Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Gregory Veeck


In this dissertation, I examine aspects of Japan's rural and agricultural restructuring using Aomori Prefecture's apple industry as a focal point. Though using multiple spatial scales, I concentrate most on changes in agriculture and economy in the Tsugaru region, Aomori's main apple-growing region. A historical overview of Tsugaru and its apple industry provides the background necessary for understanding today's circumstances. Archival and ethnographic methods examine modern-day changes and document the views of individual farmers and their families. Located at the northwestern-most tip of Japan's main island, the Tsugaru region was historically one of Japan's most remote and impoverished regions. The introduction of apples in the mid-1800s transformed Tsugaru, providing it with not only a measure of economic security, but also a source of regional pride. Within just a few decades, Tsugaru had become famed for its apples, a fame that continues today. However, like farmers across Japan, apple growers face a host of modern-day challenges. Japan's rapid urbanization and industrialization have led to urban overcrowding, rural depopulation, and a dearth of farmers. Most of Japan's farmers farm only part time, while an increasing majority near the age of retirement. At the same time, international pressures and domestic political changes have led to the gradual lowering of protective trade barriers and agricultural supports, the long-time buffers of Japan's largely small-scale farmers. For apple growers, precipitous drops in apple prices have made recent years especially harsh. These factors and others have led many farmers and farming communities to fear for their futures. However, while some will be driven out of business, others have tried to find means of coping, whether through new marketing or production methods, or through new industries.