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The Yanbaru Model of Community Stores: A Case of “Third Place” Local Governance


Gabriele Vogt, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

I use the term “third place” local governance to address the seemingly apolitical realm, where citizens contribute to local governance through everyday practices. This paper studies the community store of Oku in the Yanbaru region of Northern Okinawa as an example for a physical manifestation of “third place” local governance. The store contributed to the small hamlet’s relative wealth in the pre- and postwar years; and the profit generated by the store was used for welfare policies. The store’s management style of direct democratic decision-making spilled over into the hamlet administration. More recently, however, substantial outmigration and population aging next to large-scale economic restructuring have robbed the store of its financial power and citizen support alike. Taking the Oku community store as a case, this paper discusses the potential and limitations of “third space” local governance.