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The student movement in Japan faded from public consciousness around the year 1970. Part of its passion for revolution migrated from urban centers to the countryside, creating a trajectory towards social reform through agriculture. In modern Japan, there have been many attempts to link the notion of an ideal society to agriculture and nature. The utopian “New Village” that novelist Saneatsu Mushanokoji founded in 1918 is one such “agricultural commune.” In fact, “agricultural communes” are closely tied to literature.
Mushanokoji died in 1976, but the “New Village” began its own decline later, starting from 1983. This time period also coincided with agricultural recession and the increasing urbanization of Japan. The aging of rural populations was accelerated by youth moving to cities and away from their hometowns, where jobs were limited to agriculture.
Natsuo Kirino’s Politikon (2011) is a novel that most directly depicts such an image of the “agricultural commune.” The population of Iwan Village, an old utopian village, ages and diminishes in the late 1990s. Seventy years into its founding, the village can no longer maintain what was envisioned as its most important ideal – self-sustainability – thus signaling its end.
The afterlife of Mushanokoji’s “New Village” utopia is cruelly depicted in Politikon, a vivid projection of our contemporary issues.