Jennifer S. ProughOct 21, 2022
Heritage Tourism in Contemporary Japan
University of Hawaii Press 2022
Kyoto Revisited: Heritage Tourism in Contemporary Japan (U Hawaii Press, 2022) looks at the uses and effects of heritage in tourism in Kyoto today seen through city policy and advertising, hotel infrastructure and tour guiding, season-based events, tourism to sites connected to the Bakumatsu-period hero Sakamoto Ryoma, and the phenomenon of walking in rental kimono. Emphasizing the ways experience-based tourism has been transforming Kyoto’s tourist landscape, Prough examines how heritage has been understood, marketed, and experienced by both the tourist “industry” and domestic and international tourists. Heritage, Prough argues have multiple meanings. These meanings are created as “interested parties—state and local, public, and private—tell different stories about the past,” which are marketed in response to tourists’ desire for face-to-face engagement in an experience economy. Through interviewing long-term tour guides and revealing the traces of past tourism forms in hotels and other tourist infrastructure, among other methodologies, Kyoto Revisited explores the local impact of global and national shifts in tourism on Kyoto’s domestic and international tourism industry from the 1970s to the COVID era. Prough’s period of fieldwork neatly overlapped with a rapid escalation in foreign tourist numbers to the city, with growing calls to address overtourism, and the current crisis in tourism with Japan closed to tourists. The book thus provides important insight into Kyoto during a decade of the biggest transitions in international tourism to the city in the last half century. Kyoto Revisited, thus, demonstrates not only how the past has been used to construct the city’s identity and shape understandings of Japan for travelers, but also how these speak to broader trends in our contemporary moment.
Ran Zwigenberg is an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.