4th International Symposium on Aspects of Tourism
THE END OF TOURISM? Mobility and Local-Global Connections
Eastbourne June 23/24 2005
Sustainable Tourism in Japan
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt
University of Applied Sciences Stralsund






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  Tourism in Japan today


Tourism delivers only app. 2% of GDP (2,2% in 2000, 1,9% in 2003) and less then 3% of jobs (2,9% 2000, 2,7% 2003) (OECD 2002, TIJ 2004). The average for OECD countries in both respects is 4-5%.

Inbound tourism amounts to app. 6 mio. visitors per year only, less than Sweden or Singapore, and less than half the global average in the ratio of arrivals/population.

95% of overall revenues of the Japanese tourism industry stem from domestic tourism (TIJ 2004).

Even if the current “Yokosa Japan” (Welcome to Japan) campaign reaches its aim of bringing 10 mio. visitors to Japan by the year 2010, Japan will not be among the 25 major tourist destinations.



Taking into account the four factors mentioned before, these results are not surprising:

  Domestic tourism is an exercise in definition of 'Japanese-ness'.

  Furusato tourism is not for foreigners, just the opposite, as even trips to ’Peter Rabbit Country’ and ‘Heidiland’ become visits to “A furosato away from home” (Rea 2000).

  The guilt-ridden briefness of absense from home leads to short-term, event-orientated travels with onsen (hot springs) as the major non-temporary attraction. This is also reflected in the hardware: hotels with no wardrobes, airport transit busses without luggage departments.

  The overarching influence of construction companies in tourism resort development is reflected in the concentration on big projects designed for visitors arriving in big groups and in the limited concern on giving reasons for return-visits; a form of tourism in decline since the end of the bubble economy.

  The event-orientation expands from cultural festivals also to en-masse visits to specific nature resources on specific occasions (blossoms, coloured leaves, heatwave etc.). The preference of man-made nature makes understandable the construction of huge artificial beaches within view of the ocean like the famous Ocean Dome in Miyazaki/Kyushu.


  The Acquisition and consumption of spatial and cultural resources by tourism is comparatively limited in Japan.

  As a positive result of its weekness, tourism in Japan has not succeeded in forcefully opening up the inside of sacred places like Shinto shrines to the tourist gaze. In the cities, however, the same weekness results in demolition of profane historic buildings, the filling-up of canals, the blocking of vistas as part of landscaped gardens etc.

   Local rural cultures – idealised, commodified – are nourished.


 Contact: wolfgang.arlt@fh-stralsund.de  Tel. +49 (3831) 456 961