Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Urbanization is a persistent political, socio-cultural, and economic issue in Japan. It started accelerating in tandem with rapid economic growth in the 1950s. This trend still continues, and the negative impact of urbanization on rural communities has become even more evident with the nation’s aging and declining birthrate in recent years. The current Abe administration identifies Chiso Sosei [regional revitalization] as a high priority policy. This initiative is currently being implemented under the banner of “machi [community], hito [people], shigoto [employment]” aiming to generate social and economic capital in rural Japan. In this effort, inbound tourism is receiving increasing attention and is increasing. The government has proposed an ambitious goal of increasing the number of foreign tourists (31.19 million in 2018) to 40 million annually by 2020. Green tourism is integrated into this scheme. With a series of major campaigns by airline and railroad companies, nostalgic Japan became commodified in Japanese tourism industry in the 1990’s (Creighton 1997), and commodification of rural-ness is one of the key elements of Japanese green tourism. This paper will examine how rural communities in Japan are responding to government-driven green tourism and how different narratives have been generated by various bureaucratic entities. Data were collected during fieldwork in Fukui, Niigata, Saitama, prefectures and Hokkaido, Japan in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as analysis of online marketing materials. It has become clear that different agents at various levels engage in development of “imagined community [ies]” (Anderson 1983) through manipulation of symbolic “capital” (Bourdieu 1984).