Japan's Coal Industry Restructuring and Community ResponseeBook - 1999
Industrial restructuring has become a way of life, the inevitable accommodation to rapid changes in technology, to a global economy that affects large and small communities through the constant flow of goods and people, and to the challenging patterns of economic viability that alter that flow. Managing Decline examines the impact of coal mine closures in Yubari City, Hokkaido, once one of Japan's most prosperous coal-producing cities, and asks how Japanese culture has influenced the enactment of and response to industrial policy for restructuring in this community.
For many years, coal formed the backbone of Japan's economic development, but the dangers and costs of mining became increasingly expensive for the industry and government. Global changes in coal production and exchange finally prompted Japan's decision in 1986 to shut down nearly all domestic coal mines in favor of coal imports. Japan's policy for industry restructuring has been applauded as one of the most comprehensive in addressing the needs of the industry, the workers, and the community. At the micro-level, however, the people in the community most affected by the policy decisions have been excluded from the process.
Managing Decline reveals the stratified effects, as well as compensation, for the different groups in Yubari. Although the policy settlement package goes to the coal miners, community redevelopment ignores their needs, prompting them to leave the city and benefiting instead land owners and public employees. Revealed as well as the ways in which Japan's cultural values, particularly the vertical social structure as it affects decision making, status, occupations, and company organization, and the importance of maintaining the family system, figure in the policy process and its consequences. The author's research, based on two years' residence in Yubari during the last few years of the closures, makes an important contribution to community studies of social change in Japan. It is also the first field study to examine the effects of industrial policy for restructuring in Japan at the worker and community level.