Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Tarō is one of many small fishing communities on the northeastern coast of Iwate Prefecture decimated by Japan’s most recent major tsunami disaster on March 11th, 2011 and site of its tallest waves (128 ft.). Only hours after the unprecedented disaster, local survivors began giving guided tours of their devastated community as a way to orient rescuers. Post-disaster tourism in Japan and most parts of the world is often perceived as a form of Dark Tourism associated with death, loss and devastation. However, in Tarō, community-led tourism post-2011 has become the catalyst for a positive, fortifying, identity-building economic development strategy imbibed by hope for the township’s future. Referred to locally as Bōsai (Disaster Prevention) Tourism, in Tarō, this town’s considerable historic experience with tsunami disaster prevention is blended with a focus on an appreciation for the natural beauty of their section of Iwate coastline and an emphasis on social and environmentally sustainable fisheries techniques that enrich the touristic experience. Tourism in Tarō these days is certainly not dark. Using new theoretical perspectives from tourism anthropology, this paper argues that unlike the stereotype associated with many post-disaster tourism sites, Bōsai Tourism in Tarō builds around local place-based practices and traditional community knowledge that not only provides a satisfying touristic experience but gives local residents tangible social, economic, and political goals to strive for as they embrace the future, designed to transform local tragedy into a local triumph.