Shrinking but Happy? The Impact of Social Capital on Subjective Well-Being in Rural Japan


On March 22nd and 23rd, the Japanese Studies Section at the Department of East Asian Studies hosted a two-day workshop about social capital and subjective well-being in rural Japan.

The PhD-team (Dionyssios Askitis, Stefan Hundsdorfer, Antonia Miserka, and Sebastian Polak-Rottmann), currently working on a research proposal regarding this topic, discussed methodological approaches and theoretical concepts together with five experts from different research areas.

Lola Martinez from London introduced practical research tips of field investigations in rural Japan. Afterwards, Tolga Özsen from Canakkale exchanged ideas with the team about the importance of certain terms, such as the understanding of ‘family’ for empirical studies. Ueno Shinya (Kumamoto University) discussed the possibilities of research of social capital in Japan and emphasized how crucial social relations can be when investigating local issues. Mark Cieslik (Northumbria University) gave valuable insights into his qualitative, sociological happiness research, putting particular emphasis on the importance of biographical aspects of interviews. Finally, Wolfgang Manzenreiter presented the department’s research on subjective well-being and happiness in the Aso region in Kumamoto.

Another highlight of the workshop was the Happiness Café, which took place on the second day. Thanks to the laid-back atmosphere, PhD students were able to talk in smaller groups with the four international guests about their individual projects in greater detail. This gave the team the opportunity to receive helpful input for their research and connect with those highly interested in this research field.

By Sebastian Polak-Rottmann, translated by Leonie Kroesslhuber