Project

Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Centre for Regional Partnership are looking for someone who would be interested in putting together a collaborative grant application for a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship.

For information regarding the fellowship please see: http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-fellow/index.html

The Centre for Regional Partnership would be interested in supporting a grant application with someone who specialises in rural development, rural governance, partnership and networking, or related fields.

Previous experience of Japan / knowledge of Japanese language is not essential but would be beneficial.

For further information or expressions of interest please contact lukedilley[at]people.kobe-u.ac.jp

The Eighth Sasayama-ya

On October 14, we had the 8th Sasayama-ya in which Kobe University students sell their farm products.

The edamame and the rice sold at the Sasayama-ya have been raised by Nishiki-goi, a group of students who have been involved with farming activities at Nishiki-Minami district in Sasayama city. With their efforts for the promotion, the edamame and the rice were sold out in 10 minutes.

For those who could not purchase the edamame and the rice this time, please come to the next Sasayama-ya on the 20th and 27th.

Reported by Hiromi Yatsu

Forth A-Launch Event

The forth A-Launch event was held on February the 8th and was led by Dr. Nakatsuka of the Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences. The topic of this A-Launch talk was Student and Community Action (chiiki tsukuri). Dr. Nakatsuka started by posing the question of what chiiki tsukuri "was". He argued that the conception of chiiki tsukuri predominantly revolves around the idea that local revitalisation is best achieved through local groups and individuals coming together with the purpose of improving their local area. However, he argued that it was important that locally based activities drew on extra-local forces. It was here that he suggested that students could play a vital role in contributing to chiiki tsukuri. In this regard, his talk focused on the role of students in chiiki tsukuri, and the means by which they could become involved. For those students already involved in chiiki tsukuri this was a chance for to think about their work.

Dr. Nakatsuka argued that places and people are similar, there can be times when the atmosphere or mood is good, and times when it can be bad. However, it is important that people involved in chiiki tsukuri are positive and enjoy themselves. Thus, if you are not enjoying yourself, you do not have to push yourself too hard.

After highlighting the importance of ensuring that those involved in chiiki tsukuri enjoy themselves, Dr. Nakatsuka outlined what he thought characterised a vibrant local area: 1) there are a diverse range of actors who wish to make a difference to their local area; 2) there is lively exchange; and 3) lots of people wish to see the development of an attractive and interesting area.

Dr. Nakatsuka went on to highlight how there are already many local events that students are involved in, but he argued that there needs to be some thought related to both the purpose and means of these events. Both the means and aims of events require their own different types of thinking. Neither is more important than the other, and both require careful consideration.

The revitalisation of a local area, Dr. Nakatsuka pointed out, is not something that can be done by one person. It is important that everyone becomes involved in chiiki tsukuri and that at regular intervals people come together. However, in relation to those involved in chiiki tsukuri, there will usually be a “core group”, an “active group”, a “peripheral group” and finally “outsiders”. It is perhaps important that the core group undertake the majority of the work. However, in order to ensure that the number of those taking part in activities increases, if someone is to leave the group, for any reason, it is important to welcome them back warmly when they return.

It was pointed out that there were groups would felt that because their numbers were decreasing they could no longer organise in community activities. In this case, Dr. Nakatsuka argued, it is important to lend support to other organisations and groups. There are lots of organisations and activities that student groups can participate in.

Finally, Dr. Nakatsuka said that it was important to remember that local revitalisation will not occur overnight, and that such revitalisation will take small incremental actions and steps.

After the talk by Dr. Nakatsuka a number of participants raised points for further consideration. One of these points related to the need for students to consider as to whether their activities actually contributed to chiiki tsukuri, or were in-fact a burden on local people. Furthermore, students had to make sure that local people did not have unrealistic expectations in relation to what the students could achieve. Finally, the students were asked to consider how a core group could encourage other people to take part in community activities.

Forthcoming Event

8th Rural Learning Network Seminar

Agricultural Diversity: Spreading Models of Environmentally Beneficial Farming

Speaker: Nishimura (Hyogo Prefectural Government, Agricultural Administration, Environment Department)

Date: March 9, 2013

Location Kobe University's Sasayama Field Station ( map )

Fee: 1000 Yen (food and one drink included)

Program:

16.30 – 17.00 Networking
17.00 – 17.10 Introduction (Dr. Nakatsuka)
17.10 – 17.40 Seminar Session (Mr. Nishimura)
17.40 – 18.50 Dialogue Session (Break, Table Talk, Inclusive Talk)
18.50 – 19.30 Summary and Networking
19.30 Finish

The foundation of rural areas is farming. Farming, however, takes many shapes, from large-scale farms to co-operative farming systems, from farms run by young people to farms run by veterans, from environmentally friendly farming to organic farming. Yet, it is important that these types of farms coexists.

In regards to the promotion of such diversity, it is important that farmers, citizens, public agencies, Non-Profit Organisations and Universities work together. From this perspective, it is imperative that we work out our aims and objectives, and how we can achieve them successfully.

What is the Rural Learning Network?

The Rural Learning Network seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of development and regeneration in rural areas.

If you would like to register for the event please fill out the following online form .

Seventh Rural Learning Network Event

“Thinking about the Study of the Rural and the Urban”

Seventh Rural Learning Network Event

The Seventh Rural Learning Network was held in partnership with Motomachi Cafe on January, 11, 2013. Unlike previous events the sixth Rural Learning Network seminar was held in Kobe City near Motomachi Station. The event attracted over 60 participants.

The event was opened by Mrs. Fuse who outlined the programme and encouraged the attendees to network and learn from each other. Subsequently, attendees were invited to exchange business cards and introduce themselves to those sitting at the same table. After this networking time, Dr. Nakatsuka from Kobe University explained the aims and purpose of the Rural Learning Network. He said that the hope of the Rural Learning Network seminars was to move away from a one way learning experience, towards a interactive and inclusive form of knowledge sharing event which included a cross section of organisations and individuals. Dr. Nakatsuka also outlined some of the questions that the Rural Learning Network had to address in the future. These included: how to secure long-term funding, whether they should connect various learning themes, whether they should expand the membership and topics explored as well as how to build partnerships across the prefecture and nation. Moreover, it was argued that it was important that the Rural Learning Network went beyond just talking about development, but also attempted to “do” development. The longer term aim was the development of small groups which undertook practical tasks aimed at solving tangible issues. These groups, it was suggested, would then feed learning points back into the Rural Learning Network.

Following Dr. Nakatsuka's introduction of the Rural Learning Network, Mrs. Takahashi from Hyogo Prefectural Government outlined the aims and work of Motomachi Cafe. Motomachi Cafe is currently restricted to Hyogo prefecture government workers. However, there are regular events in which speakers are invited from both inside and outside government to speak on various topics. Since its inception in 2011 there have been 26 such events. The aim of Motomachi Cafe is to increase motivation and develop broader understandings around a variety of issues that effect the region. Mrs. Takahashi told of how the Motomachi Cafe events sought to be conducted in a friendly and enjoyable atmosphere so that members did not see their participation as “work” but rather an enjoyable shared learning experience. Mrs. Takahashi did suggest that in the future Motomachi events should be open to everyone and take place regularly once a month. She highlighted how it would be interesting comparing the different aims and formats of Motomachi Cafe and the Rural Learning Network.

After the opening talks by Mrs. Takahashi and Dr. Nakatsuka, participants were asked to discuss in their groups the development of 'Learning Spaces'. A 'Learning Space' is understood to take a variety of formats, from virtual online forums to material meeting spaces in which people come together to learn from each other. Each group was given a sheet of poster paper and post-it notes on which they were encouraged to write down their understandings, questions and ideas in relation to 'Learning Spaces'. These were then subsequently posted on whiteboards around the room allowing all participants and opportunity to discuss any points that were raised. It appeared that some of the groups had struggled with the concept of a 'Learning Space' and were unsure of their role within the event.

Following the period of time set aside for discussion, there was a question and answer session. One of the questions that was asked related to some of the problems that rural areas faced. Mr. Kino from the NPO NOTE argued that there were no problems for the reason that rural areas had the foundations to overcome the challenges that they currently faced. A further question was connected to how or if it was possible to change the governance system. A number of people answered this question each with varying view points on the feasibility and means of doing so. Towards the end of the question and answer session Dr. Ikeda from Hyogoritsu University noted that there were many people coming together, each with own ideas, talents and examples of practical solutions to contemporary issues. He suggested that what was important was following the process and letting the end points emerge.

At the end of the event Mr. Kino and Mr. Kondo summed up the evenings proceedings. Both noted that it was important for learning spaces to include a broad range of participants and for such spaces to facilitate participatory learning. However, Mr. Kino stressed that although it was important for people to come together and discuss, there needed to be a move away from solely talking towards practical activities aimed at overcoming contemporary challenges.

What is the Rural Learning Network?

The Rural Learning Network seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of development and regeneration in rural areas.

Food Security and Obesity: Third A-Launch Event

Food Security and Obesity

We were delighted to host Dr. Tanaka from the University of Kentucky for the third A-Launch event held on December, 20, 2012. Dr. Tanaka's talk centred around the apparent paradox of increasing levels of food insecurity and obesity found in the United States of America.

At the heart of this paradox, it was argued, was a complex interaction between economic, structural and spatial factors which were in turn connected to institutionalised social inequalities based on class, race and gender. In this regard, food insecurity and obesity could be understood as interlinked phenomena that were connected to class and race, poverty, accessibility of food, the cost of food as well as structural transformations of the agriculture and food systems. These shifts included the increasing use of agricultural products for bio-fuels as well as the increasing abundance of nutritionally poor, cheap, calorie dense food stuffs. Often, the factors connected to obesity and food insecurity also had a spatial dimension. For example, food accessibility and affordability varied between rural and urban areas. Indeed, one of the intriguing points that Dr. Tanaka highlighted was that despite America being seen as the bread basket of the world, many rural areas in the United States of America are marked by a poor availability of quality food. This complex interaction of factors connected to food insecurity and obesity meant, Dr. Tanaka argued, that there was a need for interventions which both tackled the structural determinants as well as micro-level factors related to both food insecurity and obesity.

What is A-Launch?

A-Launch is a series of open talks held at lunch time in Kobe University. The A-Launch talks act as a show case for some of the research that is being undertaken in Kobe University in fields related to agriculture, food and rural issues. A-Launch aims to facilitate discussion and interaction between those with an interest in contemporary rural issues. The events have somewhat of an informal style and we invite you to come along, enjoy, listen and discuss while eating your lunch.

Forthcoming A-Lauch Event

Third A-Launch Event

“Food Security and Obesity”

Dr. Tanaka (Kentucky University)

School of Agriculture Building A, Conference Room 302-1

We are delighted that Dr. Tanaka from Kentucky University, United States of America, will be leading the third A-Launch event. Dr. Tanaka obtained her Doctorate at Michigan University and is now an Associate Professor at the Department of Community Leadership and Development. She is also Co-Director of the Asia Centre which provides outreach programmes for Asian societies in Kentucky.

Dr. Tanaka\'s talk will focus examine the paradox of the modern agri-food system in the United States of America. She will also talk about her experience of studying abroad.

What is A-Launch?

A-Launch is a series of open talks held at lunch time in Kobe University. The A-Launch talks act as a show case for some of the research that is being undertaken in Kobe University in fields related to agriculture, food and rural issues. A-Launch aims to facilitate discussion and interaction between those with an interest in contemporary rural issues. The events have somewhat of an informal style and we invite you to come along, enjoy, listen and discuss while eating your lunch.

Forthcoming Rural Learning Network Event

"Thinking about the Study of the Rural and the Urban"

The next Rural Learning Network event will be held, for the first time, outside the Tanaba area. The event will take place in Kobe in collaboration with the Motomachi Cafe.

Date: Friday, January,11 2013
Location: Kobe City, Motomachi, Hyogokenminkaikan (兵庫県民会館) Room 303 (303号室)

The Rural Learning Network aims to move away from the "Listen, Listen, Listen and Go home" style seminar towards "Listen, Think, Discuss and Understand".

Rural Learning Network events are open to all and we invite you to join us to discuss contemporary rural issues.

Rural Learning Network Event

Rural Areas and the Potential of Wood Energy

26.11.12

The Rural Learning Network seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of development and regeneration in rural areas.

We were delighted to welcome Mr. Noguchi to lead the sixth Rural Learning Network Event. Mr. Noguchi, who is based in Tanba, Hyogo, has extensive experience at both a local and national level in the lumber business. At the beginning of the event Mr. Noguchi outlined his understanding of the current state of forestry in Japan. It was noted that 67% of Japan was forested, of which 40% was planted, however, in contrast to other developed countries, Japan is only 25% self-sufficient in timber.

From about the early 80s demand for and hence the price of Japanese wood began falling. The current price of wood in Japan corresponds to that of the 1950s. This has had a sever impact on the Japanese forestry industry. However, this reduction in demand has meant that stocks of Japanese wood have begun to increase. Currently over 60% of planted forest in Japan is made up of trees that are about 45 years old.

There is currently a plan to make greater use of Japanese forestry resources. This will, however, require the development of large scale processing, distribution and retail infrastructure as well as the development of a market for the wood. Such large scale utilisation of wood in Japan would require a basic forestry 'unit' of about 100 hectares.

At this moment in time, however, there is likely to be a large quantity of low quality wood. It will be essential to make use of this woody biomass. It was here that Mr. Nouguchi proposed that this low quality biomass could be used for energy. What he meant by this was that the wood could be used for residential heating and/or combined heat and power generation. However, Mr. Nouguchi argued that utilisation of forestry biomass in this way would require consideration of: global warming, the establishment of large scale lumber systems and the relationship between nature/forests and local people.

Following Mr. Noguchi's talk, the second part of the event consisted of 'dialogue'. Participants were arranged into groups of four or five people and following introductions and a light meal, the groups were asked to think about how they would manage 100 hectares of forest.

Subsequently the groups were asked to discuss, in the context of the preceding talk, some of the learning points, questions and ideas. The participants were encouraged to write these thoughts down and post them on a white board. There were facilitators at each table to encourage this processes.

This was then followed by a question and answer session, in which some of the event facilitators choose questions posed by the participants. The questions were answered and discussed by Mr. Noguchi.

Once the question and answer session had concluded, group participants were asked to provide 'ideas' so that a singular story could be built around the problem and possible future directions for forestry management. Following this, the groups were given one minute to make an “elevator pitch” to all the participants. An 'elevator pitch' is based on a concept that normally you only have the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator to 'pitch' an idea to someone.

Finally, time was set aside for discussion amongst all the event participants. At the end of this discussion session, Mr. Noguchi suggested two points that needed to be considered more deeply: firstly, what is the role of the participants in relation to the forest, and secondly; who, or which generation, has responsibility for the local forest?

Information relating to the next Rural Learning Network will be posted at a later date.

A-Launch

Introducing A-Launch

A-Launch is a series of open talks held at lunch time in Kobe University. The A-Launch talks act as a show case for some of the research that is being undertaken at Kobe University in fields related to agriculture, food and rural issues. A-Launch aims to facilitate discussion and interaction between those with an interest in contemporary rural issues. The events have somewhat of an informal style and we invite you to come along, enjoy, listen and discuss while eating your lunch.

Second A-Launch Event: “Bring Japan and the UK together: A Comparative View”

Luke Dilley, from Kobe University's Centre for Regional Partnership, was the speaker at the second A-Launch event held on November 27. The event focused around some of the differences and similarities of rural areas in Japan and the UK.

In order to bring somewhat of a UK flavour to the A-Launch event, members of the Centre for Regional Partnership provided scones and tea to be enjoyed by participants while listening to the talk.

Luke firstly examined some of the main differences and similarities between Japan and the UK. He compared the population, population density, farm size and levels of food self-sufficiency of the respective countries. The talk then examined some of the images of rural areas in the UK and Japan – with the audience asked to outline what images were brought to mind when they considered the rural. This lead into a discussion of the notion of the 'rural idyll' in the UK and how this was linked into the UK's pattern of rural in-migration and communing. Drawing on recent data, it was highlighted how, in the UK, the rural population is predicted to continue to grow. This was in contrast to Japan, which has seen a decreasing rural population.

Luke then highlighted some research that he had carried out in a small town in Hokkaido examining how the youth of the town understood the rural. After some discussion with the audience, Luke suggested that there were perhaps different constructions of the rural within the UK and Japan. He then asked the audience to consider how these 'constructions' might impact on rural areas.

First A-Launch Event: “The Development of the 'Aga-Jyaga'”

Professor Ito from Kobe University's School of Agricultural led the first A-Launch event held on July 20. Professor Ito's talk focused around the development of a brand of potato called the 'Aka-Jyaga' - or literally 'Red Potato'. The talk was accompanied by various dishes that had been prepared using 'Aka-Jyaga'

The form of potato that came to be known as the 'Aka-Jyaga' was the outcome of a cultivation method developed at Kobe University. However, the conversion of this form of potato into a marketable brand – e.g. the 'Aka-Jyaga' – involved the work of many actors. Hence, the development of the 'Aka-Jyaga' was not solely about developing a new form of potato. Rather, Professor Ito highlighted how the process of developing the 'Aka-Jyaga' as a successful brand involved the cooperation and assistance of a variety of actors including Kobe University's School of Agriculture and its staff and students, retailers, restaurants and farmers. It was in the building of these cooperative links that the Centre for Regional Partnership played a role.

Rural Learning Network Event

Historical Documents

06.09.12

The Rural Learning Network (RLN) seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of rural development.

This months seminar was carried out in partnership with Kobe University's Faculty of Literature. Every year the Faculty holds workshops for students to examine old Japanese documents. At this RLN event, however, the aim was to bring together both students and people who live locally to examine old documents and also how to handle them.

The format of the event was slightly different from previous events, as there were many university students attending. The attendees were split between a number of tables, with each table including a number of students and local residents. In total there were 76 attendees, including 39 students, 15 staff and 22 local residents.

The theme of this months seminar was archival material and their role in local development. The discussion was lead by two members of staff from the Faculty of Literature. Firstly Dr. Sakae suggested that in recent years, communities have been disintegrating in rural areas more and more rapidly. However, he argued that historical records and documents contained the history of a region, and hence were important for building and strengthening the relations between people. Thus, the maintenance of such documents was crucial for the vitality of a locality.

Secondly Dr. Itagaki posed a number of questions. He asked people to think about what historical documents were, and what kind of investigations could be carried out with them. Moreover, he said that presently Sasayama City there were plans to open up archives to the public and local residents. He asked people to think about the possibilities this may open up.

Following the talks, each table had a chance to discuss some of the points raised. Each table had 'postit' notes and poster paper. The groups were given a number of categories to think about: (their impressions and thoughts; things they wanted to know more about; questions and things they considered; ideas and things they want to try). Following, Mr. Nagai, the student leader, summarised the output from the groups.

Some of the outputs were:

Impressions and Thoughts:

・The threshold is high
・There might be records of some sort of ancestral impropriety, therefore I do not want the documents open to the public.

Things participants wanted to know more about and questions

・To what degree must someone study before it becomes possible to decipher old documents?
・Isn't it difficult to involve local people?
・Do you have a way to practically use documents from Nishinaka house and do you have a schedule for opening documents to the public?
・What do you do about the differences in conciseness between new and established residents?
・There is willingness from the locals [to do this] but what about people out-with the region?

Ideas and things participants would like to try

・Co-operation with Geography and other subjects
・Practical use of GIS
・What about the co-producing an introductory essay or signboard about the history of the whole area?
・What about converting the documents into a digital archive?
・What about using old documents for a business?
・What about linking this with elementary school classes
・What about training a person capable of preserving and arranging documents?

Both Dr. Itakagi and Dr. Sakae discussed some of the points that were put to them by the participants. However, due to time restrictions it was only possible to skim the surface. However, it was apparent that people were interested in how to best make use of archival materials for local development.

Finally, participants were given the opportunity to see some of the latest techniques in the handling of archival documents. This was a rare opportunity for those taking part.

We would like to thank al the participants for taking part.

Information on the next Rural Learning Network event will be posted at a later date.

Sasayama Seminar

Rural Areas: Abandoned Houses

10.8.2012

Members of the Rural Learning Network participated in a seminar organised by Sasayama Local Council on the 10th of August. The seminar focused on tackling the increasing problem of abandoned, poorly maintained or otherwise decaying houses in rural areas. This is especially true for old 'traditional' houses which are often expensive to maintain and also often lack modern facilities. The event sought to bring a number of organisations together who were seeking to tackle this problem. Leading the discussion on the day was Mr. Kinno from the non-profit organisation 'NOTE'. Also present was Mr. Fujiwara from the 'Kominka Project'. In this regard the event focused on the work of NOTE and Kominka Project. Mr. Fujiwara and Mr. Kinno highlighted some of the projects that these two organisations had been involved in. They demonstrated how it was possible to restore old and decaying houses with the aim of bringing broader benefits to the local area. Mr. Kinno highlighted the model that NOTE had been utilising. NOTE rents a property from the owner (an individual, company or government agency) free of charge for tens years. NOTE then restores the property. The money for the restoration process either comes from NOTE itself or may take the form of a grant. In order to keep costs down NOTE draws on the activities of volunteers and the restoration work utilises as much of the original materials in the property as possible. After restoration, the property is rented out as either shop or business premises with NOTE collecting the rent. After 10 years the property is returned to its original owner. Through this system it was argued that previously old and decaying properties can be restored and utilised bringing new vitality to valued historical property and to the area at a reduced cost while also befitting the original owner.

Rural Learning Network Event

Forestry and Development

23.06.12

The Rural Learning Network seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of rural development. With the aim being to encourage engagement between rural development stakeholders, the seminars, while including presentations by guest speakers, also have time set aside for networking in which local food is served.

The second Rural Learning Network seminar, held on Sunday the 23rd of June, welcomed Mr. Maki as the quest speaker. Mr. Maki is the head of 'Mori-no-gakko' a community social enterprise style company based in Nishiawakura. The company specialises in local woodland restoration and revitalisation with the aim of utilising the rich forestry resources found in the area for the benefit of local people. Mr. Maki explained how his company has invested heavily in the area and is currently in the process of restoring some of the local woodland to a manageable state with the hope that in the future, revenue obtained from the forest could be ploughed back into to local community. However, he outlined how this would be a long process with his vision extending some 50 years into the future.

Mr. Maki also outlined how important it was for his company to build a network of young skilled artists and woodworkers that would utilise the local lumber. He currently has a number of companies and individuals working in collaboration with his company producing, among other things, household furniture, flooring and disposable chopsticks. Mr. Maki highlighted how he was currently trying to build a brand around the image of the social enterprise, the area and the products that were being produced with the lumber. This branding was not only important in marketing the products made with his wood and attracting investment, but also for attracting young talented woodworkers, carpenters and artists who are looking to work in an innovative and dynamic environment.

After briefly outlining the aims and work of his company, Mr. Maki went into more depths concerning the structure of the company and its corporate model. There was interest in how such a model could be applied in Sasayama. However, it was pointed out that Sasayama was not as heavily forested as Nishiawakura and hence, perhaps, did not have the forestry based resources that were needed for such a model. Furthermore, as Mori-no-gakko was exploiting a niche market for high-end furniture and forestry products, questions were raised as to whether the model could be extended to other areas without potentially undermining the market for such products.

Details of the next Rural Learning Network Seminar will be posted at a later date.

Rural Learning Network Event

Rural Diversity

24.05.12

The first Rural Learning Network seminar entitled ‘Rural Diversity’ was held on Thursday the 24th May at Sasayama Field Station. This was the first of a series of Rural Learning Network seminars which are to be held over the following months. The Rural Learning Network seminars aim to bring together researchers and rural development stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of constructive multi-partner dialogue and knowledge exchange. By fostering such engagement the objective of the Rural Learning Network seminars is to contribute to both the theory and practice of development and regeneration in rural areas.

The Rural Learning Network seminar on the 24th saw the coming together of members of the academic community, local government, the voluntary sector and local businesses. With the aim of the seminar being to encourage engagement between rural development stakeholders, the first part of the event was set aside for networking. Food that had been prepared locally was served including smoked venison from a local business and locally grown and handmade ‘onigiri’ or ‘rice balls’.

Subsequently, Dr. Koumoto Daichi, a lecturer in Geography at Kobe Shukugawa Gakuin University, presented to the audience. Dr. Koumoto’s seminar outlined a geographical approach to the study of rural localities. He highlighted how ‘place’ is a product of culture, human activity, flora and fauna as well as geomorphological features. This construction of place within multiple overlapping spheres means that there is a multiplicity and diversity of rural spaces formed by particular fusings of the cultural, biological and the topographic. Dr. Koumoto applied this understanding to an area of small villages in a mountainous area of Japan close to where he was born.

The purpose of the Dr. Koumoto’s presentation was to stimulate discussion and critical thinking about the future of rural development and regeneration in Japan. To this end, audience participation was encouraged and the final part of the evening consisted of a question and answer session. The attendees had been invited throughout the seminar to write down questions and post them on a number of boards placed around the seminar facility. These notes were the basis of the question and answer session.

The Rural Learning Network seminar generated discussion between a variety of rural development stakeholders. The seminar successfully moved away from ‘the sage on the stage’ format towards a more interactive and shared learning experience in keeping with the ethos of Sasayama Field Station and the Centre for Regional Partnership. Building on the experience and success of this first event the next Rural Learning Networking Seminar will be held in June with further details to be posted at a later date.

Graduate School of Agriculture, Kobe University
1-1 Rokkodai-cho, Nada, Kobe, Hyogo 657-8501, Japan
TEL & FAX : 078-803-5939
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