Degree Name

Masters by Research


Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS) - Faculty of Arts


In this thesis I examine the transformations of volunteering in Japan from 'hōshi' (mutual obligation) to 'borantia' (borrowed from the English 'volunteer'). I argue changes in the forms of volunteering overtime point to important shifts in state-citizen and state-civil society relations in Japan. Hōshi emerged during a period of Japan's history when the state had an increasingly authoritarian approach to managing its subjects. It reflects this cultural context as it embodies a strong sense of obligation and is characterised by notions of service and sacrifice, particularly dedicated service to the greater good of the Emperor and state. In contrast the concept of borantia is associated with free will and social contribution. Borantia has had a tremendous impact on the way Japanese citizens view civil society. Its emergence marked a change in popular consciousness about the role of citizen's vis-a-vis the state and departure from Japan's traditional form of volunteering (hōshi) which has connotations of obligation to the state and Emperor. First appearing in the 1960s and 1970s, the word 'borantia' was used to describe residents' and citizens' movements. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of January 1995 the notion of borantia was propelled into popular public consciousness leading to the enactment of The Law to Promote Specified Non-Profit Activities (NPO Law). This represented a significant landmark in state-citizen/state civil society relations. However, the effectiveness of the Law to enable an autonomous civil society has been impeded by traditionally low corporate and individual giving, as well as a reliance on the state for funding. Tension remains in Japan because the old systems and practices that supported hōshi remain along side new systems and practices that led to the emergence and proliferation of borantia.

02Whole.pdf (685 kB)



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.