42 The promotion of LPG was one aspect of the Japanese government’s response to the Oil Shock: no electricity had been generated by LPG in 1965, but by 1975 it accounted for 2 percent of nationwide generation, rising to 3 percent in 1985.43 The overall strategic importance of weaning Japan off its dependence on imported crude oil was thus the first point made by Kaminoseki officials as they attempted to explain the benefits of the LPG plan to town residents.44

The national picture notwithstanding, municipal leaders were privately more focused on the local benefits of the proposal. Thus, in a confidential report prepared by senior town councillor Suzuki Ryōichi, we can sense the disappointment that some town leaders felt at the downturn in town fortunes since the heady days of June 1969: “Ten years ago, Kaminoseki bridge was completed and, at that time, great prosperity was expected for Nagashima and for the whole municipality. But looking at the trends of the last ten years, the ironic result is that depopulation has progressed and that the bridge has instead actually spurred the (p.148) outflow of people [from the town].”45 Indeed, statistics revealed to town leaders that as large numbers of workers left the town each year, tax revenues declined: local taxation (chihōzei) had accounted for 16 percent of the municipality’s total income in 1960 but fell to half that figure in 1975. Conversely, Kaminoseki’s dependence on central government subsidies (chihō kōfuzei) rose from 38 percent to 47 percent in the same period.46 Thus Suzuki summarized “what we can expect” from the LPG plan: between 80 and 100 new workers in the town, leading to an increase of between 100 and 150 children in the future and thus a “halt” (hadome) to the ongoing exodus, with positive knock-on effects also for the town’s farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers, and the local construction industry.

The planned site for the depot was a bay called Nakanoura, four kilometers west of the town center near Hetsu, a hamlet on the northern shore of Nagashima. Faced with the prospect of major land reclamation and the leveling of several hills around the site, landowners in Hetsu led a determined fight against Mitsubishi, and in 1980 the plan was quietly shelved—much to the bitter disappointment of pro-LPG lobbyists. Nevertheless, one significance of the proposal was that it indicated the extent to which town leaders were open to any and all proposals that might fulfill their avowed aim of “attracting business” (kigyō yūchi) to Kaminoseki—even if it meant ripping up the very beaches and seascape that made the town seem so idyllic to viewers of Hatoko’s Sea.

This, therefore, was the dilemma posed by the discourse of furusato at a local level in mid-1970s Japan. On the one hand, the “cultural assets” of Kaminoseki were intimately tied to the preservation of the town’s beautiful “nature”: these were what attracted tourists and television producers alike to the town. On the other hand, the exodus of young people and the decline of the local economy threatened the “culture” of the hometown in terms of an older discourse of everyday life and standard of living. The Town News article of November 1971 claimed that the preservation of cultural assets “will truly give pleasure to the next generation.” But councillor Suzuki, presumably echoing the concerns of many town administrators in his 1979 report, begged to differ. In explaining his wholehearted support for the Mitsubishi LPG plan, he wrote: “Our ancestors are important, but at the same time our children and grandchildren are also important. For the sake of those who will follow us, the preservation of Kaminoseki’s fundamental elements, which have been entrusted to us, can be considered to be the true work of the town councillors.”

Indeed, with Katayama Hideyuki as the speaker of the town assembly in the period 1978–1982, the “true work” of the town councillors was about to begin.


(3.) Tsurumi, A Cultural History of Postwar Japan, pp. 148–149. According to Tsurumi’s figures, Hatoko’s Sea was regularly viewed by 21 million viewers, making it the most popular of NHK’s morning dramas in the 1970s.

(10.) Interview with Kase Sadao, the only surviving grandson of Chūnoshin, 23 January 2005.

(12.) TD (Nagashima) shows that Kase Mihosuke bought a house in Kaminoseki in 1905.

(13.) Interview with the late Nishiyama Hiroshi, the youngest son of Yōichi, 8 January 2005.

(14.) KYM 60, 17. Mihosuke died circa 1932.

(15.) TD (Nagashima). Nishiyama bought the land from Iwaishima’s Izuta household (see Chapter 4).

(16.) Unless otherwise noted, the biographical details on the Katayama household are based on anonymous interviews (number 5).

(18.) In the towns of Kurahashi and Ondo, Hiroshima prefecture, the first engines were attached to wooden cargo ships in 1918. Sasaki et al., “Kihansengyō no shuyō chiiki no jittai chōsa,” p. 45.

(19.) Ibid., p. 45.

(23.) Ibid., p. 53. On the number of ships in Shiraida in 1955, see KC, p. 481.

(24.) Data from MKCJSJ, pp. 17–18.

(26.) Sasaki et al., “Kihansengyō no shuyō chiiki no jittai chōsa,” p. 40. The precise figures are, respectively, 25,550; 6,646; 5,567; and 2,218.

(27.) Ibid., p. 48.

(28.) KK, 20 February 1970; 5 March 1974.

(29.) The following synopses of Hatoko no umi are based on my viewing of the 22 surviving episodes (out of 312) in the NHK Archives and on Hayashi, Hatoko, vol. 1.

(31.) Yomiuri shinbun, 28 May 2004.

(33.) Video Research Ltd., http://www.videor.co.jp/index.htm, last accessed 31 May 2008.

(34.) The first image is printed on the front cover of Ōkado et al., Sengo keiken wo ikiru. The second image is described in Creighton, “Consuming Rural Japan,” p. 246.

(39.) The figures are for 1975: Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Electricity Review Japan 2003–2004, previously available from http://www.fepc.or.jp. Last accessed 24 October 2004.

(40.) For a more extended discussion of the nuclear allergy, see Dusinberre and Aldrich, “Hatoko Comes Home.”

(42.) The LPG controversy is summarized in KC, pp. 580–581. Somewhat surprisingly, I found no articles devoted to the issue in Chūgoku shinbun between 1976 and 1979.

(43.) Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Electricity Review Japan 2003–2004, previously available from http://www.fepc.or.jp. Last accessed 24 October 2004.

(44.) KK, 5 July 1978.

(45.) The memorandum, shown to me anonymously, is dated 31 August 1979.