Accepted paper:

An anthropological study of the space industry in Japan


Hirofumi Iwatani

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine the characteristics of the socially multilayered supply chains in Japan related with manufacturing space appliances, focusing on some of the manufacturers called "machikouba" that do subcontract work.

Paper long abstract:

The Space industry, in part, encompasses a variety of economic activities including the manufacturing of products such as satellites, rockets etc., in which these products will eventually go into outer space around the Earth's orbit. It therefore can be said that it is an industry involved in the utilization of outer space for commercial reasons. In Japan the Basic Plan on National Space Policy was established to plan for Japanese development and utilization of outer space. Enacted in 2008, its purpose, according to Article 24 of the Basic Space Law, is to promote integrated and systematic measures for the development and utilization of outer space. The suppliers of products to the space industry are often large companies with many small and medium companies also manufacturing machinery and parts. These products can be composed of a lot of machinery and parts, and manufactured under the socially multilayered supply chains between many companies. This paper will examine the characteristics of supply chains in Japan, highlighting some of the factories that do subcontract work which are called "machikouba" in Japanese. How are the parts made at machikouba? The manufacturing process is not a mechanical activity which could be described in something like a manual, but more so a complex, elaborate, socially and economically mediated activity. This paper describes those aspects, and how workers, often referred to as syokunin which means craftman, behave in a number of different aspects of their work such as adjustment to communication and management of knowledge.

panel P089
Challenges of space anthropology