- The Human Geographical Society of Japan
- 人文地理 (ISSN:00187216)
- vol.54, no.2, pp.109-130, 2002-04-30 (Released:2009-04-28)
With the restructuring of the Japanese economy during the 1980s, many large enterprises were obliged to downsize or shut down mines and industrial plants. In this paper, we explore the closure of the Takashima coal mine in 1986 by its owner Mitsubishi, one of Japan's largest corporations, as a typical example of industrial decline in one of Japan's peripheral regions. This coal mine had been operating on the small island of Takashima for 118 years. In particular, the authors examine the difficulties experienced by redundant workers in different hierarchically-defined classes in reacting to the closure and the need to reorganize their lives.The results of the research are as follows:(1) During the mining era, there existed a three-tiered social structure, organized by Mitsubishi's mining company, consisting of three differentiated classes of workers: the managerial staff, Mitsubishi's own miners, and miners working for subcontractors. The workers in each class had quite different backgrounds, particularly with regard to educational attainment and occupational skill.(2) When the mine closed, the managerial staff were not retrenched, but instead were relocated from Takashima island to other establishments owned by Mitsubishi. All of the miners, however, whether employed by Mitsubishi or by subcontractors, lost their jobs, and had to seek new jobs and new lives outside of Takashima island.(3) In comparison with workers made redundant by other restructuring industries, such as steel and shipbuilding, Mitsubishi's former miners received a great deal of economic support from both the government and the company. Miners previously employed by subcontractors received little help, however, from their former employers.(4) Former miners, whether previously employed by Mitsubishi or by one of its subcontractors, experienced much greater difficulty in finding new jobs than workers made redundant by other industries. There were also big differences between former Mitsubishi miners and those previously employed by subcontractors in terms of the locations where new jobs were found, the size of their new employers and the salaries they received.(5) During the six months following the closure, out-migration was highly selective: those most likely to leave Takashima island were people of comparatively high social status, such as managerial staff, Mitsubishi's former miners, and younger heads of households. Since then, the municipality of Takashima has failed to revitalize its local economy and has suffered from severe depopulation and a rapid ageing of the community.(6) Miners made redundant by the closure of other Japanese coal mines in the 1980s experienced similar difficulties to those experienced by Takashima's miners in finding new jobs and rebuilding their lives, reflecting the common characteristics of miners everywhere.