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Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space
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Yuji Nakanishi, professor of Tourism at Rikkyou University, points out that “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 (Tanikawa, 2009).”
"A shop owner told me in an interview: ‘Tourists from China and Japan: here in the morning full of them, but they arrive, ﬁve minutes, and run away; they have their own schedule, take a picture and hurry; they don’t stay longer; they have ten minutes to see the church, twenty to see the museum, ten to go in another place.’ These tourists are seemingly not interested in cultural heritage but in collecting the icons of that culture." (Parmeggiani et al., 2010, p110)
Japanese tourists do different things. How should we make sense of them?
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.
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) 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 pilgrims during the Tokugawa period (Graburn, 1983; Reader, 2005), but before that Japanese accumulated pieces of paper stamped with sacred 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 worshipper. And at the shrine, before amulets and sacred stamped pieces of card were distributed symbols: first branches of trees and stones, later stamped pieces of paper. The destinations provided the names. The destinations were the named places, the "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. I can remember my disappointment when taken to the the ancient seat of regional government at Dazaifu to find only an empty field. Japanese tourists visit castle towns, such as the most famous, Hagi, where there is NO CASTLE TO BE SEEN! They visit ruins (‘of identity’ see Hudson, 1999; Plutschow, 1981) such as that visited by Matsuo Basho, where there is NOTHING to be SEEN at all. Hudson, citing Plutschow (1981, p22) argues that, "Basho’ choice of ato (ruin) was itself derived from the medieval Japanese tradition of travel diaries, wherein the significance of a place was determined by its history – its location in time, rather than by geography."
Traditionally shrines, the destination Japanese par excellence contained a prototypical 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; Pilgrim, 1986; Bachnik & Quinn, 1994) partly to ensure that it was never seen at all. Shrines have the structure of an onion. 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 an informant, 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. Even those that do have special dispensation to enter the outer walls of Ise Shrine will be faced with that which Guichard-Anguis (2007) describes as the biggest difference between pilgrimage to Ise compared with that in Europe; the shrine building itself will have been rebuilt within the last twenty years. Even though Japanese are noted for their fondness of historical attractions, not only do they go to visit empty sites or ‘ruins’, the Japanese rebuild even the old sites and buildings anew. This is not just in the case of Ise Shrine but also in the case of Japanese homes, and Castles such as Osaka castle, as bewailed by XYZ.
The fact that sights are not so important as named significance may also explain the lack of attention to the maintenance of visual "authenticity," even in places such as Tokyo. Tomomitsu-Tomasson (2005) a research student in sociology, expresses her disappointment at arriving in Kyoto with a quote from Kerr’s damning portrait of the dark side of Japan (2002).
“How must Kyoto appear to one who has never visited here? Passersby clad in kimono going to and fro along quiet narrow streets between temples, rows of houses with black wooden lattices, glimpsed over tiled roofs the mountains covered with cherry blossoms, streams trickling at one’s feet….the traveler’s expectations must be high – until the moment when he alights from the Bullet train. He leaves the station, catches his first sight of Kyoto Tower, and from there on it is all shattered dreams. Kyoto Hotel cuts off the view of the Higashiyama hills, and big signs on cheap clothing stores hide Mount Daimonji.Red; vending machines are lined up in front of the temples. It’s the same miserable scenery you see everywhere in Japan, and the same people oblivious to it all” (Professor Tayama Reishi direct quote) (Kerr 2001:164/65). in Tomomitsu-Tomasson (2005), p 4.
In my new home town of Yamaguchi I have written about how sad it is that less is done to maintain traditional urban architecture such as in Tatekouji Street, since it is this type of sight, that is the essence of a tourist attraction and destination. That Japanese are happy to visit Kyoto and Yamaguchi without demanding visual authenticity is again a result of their relative lack of interest in the visual dimension of tourist destinations.
Finally, it just seems to me that the Japanese are not so interested in views. The fact that I continue to live in an more recently purchases house with excellent views, or that I have a panoramic view from the window where I now write drives this home. I feel considerable empathy with the words of the Blondie song, "All I want is a room with a view," and seek to live in places which command a view. In Japan, however it is said that "high places attract smoke and stupid people," and while the high places may be elevated social positions, I think that it may also apply to the more literal interpretation. Perhaps part of my preference for views is my stupid desire to look down on things and other people.
Why do Japanese go to these symbolically significant named-places places, rather to interpret visual sites?
It seems to me that the answer can be found in theories of the Western, and Japanese self.
Here I should have a long introduction to (cross cultural psychology)
Origins in Triandis’ Hofestede’ collectivism
Markus and Kitayama turn around
Heine rejection of the need for self regard
Oyserman/Takano/Yamagishi attacks on collectivism
Hong YY and more so, Nisbett/Masuda cognitive turn
Kim and Non-Linguistic thought, and in her second paper on that topic on self expression, the non-linguistic self
And then ask what, phenomenologically is the self in the West and Japan like? What is it like to have an independent self? What is felt to be self? What is felt to be not self? How can one have a "interdependent self" what does hat feel like? What phenomena are felt to be self in that situation?
And then me (ha!)
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) but are the signs themselves. That Japanese tourists go to places with literary, historical, named significant, that they vistic 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 1993; Watsuji 1979; see Mochizuki, 2006) a mirror (Kurozumi). When the self is a space, then the concept of travel presents inherent difficulties. How can space travel? I argue that the Japanese tourists’ interest in historical, literary, or otherwise famous named-places, and named-things is because it is not the place but the name that they are visiting. 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. Souzou ga fukuramu. Images spring to mind. And even as the "Kankou" they shut their eyes to the world (Hitomi wo Tojiru) and call to mind the 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," 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 pure experience of self (Nishida, Zen no kenkyuu), as self-inseparable-from-spatial-other. This Japanese self is however 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 (Nakashima, 1997) and space, place and vision which as private as it gets. 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).