Tonarigumi (neighborhood association) (隣組)

This is a system which used to be common throughout Japan but was not stipulated until 1940. It was ranked under a district association, organizing several families into one group, and aimed at higher efficiency of distribution and thought control. Details are described in this section.

It is a name of a pop song with lyrics written by Ippei OKAMOTO (out of copyright for the lyrics) and music by Nobuo IIDA, and sung by Tamaki TOKUYAMA. The lyrics were prepared to propagate the tonarigumi system during wartime, and the music has cheerful and lively tones to propagate it to the citizens, so the song was also used as theme music of 'Dorifu Daibakusho' (a popular TV program). See 'Tonarigumi (song)' (for lyrics 'Tonarigumi [music]'). Tonarigumi is a government-led system for maintaining neighborhood which was one of the bases of people's lives to support the fighting forces of the wartime regime during the Showa period.

Along with the National General Mobilization Act, Movement for General Mobilization of the National Spirit, and Movement for Strict Enforcement of Election, it was institutionalized through 'Outline of Control and Enhancement of Village Community Associations and District Associations, etc' (Neighborhood Association Enhancement Act) decided in 1939 and decreed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Japan) in 1940. Making a group with five to ten families, it urged their solidarity and development of local autonomy, and was used for mobilization of citizens and obligatory supply of materials to the government, distribution of controlled goods, and defense activity against air raids during wartime. In 1947 after the defeat in World War II and the Pacific War, it was dissolved by the supreme commander of the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers.

Even today part of the activities which was conducted using the tonarigumi system has been succeeded to district associations, districts (not wards of government-ordinance-designated cities) and residents' associations. In some local areas, relations within neighboring districts and residents have become weak mainly due to increase of one-room condos in which singles and nuclear families live, while other areas have problems over whether to become parishioners of a local Shinto shrine and contributing to rites and festivals of the shrine.

In some areas such as Kyoto City, tonarigumi remains even today (=>positioning of former school districts in Kyoto).