J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

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, April 03, 2013


Tourism as Reconstruction: What is unmoving in Cherry Blossom viewing?

Why do Japanese tourists obsess on going to see relics, such as the remains of castles (Hiraiizumi), or the site of a famous duel (Ganryujima) or other "named places" (名所 meisho) where there is often nothing to see? Why do they also like to go and see cherry blossom and red leaves and other places that remind them of the passing of time?

Derrida "deconstructs" Western philosophy so it may fair to say, conversely, that the polemic that Western philosophers indulge in should be called the ongoing process of "reconstruction."

Western philosophers use polemical sleights of hand to convince us that all is well, and dualistic, in the world. Western philosophers draw our attention to defective signs, such as writing, "speech acts", "indicative signs," to assure us that there are good and proper signs that are dual, that come laden with, co-present with meaning, with "ideas". In so doing these nervous philosophers assure us and themselves that the act of hearing ourselves speak is not a gollum auto-crooning in the darkness, but a meaningful "expressive act."

This philosophical polemic is one example of "reconstruction," of the narrative-self. But is is not only philosophers who indulge in this sleight of hand. We are all to an extent a little perplexed by the whole speaking-to-ourselves thing. We are all a little worried about the existence of the meaning, "ideas" and the self as idea, and we all want therefore to indulge in a little self-reconstruction, to assure ourselves of our own selfiness.

Tourism is reconstruction par excellence. As Jackson's Mary-who-knows-no-red (Jackson, 1976) convinces philosophers of duality, the tourist who had never seen Breton clogs, is convinced of the existence of the idea by, in the act of discovering them. Look, there is Frenchiness (Culler)! Western tourists go to see the sights, to gaze, at that redness, that cultural icon which, hithertoo, existed for them only as an idea.

Japanese tourists, Zen though they may be, travel to indulge in reconstruction too, except they want to believe in non-duality, and the self as that place (場所, Nishida) where mind and matter meet. Just as Westerner tourists go to gaze at things for which they only had ideas and in doing so prove that the image is out there, Japanese tourist go to places where there are signs for which they only had images, where they allow their imagination to run riot in the mirror of their mind. Japanese also visit sites where they can experience the unfolding of time ("differance"), in order to return themselves to the purity of the mirror, which is the only thing that remains, un-moving, in cherry blossom viewing.

People travel to experience and expunge that which they visit and leave behind. Western tourists go to gaze (Urry) and leave the world of sight. Japanese tourists go to expunge those names, and expunging duality and time, enter the liquid world of light.

Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn't know. The Journal of Philosophy, 83(5), 291-295.

Labels: , , ,

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