Creative Revitalization in Rural Japan

Lessons from Ishinomaki


  • Yao (Nancy) JI Keio University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Heide IMAI Senshu University, Tokyo, Japan



sustainable development, creativity, rural revitalization, Ishinomaki, Japan


Different disasters throughout history have prompted Japan to develop diverse approaches to recovery, revitalization, and local resilience. The current global COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. In this paper, we argue the need to study the impacts of COVID-19 on outside major cities such as Tokyo as such areas were already experiencing socioeconomic decline. Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture is a city that has also been undergoing extensive post-disaster reconstruction after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE), notably through various bottom-up approaches, often initiated by volunteers and migrants bringing new, creative ideas to community revitalization. These efforts continue to shape the social life of its residents during COVID-19, making Ishinomaki an important case study in both disaster reconstruction and rural revitalization. This paper examines examples in which creativity played a key role in revitalization, recovery, and community resilience in Ishinomaki over the last decade to shed light on current creative revitalization initiatives at the grassroots level, initiated and carried out by citizens. Drawing on an ethnographic approach conducted remotely in the form of semi-structured interviews, the paper presents the personal narratives of a diverse range of residents and social networks committed to rebuilding the soft infrastructure that is often overlooked compared to hard infrastructure. The paper proposes suggestions for the future based on lessons learned from the past decade, and hopes to illuminate how Japan’s rural areas are adapting to a new normal in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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How to Cite

Ji, Y., & Imai, H. (2022). Creative Revitalization in Rural Japan: Lessons from Ishinomaki. Asian Studies, 10(1), 211–240.