Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space
Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Japanese travel to places for symbols where they themselves provide the sights from the imagination or bodily via auto-photography, whereas Western tourists go places for sights which they interpret and narrate in their thoughts and words. The purpose in each case, of going all that way to experience otherness, is to return to an experience of self undiluted by other.
“Japanese tend to associate tourism with historical landmarks, but foreigners are interested in people’s lives and their lifestyles,” he said. “Places like the fish market were never really considered a tourist site until quite recently, so both sides are really confused.” Yuji Nakanishi, professor of Tourism at Rikkyou University (Tanikawa, 2009)
A few days ago in the village near our beach house, a rainy day, a group of Japanese tourists went from community centre to Buddhist temple, to road side shrine, collecting stamps as part of one of those uniquely Japanese "stamp rallies." No one came to the beach in front of our house. The panoramic view of inland sea, with gulls and fishing boats and its setting sun was of no interest to them. Likewise, this jaded old Westerner can not think of a more boring, more pointless tourism experience than a traipsing around a grey landscape collecting the blotchy red imprints left by a set of rubber stamps.
As Urry (2002) famously argues, Western tourism is about going to see something. This form of tourism has a very long tradition. The picture above left is from a stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral, England (Wells, 2002, p127、Crown Copyright NMR), the destination of Medieval Christian pilgrimage. Wells, and more famously the anthropologist Victor Turner (Turner & Turner, 1995), have argued that there is a visual bias to Christian pilgrimage, or that the destination of Christian pilgrimage is a located image, such as stained glass, a sacred image or icon.
That the Japanese word for tourism, Kankou is often glossed as "seeing the sights" persuades us that Japanese tourist too are interested in going to see. In fact the would "Kankou" originates n the Tao-Te-Ching which argues that rulers should travel to other countries so as to gain information on how better to rule their own. The passage which introduces the word "kankou" is a recommendation not to travellers but to hosts to " indicate (shiimesu, kangamiru) the （high）lights of your country." Even on a literal reading, "Kankou" (Japanese tourism) is about going to places where things are explained (note 0).
The stamp rally has its origins in the proof of visitation required of Japanese tourists during the Tokugawa period (Graburn, 1983; Reader, 2005), but before that Japanese accumulated pieces of paper stamped with scared symbols for more than one thousand years. The religious act of Shinto, far more than prayer, is a form of pilgrimage, shrine-visiting, mairi or moude, a movement of the worshiper. And at the shrine, before amulets and sacred stamped pieces of card, were distributed symbols first branches of trees and stones, latter stamped pieces of paper. The destinations provided the names. They were the named places (meisho). But did Japanese pilgrimage destinations provide the sights?
Not only in the stamp rally but in many forms of Japanese tourism is the sight strangely eschewed. Japanese tourists visit castle towns, such as the most famous, Haji, where there is NO CASTLE TO BE SEEN! They visit ruins ('of identity') such as that visited by Matsuo Basho, where there is NOTHING to be SEEN at all.
Traditionally shrines, the destination Japanese par excellence contained a prototypical named-thing (meibutsu), the God-body (goshintai) of the shrine that might be a mirror, sword, jewel, or sacred stone but it was *forbidden to see this item*. The goshintai was situated symbolically . It was wrapped up in layer upon layer of cloth, box, inner shrine, out shrine and shrine walls (Hendry, 1995) partly to ensure that it was never seen at all. Shrines have the structure of an onion (see Pilgrim, 1986; Bachnik & Quinn, 1994). The visitor may never become aware that there is anything at their centre, other than the fact that the visitor knows that something is there, symbolically. After all, shrines are the prototypical, great and famous, named place (meisho). According to a Japanese tour guide the vast majority of Japanese tourists visiting Ise shrine today, visit the woods around the shrine, see at most its outer walls, and the souvenir shop, and the car park. Japanese tourists have thronged to Ise for centuries (especially inspired by stories of sacred symbols falling from the sky (fudaori), but without special appointment they do not see the shrine itself, much less the holy of hollies, the mirror of the sun goddess, the goshintai, prototypical named-thing (meibutsu) at its centre.
Or do the Japanese really fail to see the mirror at Ise? Why do Japanese go to these symbolically significant places?
It seems to me that the answer can be found in theories of the Western, and Japanese self. For the Westerner, the self is the self narrative. Tourists of the MacCannelian or Cullerian kind visit and play ethnographer or semiologist (MacCannell, 1976; Culler, 1988) regarding the sights that they see. The Western tourists provides the narrative because they are narrative and the sight is the otherness which they attempt to interpret. To these tourists the things that they see are signs but they are signs which have the structure of an alibi (Culler, 1988; Barthes,1972), signing off to a meaning which the tourist, in their phonetic inner narrative, provides. The Western tourists may take of photo of the sight, or better still purchase a photo upon the reverse of which she will narrate herself in this location. The Western tourist goes to see and say. Like ethnologists or anthropologists they use the phenomenological technique of bracketing away preconceptions (the more other unusual, opaque to the interpretations that they have to hand that a sight is the more that task is performed for them) and then they make pronouncement upon the sights that they see. This transcendental meditation employed by Western Anthropologists and Tourists alike, can be described in the following way,
From this new transcendental standpoint Husserl maintained that the manifold stream of contingent world-objects could be perceived in a new way, giving 'a new kind of experience: transcendental experience'. The transcendental ego because a 'disinterested onlooker' whose only motive is neutrally to describe 'what he sees, purely as seen, as what is seen and seen in such and such a manner' (Rayment-Pickard, 2003)
Japanese tourists on the other hand do not go to provide symbols about sights, but to provide sights or images regarding symbolic locations. The symbolic sites visited by Japanese tourists, the named places, the named things, do not have the structure of the alibi (see Hansen, 1993 for a non dualistic theory of the sign) but are the signs themselves. That Japanese tourists go to places with literary, historical, named significant, that they visit symbolic geographies as been ascribed (as all things Japanese always are) to their "groupism," and also, in the face of Westernisation, to their nostalgic desire to return to their historical routes, to their self. This latter interpretation hits the mark I think because the Japanese self is a space (Kanjin; Hamaguchi, 1997) , a primordial space (Nishida, Watsuji; see Mochizuki, 2006) a mirror (Kurozumi). The Japanese travel to places precisely because they are "encrusted with renown," (Culler); and are all the more happy if as at shrines, or ruins, their is nothing to see because it is in the space of their mind that they provide the images to go with the otherness of the symbols that they are visiting. Indeed in a sense they do see that holy of holies, the mirror of the sun goddess in the internal space that is the Japanese mind.
Lacan argues that the self is at the presumed intersection of linguistic self signification -self narration, and visual self reflection, mirrorings and imagingings. Neither the symbolic nor the imaginary can say or see itself. The word can not enunciate the enunciated even in time since it is always delayed, defered (Derrida, 1998), never the person that it was what the attempt was started. Husserl's "living present" is always already gone. Likewise, the minds eye is unable to see itself. It requires the admixture of an other, the image of oneself, the name of oneself for each to enable the self to wrap around upon itself and self itself into self hood. This admixture is to be kept to a minimum. The self image in the West is external, when identified a sign of vanity or 'narcissism'. The word or symbol in Japan is external, and when internalised an impurity of mind (See Kim, 2002).
In either case, these essential impurities or 'supplements,' which are both required to complete and are additional to self(Derrida, 1998) are washed away in the experience of tourism when the Western and Japanese tourist meets the other as image or symbol respectively. The transcendental meditation for the Japanese tourist, at the British Museum, at the Named Place ruin of a famous castle, at the walls of Ise Shrine, becomes a interested visualiser of the place hidden in time, behind those walls. Japanese shrines, and tourism destinations are places where images spring to mind (Souzou ga fukuramu). And even as they Japanese tourists tour ("Kankou") they shut their eyes to the world (Hitomi wo Tojiru) and call to mind the past glory of the place they are visiting and in that experience, see themselves as the visual space, place or soul, that they believe themselves to be.
If either the Western tourist leaves something of himself it narratival. He signs a guest book. He narrates himself on a postcard (postcards are not sold for writing upon in Japan but only as packs, as symbolic souvenirs).
The Japanese tourist on the other hand provides the images, not just in her own mind, but also in the form of auto-photography so central to the tourism experience in Japan.
These differences have important implications for the tourist industries catering to Western and Japanese tourists.
When serving Japanese tourists it is important to provide the names, the narrative the guidebooks (which Japanese tourists themselves prepare in relative abundance), the words. They must also be provided the opportunity to provide images: above all to to imagine, and also to photograph themselves. Tourist destinations that do not have words related to them (iware no nai) are not of interest. Japanese tourist travel all the way to the lake district in the North of England, ignoring the beauty of the Powys hills completely, because the former have no literature - no words associated with them. They avoid the markets of London concentrating on the British museum and tower since the latter are redolent with renown. Japanese tourism providers need to counter the ocular turn of contemporary tourism theory and as the Japanese policy paper at the start of the ”tourism-oriented country" advocates a return to the original meaning of Kankou, or rather the provision of Kankou, which is not merely in the gaze directed, but in the of indication of facts, of nominal, symbolic entities:
"When promoting tourism it is therefore essential to return to this [etymological] origin of tourism, and create revolution in the very notion of tourism. The origin of tourism is not just looking at famous places and scenery, or seeing the sights, in regard to the the things that the local population feel happy about, to the things that the inhabitants of a certain land feel proud of and "indicating these highlights." (note 1)
Those especially in Japan however, who are catering to Western tourists should be aware that a place does not need to have a name for the Western tourist to want to visit it. In fact it helps if (other than the "markers" to find it) the destination is un-named "authentic" since the Western visitor provides the words. He is the words that he provides. These ethnographic, phenomenological tourists want to narrate, pronounce, theorise (what I am now doing) about the things that they see and in so doing they (I make myself shiver) have a transcendental experience of who they are, the words that drift across the universe of 'exterior' visual phenomena. Give us a view, any view, something to speak about, a picture and postcard, a picture postcard, above all give us something to see and some means by which they can narrate and we will be happy. There are such opportunities in every Japanese village not only the famous ones. Western tourist go to see spaces and places, and there is (or should be) much more for them to see. Alas at present, or until recently, the Japanese presume that their visitors are also Japanese and "indicate the highlights" (Kankou) or show the Named-places only. Very recently, there is a trend to promote regional tourism resources which do not have a name, this geographical tourism (shock!) had to be given a neologism "jitabi," (literally, geo-travel!) since the very concept of simply going to see a place was alien to the Japanese.
Finally the above theoretical position resolves the problem how tourists can be going in search of authenticity (MacCannell, 1986) even in blatantly inauthentic "post tourism" (Urry, 2002) sites: on tour we bring ourselves to confront the other of the self, we find our self in maximal authenticity.
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The [relevant passage] of the Tao Te Ching reads "*Indicating* [Shimesu, Kanagmiru] the lights of the country are good to use as hospitality for a king". where country mean the localities of contemporary China, and "lights" [highlights] refer to the superior or special things of that locality. (my translation, my emphasis, and my comments in brackets).
観光立国の推進に当たっては、まずはこうした「観光の原点」に立ち返ること、つまり「観光」概念の革新が必要になる。観光の原点は、ただ単に名所や風景などの「光を見る」ことだけではなく、一つの地域に住む人々がその地に住むことに誇りをもつことができ、幸せを感じられることによって、その地域が「光を示す」ことにある。 「国の光を観る」 −観光の原点−
I think that the primordial space of the Japanese self (Nishida's ba), or the "climate" (Wasuji's fudo) can best be understood from a Western perspective as the "Field of Vision" (Mach, 1897). The visual field pictured in Mach's self portrait is usually seen, if existing at all, as being a form of barrier ("veil" "tain" or "hymen") between self and the world. To the Japanese this field, this primordial space, however, is the purest experience of self, as inseparable from spatial other. This Japanese self is however separable, indeed separate from the world of symbols but, Japanese need the admixture of symbol, the name, their own name, for the Japanese child to believe that the their body houses this ephemeral mirror. In Japan it is precisely the linguistic which is public and space, place and vision which is private. Taking a balanced view, neither images nor language are more private than the other, both requiring an other to have meaning, but it took Westerners almost two millenia to realise that language is meaningless if private (Wittgenstein, 1973).
The title of this blog post was inspired by Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the Self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review; Psychological Review, 98(2), 224. Retrieved from http://www.iacmr.org/v2/Conferences/WS2011/Submission_XM/Participant/Readings/Lecture8A_JiaLin/Markus%20et%20al%20%281991%29%20Culture%20and%20Self%20-%20Implications%20for%20Cognition%20Emotion%20and%20Motivation-8a.pdf
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.