Organized Panel Session
Population decline of and outmigration from rural communities have been at the forefront of rural revitalization programs by policy makers and local actors as well as topics of interest among the media and the academic community. Yet how people really fare in these rural communities in regards to their well-being and levels of happiness is still a matter of contention: Quantitative research so far remains divided as to whether people in rural or urban communities per se are more or less happy. In response, I have conducted in-depth interviews with 24 people in southwestern Japan in 2018.
In this paper, I analyze how two forms of mobility, i.e., physical ability to move around in the rural area and relocating from a city to a rural community, influence people’s degree of happiness. I argue that the lack of autonomous physical mobility, such as being “paper drivers” and being dependent on others for getting around, is experienced as significantly negative. On the other hand, moving into a close-knit rural community is not considered negative per se and does not decrease well-being. It is rather connected to the dreams, visions, expectations (and economic means of endurance), as well as the ability to forge new networks with select individuals that increases well-being. The paper argues that despite remaining an outsider in rural Japan, happy existences can be forged, with issues of age, gender, and profession of further importance.