Traditional or Economic Values? Analyzing Absentee Landowner Attitudes Amid Social and Agricultural Transformation in Japan

Yohei Katano, Pierce Greenberg, Jon Agnone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agricultural landownership in Japan has changed drastically over the last century due to post-World War II land reforms and cultural, political, and economic shifts in the subsequent decades. Initial land reform shifted the concentrated ownership of land from the wealthy to small-scale farmers. But as Japan industrialized and became more urban-centered, a substantial amount of rural land has been left abandoned or unmanaged by descendants of those farmers. This paper analyzes the attitudes of absentee agricultural landowners in Japan to better understand the prevalence of economically rational versus traditional attitudes toward land ownership. We draw on the rural sociological literature on place attachment to hypothesize why some absentee landowners feel a strong tie to the land of their ancestors, while others would be willing to sell for a reasonable price. We use unique survey data obtained from 466 absentee agricultural landowners in Japan. Logistic regression results indicate that attachment to place, gender, age, educational attainment, and usage of land is significant predictors of whether landowners hold traditional, rather than economic, values. We discuss the implications of these findings for the future of sustainable agricultural land management in Japan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRural Sociology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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