4.1. Survey Site
The research clarifies tourism’s impacts on rural livelihood, and specifically regarding sustainability in an aging community, by performing a case study of the farm inn (nouka minshuku in Japanese) group, called Shunran-no-Sato (hereafter, “Shunran”), from the Noto peninsula in central Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture. A Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) project was launched by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to conserve and dynamically manage ingenious agricultural knowledge systems and landscapes. In line with global conservation trends in traditional farming and local culture and traditions, Satoyama Satoumi Landscapes (socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes) from the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture was designated as the first of two pilot sites in Japan by the FAO’s GIAHS program in 2011.
The Shunran group (Figure 1
) is in the hills near the center of the Noto peninsula, which has no outstanding tourist attractions. These farm households are distributed in and around the peripheral areas of two villages, Miyachi and Sakeo in Noto Town. This area was famous for timber production, and its foresters became wealthy several decades ago. Many houses were commodious, solid, and durable. Additionally, a distinguishable rustic landscape and architecture, combining black tiled roofs and white walls, has enthralled tourists both domestic and abroad.
The Shunran-no-Sato Executive Committee was established in 1996 as a local-level committee aiming at regional regeneration by activating multiple industries: farming, forestry, and construction. Among these, the Shunran-no-Sato farm inn group (hereafter, the “Shunran FIG”) manages its farm inn businesses, or farmhouses called minshuku
. These minshuku
are family-operated, Japanese-style bed and breakfasts that offer Japanese-style tatami mat rooms with traditional futon bedding mattresses to sleep on. Currently, the Shunran FIG consists of 47 traditional houses (Figure 2
) distributed across the surrounding 12 communities. The photo (Figure 2
) was taken in early spring, and depicts a typical farmhouse backed by a hill; it faces paddy fields after this region’s harvest.
The first four farm inns were established in 2003, and more farm households subsequently began to participate in the tourism industry. The traditional minshuku farmhouse provides accommodations for only one group of visitors per night, with an accommodation fee of approximately 9500–13,000 JPY per person per night. While this may vary based on the number of tourists in a group, it includes breakfast, dinner, and taxes regardless of the season. The project also offers farmhouse guestrooms to eco-tourists and an opportunity to participate in traditional agricultural activities, such as rice harvesting and mushroom picking.
In 2006, the Ishikawa prefectural office subsidized the Shunran FIG to transform an abandoned local primary school into Kobushi, a lodging facility with ten rooms that also functions as the center of the Shunran FIG. The accommodation fee for Kobushi is 7000 JPY per room per night, without food.
Tourism development in the Shunran FIG can be attributed to the Ishikawa prefecture’s promotional efforts since 2008. Public funding accounts for 4 million JPY (equivalent to 40,000 USD), which has been invested in transportation for elementary school field trips from the nearby metropolis [1
]. Additionally, the Ishikawa prefectural office’s international tourism section spent another 3.4 million JPY for an international exchange [38
], in that the prefectural officer visited Taiwan and participated in a school field trip meeting. School field trip-related agencies in mainland China, Taiwan, and Korea were then invited to Ishikawa prefecture.
Although public funding was not directly used for tourism development in the Shunran FIG, the Ishikawa prefecture provided a series of public subsidies to improve the natural environment and surrounding landscape. In 2011 alone, the prefecture subsidized 7 million JPY toward relevant projects in the Shunran FIG [39
4.2. Data Collection
This study’s data collection involves secondary data, including published papers, reports, and qualitative data from theme-based, face-to-face interviews with host household owners. The researchers consulted the group leader, Mr. T., regarding the selection of interviewees. According to Mr. T., some farm inn hosts have refused to receive guests, or received fewer guests, due to age, their own health problems, or a family member’s health. Subsequently, 17 host households that actively received guests were chosen to contact. The first author called the selected farm inn owners, explained the research purpose, and asked for their permission to visit their houses for interview. Ultimately, all the contacted owners were successfully interviewed. Interviews were based on a prepared question list and lasted approximately 30 min to an hour. Interviews were recorded with interviewees’ permission. The in-depth interviews were conducted from 3–7 March 2017 during the winter season, when tourists rarely visit this region.
4.3. Sustainable Livelihood Assessment Approach
This study adopted a system of indicators and variables for community-based tourism that includes five different types of livelihood capital: physical, natural, human, financial, and social capital [39
A livelihood is comprised of the capabilities, assets, and activities required as a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and can maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets—both now and in the future—while not undermining the natural resource base [42
Natural capital refers to the farmland and forest; the challenges jeopardizing Japan’s biodiversity primarily involve the underutilization of natural resources while not over-utilizing them, an issue common in developing countries. This study addresses the active production and utilization of nature resources as an improvement and enhancement of natural capital.
Physical capital typically refers to household properties, such as its livestock and the farmer’s house itself; and the village infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and parking facilities.
Human capital considers the available skills, knowledge, health, and work ability.
This study addresses financial capital in terms of the salary income, pensions, and tourism-related income. As some interviewees were part-time farmers, their incomes may have consisted of salaries external to the farm, in addition to farm work. Those aged 60 or older at the time of the interview also noted that they received certain pension amounts.
This study also considered facts from the survey site as well as previous literature [44
], and included social networks or the “associational life”, which links the individuals, social norms, and values defined by the widely shared cultural beliefs and values that facilitate a society’s function [45
4.4. Capital Assets’ Measurement Design
Five types of livelihood capital assets were identified, and rate scale methods were adopted to compare them and allow for meaningful interpretation. The interview contents were analyzed and classified as the positive impacts of gains, neutral aspects, or negative impacts of losses. A value of 1, 0, or −1 was given to each capital asset, except for financial assets.
This study followed the income-scoring method proposed by Qian et al. [44
] and Chen et al. [46
]. Tourism-related income was collected as the actual value earned in 2016, then changed to comparable indicators to interpret the research results’ significance. The average income at the surveyed region, Noto Town, which was reported as 259.2 million JPY (Based on the statistical data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications [38
], this study calculated Noto Town’s average income by dividing its total amount of taxable income by the number of taxpayers.) in 2017, was chosen as the control value [47
]. This control value was then compared with the actual value of host households’ farm inn-related income. Financial asset indices of 0–0.33, 0.34–0.66, and 0.67–1 are interpreted as “poor”, “average”, and “good”, respectively. The calculation was made more convenient by choosing three critical values to represent the different degrees of change in financial assets: 0.33, 0.66, and 1 referred to poor (small), average, and good (large) scales, respectively. If the tourism-related income was less than (0.5 × the control value), it was scored as low and given a scale value of 0.33; if the tourism-related income surpassed (0.5 × the control value) but was less than the control value, it was scored as average and given a scale value of 0.66; and if the tourism-related income (or “TI” in the below equation) surpassed the control value, it was scored as high and given a scale value of 1:
I1 = Positive% × 1 + Neutral% × 0 + Negative% × (−1)
I2 = (TI < 0.5 × control value%) × 0.33 + (0.5 × control value < TI < control value%) × 0.66 + (control value < TI%) × 1
Finally, the livelihood assets’ total scores were derived by:
LA = (PC + NC + HC + FC + SC)/5 + 1
The calculation was conveniently performed by assuming that all asset values before the tourism development are 1, where: I1 includes physical capital, natural capital, human capital, and social capital; I2 includes financial capital; LA represents the livelihood assets; PC represents physical capital; NC represents natural capital; HC represents human capital; FC represents financial capital; and SC represents social capital.