Hokkaido Dairy Farm

Cosmopolitics of Otherness and Security on the Frontiers of Japan

By Paul Hansen

Subjects: Japanese Studies, Anthropology, Rural Sociology
Hardcover : 9781438496474, 320 pages, February 2024
Paperback : 9781438496467, 320 pages, August 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-08-02

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. A Conceptual Scaffolding

2. Toward Modernity: The Forming and Reforming of a Northern Frontier

3. From Traction to Teishoku: Tracing the Human-Bovine Trajectory

4. Problems Protecting the Japanese Dairy Industry

5. Farm Structures

6. The Birth of Grand Hopes

7. Dairy Farmers: Being, Becoming, and Making

8. From Teat to Tot: Following Flows

9. Producing and Pumping

10. Keeping It All Working

11. Locals, Lo-siders, Outsiders, and No-siders

12. Assembling Communities: Two Genders and One Religion

Conclusion: On the Frontiers of Animal-Human-Technology

Argues that the dairy industry in Japan has always been entwined with notions of Otherness and security seeking, notably in terms of frontiers.


Hokkaido Dairy Farm offers a historical and ethnographic examination of the rapid industrialization of the dairy industry in Tokachi, Hokkaido. It begins with a history of dairy farming and consumption in Hokkaido from a macro perspective, mapping the transition from survival to subsistence and then from mixed family farms to monoculture and "mega" industrial operations. It then narrows the focus to examine concrete changes in a Tokachi-area dairying community that has undergone rapid sociocultural upheaval over the last three decades, with shifts in human relationships alongside changes in human and cow connections through new technologies. In the final chapters, the scope is further narrowed to a detailed history and ethnography of a single industrializing dairy farm and the morphing cast of individuals attached to it, centering on their idiosyncratic searches for economic, social, and even ontological security in what is popularly considered a peripheral region and industry. The culmination of over fifteen years of ethnographic, policy, and historical research, Hokkaido Dairy Farm argues that the dairy industry in Japan has always been entwined with notions of Otherness and security seeking, notably in terms of frontiers.

Paul Hansen is Professor in the Department of International Resource Sciences at Akita University in Japan.


"If this were simply an ethnography of a dairy farm, its usefulness to the field of Japan Studies might be limited, but in Hansen’s framing its usefulness is abundantly demonstrated. Hansen is able to show why a livelihood that seems mundane and taken-for-granted is worth analyzing in the context of Japan—the farm, as he discusses it, does indeed have substantial implications beyond itself." — Gordon Mathews, Chinese University of Hong Kong

"This superb ethnography is one of the best works on agricultural Japan in many years. It is also an important entry into the discussion of Japan as a heterogeneous society, as it interrogates and critiques works that attempt to portray Japan as homogeneous and monocultural." — John W. Traphagan, author of Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st-Century Japan