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Analysis / Close-Knit Community

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Furusato and the Idealization of Village Life in 21st Century Japanese Media

As described in Naomi Clark's discussion of the cultural origins of the Animal Crossing games, furusato (meaning "hometown" in Japanese) is a cultural fantasy describing an idealized 18th century Japanese village characterized by shared, communal existence over multiple generations. Clark points out that in the early 2000s, the Japanese economy was just beginning to come out of the economic recession of the '90s (something it has still not quite managed to accomplish as of 2020), with home ownership at an all-time low and urbanization levels, extremely high. It is therefore unsurprising that any media tapping into the fantasy of owning a home in a "simpler time and place" would get so popular.

It can be furthermore speculated that a major contribution to this was the cultural fatigue of rapid modernization, industrialization, and urbanization that Japan has been charging ahead with for over a century (from the Meiji era, through imperialist expansion and WW2, to the post-war boom that ended in 1991). Such a rapid transformation of a society from a network of Close-Knit Communities to a population of urbanized, alienated individuals (i.e. from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft) inevitably spawned a reaction that idealizes the pastoral lifestyle of their ancestors.