Global Furusato: Japan, Myanmar, and an NGO’s work of making a global ‘home’

By Chika Watanabe, University of Manchester, Social Anthropology. Open for all.

Chika Watanabe is a lecturer (assistant professor) in social anthropology at the University of Manchester.

The Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA) is one of the oldest NGOs in Japan that derives from a Shinto-based new religious group. The NGO is known for its year-long training programs in sustainable agriculture and environmental education. This paper, taken from a forthcoming book manuscript, explores how Japanese and Burmese staff members at OISCA struggled to understand and enact the latest organizational mission of making a global furusato (“home-place” or “native place”). This particularist-universal vision aimed to create landscapes of human-nature coexistence in the image of a Japanese rural furusato around the world, as well as to instill in people everywhere the awareness that Mother Earth is our ultimate universal furusato. Staffers in Japan struggled to understand how they could translate this vision into practice, while staff members in Myanmar generally saw the training centers as their furusato but were not necessarily aware of the global mission. We see here how development aid work in this form involved engagements with contingent processes of deciphering visions into action, of finding the links between the means and ends of their work. The paper proposes frameworks for understanding development projects that emerge from a Japanese organization in an Asian regional context, decentering dominant analyses based on Euro-American case studies.


Chika Watanabe is a lecturer (assistant professor) in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her research and teaching interests revolve around issues of development, humanitarianism, NGOs, religion and secularity, ethics and morality, and disasters. She has published and forthcoming essays in journals such as Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, and American Ethnologist. She is currently working on a book on one of the oldest NGOs in Japan and its projects in Myanmar, forthcoming from the University of Hawai’i Press.

Published Aug. 24, 2017 10:24 AM - Last modified Nov. 22, 2017 2:43 PM