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Combining Documentary Archives with Survey Data to Advance From Case Studies to Large-N Analysis of the Japanese Commons

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Hayasaka, Keizo
Conference: Commons Amidst Complexity and Change, the Fifteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Conf. Date: May 25-29
Date: 2015
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/9834
Sector: Global Commons
Information & Knowledge
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): commons
Abstract: "Villagers of Kotsunagi in Iwate Prefecture in Japan fought a famous legal battle over the span of four generations to recover their lost commons; the courts have assigned the case to mediation, with negotiations currently at a stalemate. During the struggle many citizens and scholars from around the nation formed a support group, called Iwate Kotsunagi no Kai [Supporters of Kotsunagi in Iwate]. In 2003 our group established the Kotsunagi Archive [Kotsunagi Bunkō] to collect, preserve and study historical documentation on as many of the Commons [Iriai] in Iwate as possible, which also required that we persuade Japan’s courts not to discard records from completed court cases. Our group aimed to gather documents on the commons in Iwate, and especially on disputes about the commons, as comprehensively as possible, to elucidate the actual variety as well as the shared features among all these cases from many points of view. We are also entering the results of government surveys of the commons into a database, which we will augment with material from the Kotsunagi Archive. In some cases the Kotsunagi Archive includes documents produced by the protesting commoners themselves, their arrangements with lawyers, and their thoughts after particular developments or events; thus the archive can actually illuminate the ways in which the experience affected their thoughts about protest, rights, and environmental management. We are presently working on the government’s nationwide survey of 1911, which in Iwate Prefecture alone examined 275 units of common [Iriai] lands, subsuming a total area of 110,478 hectares of commons. This survey was detailed enough to include inquiries about rules for managing resources, the user groups, income from the commons, and the local economy. This survey did not examine all of the commons in Iwate at that time, but we have reason to believe that there were approximately 600 commons in Iwate in the late 19th century, which suggests that the survey sampled almost 50% of the available commons. These commons were lands that that were not merely used in common but were actually owned jointly either by villages (村有) or by the hamlets within villages (部落有) – in Iwate. This survey is the only one done on hamlet-owned and village-owned commons over a 140 year period of modern Japanese history that will allow us to deduce the real figures for total common land (by adding two additional categories of commons -- state-owned commons (国有地入会) and commons nominally registered as the land of individuals (名義個人有入会地) with an additional legal agreement on file stipulating that these individuals are simply representing the community of customary owners. Insofar as the Kotsunagi Archive and other records permit, our plan is to trace the history of every Iwate case that appears in the 1911 survey for which we have archival documents before and after the 1911 survey date, and to build a secure and reliable database useful for many kinds of quantitative and qualitative analysis."

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