Accepted Paper:

"Anti"-tourism, conflicts with changing land use and nature conservation in northern Japan  


John Mock (Temple University Japan)

Paper short abstract:

Although tourism is seen as a magic industry to fix demographic and economic problems, an examination of a consolidated “city” in Akita suggests that tourism is not likely to be very effective. Critical are infrastructure, semi-isolation, social structure, land use, and conservation.

Paper long abstract:

One of the common thoughts, particularly found in prefectural offices in non-metropolitan Japan, is that somehow currently shrinking communities will be able to switch from previous economic foundations to a new economic foundation, often tourism, which will revive the communities and cause a declining population to expand. Tourism is seen as some sort of magic panacea for the economic and demographic problems that plague non-metropolitan Japan.

This paper examines a recently consolidated "city" in Akita Prefecture which has many of the characteristics that mark it both as a declining community (losing population since 1955 and one of the most aged communities in Japan) and as one which may be seen as "ripe" for tourism (great scenery, not too isolated, some viable infrastructure, a historical "pull") as a way to regain economic strength. In addition, like much of Japan, the prefectural government has tried to support local economic activities, especially tourism.

However, it has not worked. Why has tourism not been able to revive this community? There are a variety of reasons including isolation and inadequate infrastructure. However, the major issue seems to be one of interest or intention. For most people living in this city, the "irritant industry", tourism, is simply not really considered positive. This paper argues that—at least for most residents—successful tourism would involve changes that they simply do not want to see happen—mainly involved with social changes, shifts in land use and conservation of of what are perceived as natural resources.

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