The 15th of International Conference of the East-Asian Agricultural History (hereinafter ICEAAH) was held at Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea from September 12th to 14th, 2018, of which I had a privilege to be part and present my research. ICEAAH is organized in order to comparatively look at agricultural production, rural communities, and agricultural/rural policies in East Asia and catalyze a broader and deeper understanding. Three East Asian countries of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and People’s Republic of China take turns to host conferences every one to two years. This round of ICEAAH happened to be comparatively small-scale with approximately twenty participants due to some circumstances. This, as a result, allowed the participants to follow every oral presentation and engage in a series of high-spirited discussions.
My research so far involves in Japanese rural communities in the 1950s to 60s and explores how the government’s policies and initiatives on the empowerment of rural women played a role in shaping “rural women” as a social component. Rural women in the 1950s and 1960s supported food production as well as consumption, and their practices were everyday-life based and aimed to promote sustainable agrifood system – the theme of FEAST project. At this conference, my report entitled “Transition of Reproductive Work in Post War Rural Japan: Housewife Ideology and Household Technology” focused on everyday life of rural women to illustrate how they engaged in productive labor i.e. agriculture and reproductive labor including cooking, laundry, child-rearing etc, and how these practices were transformed during Japan’s rapid economic growth. In the 1960s, while a greater interest in better food was observed in rural areas, men started to have another job to add to agriculture, which in return pushed agricultural labor to women. Consequently, overwork of rural women was recognized as a social phenomenon at the time. Following my talk, it was discussed that South Korea also shared the same phenomenon – rural women’s role as management resources had been essential but all of the reproductive labors were disproportionally placed on women. The case study showcased in my presentation illustrated how seeking for better food and agriculture ironically increased the burden on a certain member of family, in other words, women. This finding led me to the need to think about sustainability on a much smaller scale, namely at the individual and household levels, in addition to agrifood sustainability at the community level.
Besides, I had an opportunity to listen to a series of interesting talks, some of which were about organic movements in Germany and England, which catalyzed the world-wide phenomenon, relationships about agricultural production and nation in Japan and South Korea, rural development and environmental problems in postwar Germany and so on. While these talks covered a wide range of time and place, most of them shared research interests and it was thought-provoking and inspiring for my future research.
(Translated by Yuko K.)