Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan
The pride of local leaders … was emotionally powerful and reminded me of the lives, dreams and histories that lie behind the distressing statistics of rural depopulation. These memories figure prominently in my professional and academic plans and priorities.
Dr. Coates was twice awarded the Japan Foundation fellowship, once in 2010 and again in 2014. His more recent fellowship took him to Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Kyoto.
My recent fellowship work focused on transitions in rural Japan, related to issues of adaptation to the “new economy” and the general decline in rural economies. I visited more than 20 communities, mostly small villages and remote locations. We met with various national and regional government officials with responsibilities for rural economic development and with academics in Sapporo, Tokyo and Kyoto.
I was able to get a front-line perspective on rural depopulation, economic decline and the largely unsuccessful attempts to attract new economic companies into the regions. I was able to connect Japan’s important story — it has one of the fastest rates of rural depopulation in the world — with my work on Australia, Canada, Scandinavia and Western Europe. I was able to compare Japan’s policies with other national and regional initiatives and to better understand the rapid decline of rural and small-town economies. Japan’s small towns have stronger political representation and power than most rural districts and have secured stronger and often larger national investments than in other jurisdictions. But, even with this support, Japan’s rural areas faced continued and even precipitous declines.
Dr. Coates credits his Japan Foundation fellowships as significant contributors to his role within the Japan Studies community in Canada.
The fellowships solidified my role within the Japan Studies community in Canada … and I was able to use the research on digital content and rural depopulation to secure invitations to major Canadian and international conferences.
On a four-day driving tour through rural Japan, I had a chance to visit numerous communities, meet with local entrepreneurs and better understand the nature of rural business and local economic development in Japan. I was exposed to the resilience, determination and, in some cases, the desperation of community leaders who saw treasured lifestyles to be at serious risk. The pride of local leaders — exhibiting the full force of topophilia (love of place) was academically empowering and motivating — was emotionally powerful and reminded me of the lives, dreams and histories that lie behind the distressing statistics of rural depopulation. These memories figure prominently in my professional and academic plans and priorities.
The two Japan Foundation fellowships proved extremely beneficial. I was able to publish numerous articles and books — and I am still working on comparative rural studies based on the second fellowship. I have given talks on these subjects in Canada, the USA, Scandinavia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I have given dozens of talks to professional and community groups and have used the lessons learned about Japan to better understand important global transitions. The fellowships solidified my role within the Japan Studies community in Canada (I served as President of the Japan Studies Association of Canada for 6 years), and I was able to use the research on digital content and rural depopulation to secure invitations to major Canadian and international conferences.
Today, Dr. Coates continues to incorporate the knowledge he garnered from his fellowships into his research on technology in rural areas.
I worked, following the first Fellowship, on a global comparative study of the digital content economy, which was published several years ago (The Global Digital Economy: A Comparative Policy Analysis, Carin Holroyd & Ken Coates, 2015.) I am currently working, based on the second Fellowship, on a similar study of rural depopulation and resilience. In both cases, Japan figures prominently in the analysis, providing a welcome counterbalance to the more widely discussed experiences in the United States and Western Europe. I hope to have the second project done in 2 years.
I have built my current research program — on the impact of emerging technologies on rural areas and small towns around the world — on the combined insights I gained from my two Japan Foundation Fellowships. I have worked hard to incorporate Japan lessons into my comparative studies of Indigenous rights, technological change, rural and small-town development, with the understanding that Japan’s experiences in these areas continue to be of global significance.