Society for East Asian Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Kyoto is sometimes seen as the quintessential heritage tourism site. Last year over 55 million tourists, domestic and international, flocked to the city of 1.3 million eager to see the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, historic preservation districts, Buddhist Temples, Shinto Shrines, gardens and traditional atmosphere. This paper examines the most recent tourism promotion plan adopted by Kyoto city in 2015, with an eye to the ways that Japanese history and culture are marketed for contemporary tourists and by local actors. Embracing contemporary tourism trends towards experiential tourism the city’s tourism promotion offices have identified heritage and hospitality as two features of their plans for tourism growth. Yet, to talk of a “tourist industry” in Kyoto is a bit misleading, rather than a clearly delineated industry there are a wide range of local cafes, hotels, and small business owners whose livelihoods revolve around the appeal of Kyoto’s history. In that vein, through an ethnographic account of the renovation of a small traditional street in central Kyoto known as Kōyaku no zushi, I analyze the ways that one neighborhood sought to revitalize their neighborhood combining heritage, hospitality, and ecofriendly approaches. This community project was driven by citizens own sense of heritage and a desire to bring tourists to their “off-the-beaten-path” location. Through this case study we see the City’s official focus on heritage and hospitality played out through local desires, highlighting the complex contours of making place in a tourist city.