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Dual Characters – Emerging Patterns of Local Civic Self-Governance in Rural Japan


Hanno Jentzsch, Leiden University

Since 2015, the Japanese government has promoted so-called “regional management organizations” (chiiki unei soshiki, RMO) as part of the “Japan Revitalization Strategy”. RMO are local self-governance bodies to sustain (rural) livelihoods and supplement public service provision at the sub-municipal level. RMO are expected to assume a “dual character” (nimen-sei) by combining deliberation (e.g., devising revitalization plans) and implementation. Moreover, they are characterized as both civic organizations and (often highly dependent) “partners” of the local state. Finally, they serve as a new form of “proactive” local self-governance, while also typically remaining closely tied to traditional local self-governance organizations, such as neighborhood associations. Based on field research in several localities between 2017 and 2022, this paper analyzes the institutional tensions that arise from these ambiguities and explores local attempts to overcome these tensions through adaptation, formalization, or separation.