Tuesday 7 March 2017

The Local Neighbourhood Association (Chōnaikai)

A picture of a sign saying "toban" hanging  on the door of a member of the local neighbouhood association
“tōban” ((person) on duty)

The tag hanging on a door handle signifies that this household is "on duty" to carry out neighbourhood association tasks, such as cleaning up the shared garbage collection point after the garbage truck has been. The neighbourhood association (chōnaikai=町内会) is typically a dozen or more households on a street or cul-de-sac and can be involved in crime prevention, organising local festivals, and mutual support in times of disasters. Although often cited as an example of groupism, collectivism, or harmony in Japanese society, many young people avoid involvement and active members tend to be older, especially retirees. While the stereotype of Japan as groupist has always been over-stated, there are many signs that in recent years younger people, in particular young females, are putting more emphasis on enjoying time by themselves as labels like ohitori-sama, bocchi (alone) and sorojū (enjoying a full life by yourself) suggest. Perhaps the simplistic image of Japan as a groupist society needs re-assessing.