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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Japanese Tourism as Being seen in front of places with a Name

Japanese Tourism as Being seen in front of places with a Name by timtak
Japanese Tourism as Being seen in front of places with a Name, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Urry's epic "The Tourist Gaze" has just been republished in this third edition. He is right to point out that there is a strong connection between tourism and the gaze but (at least in the first edition) he largely assumes that the gaze is directed outward, that tourism resource providers are in the business of proving sights for people to gaze upon. And this may be so in the West.

Lacan argues that the self is the crossroads between language and the imaginary, the image and word and that Westerners are healthy when they are more strongly identified with their words. I turn this on its head and argue that the Japanese are permanently in the mirror stage (or that conversely they pass through a linguistic/symbolic stage).

For someone with ego as self-narrative the image is the other, the not-self, mere image, the uncertain, a distraction. The Western tourists gazes upon the sights and allows himself respite from self narration.

To the Japanese however, the image is the self and it is rather symhbols, lanuage, names, and narratives that are titilatly other. Hence, as Hudson points out in "The Ruins of Identity" since Matso Basho and well before Matsuo Basho, Japanese peopel like to go to famous places, places with a story and direct their gaze, and the gaze of others, at themselves, at their feelings in the place. Matuso Basho travelled up to the North of Japan to be beside a rock commemorating the ruins of a castle, and wrote a poem recording his overwhelming sense of history and his tears.

At that time, a haiku was as near as capturing an image as could be achieved, but had Basho had a camera, then perhaps he would have taken a photo, as Japanese tourists are known to do, like that in the bottom right hand side of the photo. This is of a Japanese gentleman visiting one of the "Three Great Disappontments" among Japanese sightseeing spots: Harimaya Bridge. There are many places with a name (meisho) and many "Three great XYZ," spots, including the three best places to visit Cherry Blossom, and even the three places that most disappoint. Hirune, the gentleman in the picture has had himself pictured looking disappointed. The point is not view, nor the viewing, but to be viewed in famous place with a name. Japanese Tourism is about being seen in front of places with a name.

Western tourists like to be named in front of a sight but I will leave a discussion of the differences between postcards and Haiku for another occosion.

Bottom right: Being disappointed in front of the most disappointing of the three great disappointments of Japanese sights by Hirune.Book covers copyright their respective publishers. Taga Castle commemorative stone photo from Wikipedia.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.