New Issue – Japan Forum: Japanese Popular Culture and Contents Tourism

Japan ForumOne feature of scholarly communication that is common to many different academic fields/areas is a small group of journals that are considered to be “core” to that particular field or area. These journals are the field’s most important and most prestigious – and often also the most heavily cited. Anime/manga studies does not (yet?) have such a core group. One reason for this is that as an academic area, it’s still very young. Another, perhaps more important reason is that as a label, anime/manga studies encompasses a wide range of approaches, grounded in many different disciplines. There is very little in common that articles like Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress: A feminine journey with dream-like qualities, Bringing anime to academic libraries: A recommended core collection, Ownership, authority, and the body: Does antifanfic sentiment reflect posthuman anxiety, and Viewer perception of visual nonverbal cues in subtitled TV anime have between them – other than that they all, to one degree or another, discuss Japanese animation as an art form, a commodity, or an object that audiences can respond to. Yes, an academic journal focused specifically on animation will always be an obvious venue for a paper that discusses Japanese animation – but as I found, over the last five years, only 4% of the total number of English-language academic articles on anime/manga have been published in academic journals on animation.

At the same time, it’s also important to keep in mind that articles on anime appear in a wide variety of journals that cover a wide range of areas and subjects. And some of these journals are in fact the core publications for their respective fields. For example, the core academic journals in the field of Japanese Studies are Japan Forum, Japanese Studies, and The Journal of Japanese Studies – and all of them have published articles on anime. But, a single article once every several years is one thing. An entire issue of a major, core journal that focuses on a topic that is inherently related to anime is another.

The focus of the latest issue of Japan Forum (the official journal of the British Association for Japanese Studies) is “contents tourism” (in previous English-language literature, the term is “media pilgrimage”). At their most basic, either of these refer to the practice of visiting discrete places that are settings for films and other media products – as can be seen with the example of the New York and Boston On Location Tours . In the Japanese context, it means specifically visiting locations that are featured prominently in anime and in live-action television series. Previous research on the practice includes Yamamura, Takayoshi (2009), Anime pilgrimage and local tourism promotion: An experience of Washimiya Town, the Sacred Place for anime “Lucky Star” fans, Web-Journal of Tourism and Cultural Studies, 14, 1-9, and Norris, Craig (2013), A Japanese media pilgrimage to a Tasmanian bakery, Transformative Works and Cultures, 14. But this is the first time that a journal as high-profile as Japan Forum has devoted a full issue to articles that will inevitably discuss Japanese animation.

Japan Forum, 27(1) – Japanese Popular Culture and Contents Tourism

Contents:

“This introduction to the special issue on ‘Japanese Popular Culture and Contents Tourism’ places the four articles in theoretical and contextual perspective. Contents tourism is a theoretical concept that originated in Japan. Its closest counterpart in the English-language literature at present is film-induced tourism or media-induced tourism. Contents tourism is placed within the theoretical context of cultural tourism and the rationale for its focus on narratives, characters and other creative elements over media format (for example, cinema) is explained. The article then gives a brief chronological overview of how contents tourism has worked its way into the official language of government economic and tourism policy up to and including 2013.”

“This article analyses one aspect of the emerging phenomenon of otaku tourism: travel by mainly male fans of otaku subculture to anime ‘sacred sites’ (the locations that feature in favourite anime). It starts by placing discussion of otaku culture in the discourse of postmodernity and elaborating on how otaku subculture is generating new forms of communication. Then, the origins and characteristics of anime pilgrimage are traced. The article concludes by explaining how otaku tourism and anime pilgrimage generate distinctive forms of communication both among fans and between fans and the communities that experience influxes of anime tourists.”

“Since around 2008, a new type of eager consumption of Japanese traditional, cultural and ideological images and notions has been exhibited by young women in Japan. Called rekijo (history fan girls), they have attracted great public attention. They enjoy visiting historical sites that appear in anime, novels and videogames based on historical fact, and actively participate in events led by local communities. The popularity of such ‘contents tourism’ or ‘pilgrimage’ has had a significant economic effect. Simultaneously, a ‘power spot’ boom has taken place, in which young women visit Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and historical sites to gain spiritual power. Their ‘“pop” nationalistic’ faith towards the spirits of historical figures, Shinto kami and Buddha may be called ‘pop-spiritualism’ and contributes to building new notions of ‘Japanese-ness’. This article explores the significance of the heritage tourism of young women in socio-cultural and feminist contexts, and discusses how the recent rekijo phenomenon and women’s ‘pop-spiritualism’ serves to reconceptualize their national identities and challenge Japanese gender norms. These processes are exemplified through discussion of women’s heritage tourism induced by An-an and Non-no in the 1970s, historical dramas in the 1980s, the Mirage of Blaze series in the 1990s and Sengoku BASARA and Hakuōki in the 2000s.”

“This article demonstrates how a local community succeeded in forming favourable relationships with fans and copyright holders in Washimiya, a town in which the anime television series Lucky star was set. Washimiya is now visited by fans from all across Japan as a so-called anime sacred site. Through interviews with fans, local people and the anime production company, participant observation and analysis of primary documents, the article outlines how the local community, fans and copyright holders formed relationships based on mutual consideration to the benefit of all. Mutual understanding and common goals emerged from their shared respect for the contents (Lucky star), a phenomenon that has received little attention in discussions about ‘contents tourism’. By viewing contents tourism not only as a licensing business or business between the host and the guest, but instead as communication between people in an actual space and time with contents at the centre of interactions, many important insights are gained into the potential for contents tourism.”

“Taiga dramas are one of the flagship events of the Japanese television year. These historical drama series, broadcast on NHK General over the course of a year in Sunday evening prime time, have induced large-scale tourism to sites related to the events depicted in the dramas. This article investigates the scopes and natures of the tourism booms induced by two dramas set in the Bakumatsu (1853–1868) period: Shinsengumi! in 2004 and Ryōma-den in 2010. Analysis of the impacts these dramas had in Hakodate, Kōchi, Hino and Kyoto reveals the complex dynamics of heritage tourism generated by NHK’s dramas. In addition to the narrative qualities of the drama, the scale and nature of the tourism boom are determined by factors such as prevailing economic conditions and the infrastructure capabilities of regions/locations to cash in on the influx of tourists. The predictable, annual tourism boom induced by NHK’s dramas makes the series an important case study within the broader field of film-induced tourism.”

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