Accepted Paper:

Geotourism as an emerging paradigm of nature based tourism in Japan: an anthropological perspective  


Abhik Chakraborty

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the recent popularity of geoparks in Japan, and their relevance for nature conservation and ecotourism development by providing a cultural anthropological perspective.

Paper long abstract:

Geotourism is a relatively new field of Nature-Based Tourism, its clear origins dating to the 1990s. Japan is one of the most successful countries in terms of proportion of its geoparks getting recognition as Global Geoparks—over 20% of its geoparks are members of the UNESCO-Global Geoparks Network. However, geoparks are not merely collections of geologically interesting features or landscapes (geosites), but they should be linked with community life, and promote conservation of geodiversity (biotic and abiotic natural diversity) through local participation. To explore the challenges and prospects geoparks face in this regard, this paper examines anthropological profiles of tourism management in two sites: the Oki Islands Geopark in Shimane, and the Izu Peninsula Geopark in Shizuoka. These two are very contrasting sites: while Oki has a long history of local autonomy of tourism management and today faces extreme depopulation, Izu Peninsula is heavily influenced by urban tourists from Tokyo. A comparative assessment of these cases, therefore, provides an interesting perspective: casting light on how these sites face pressure from opposite poles of demographic trends, contrasting tourist behaviors, and distinct forms of nature conservation through local participation. Based on review of literature, stakeholder analysis and qualitative field research, the paper concludes that while geoparks provide a platform to integrate conservation and tourist demands, cultural interpretation of nature rooted in place needs a stronger voice to counter the negative effects of 'tourist gaze' and manage geodiversity in these sites in a sustainable manner.

Panel P010
Anthropology of human-nature relationship in 21st century Japan: perspectives from ecotourism and rural revitalization