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Understanding the 'Heritage' in Heritage Tourism: Ideological Tool or Economic Tool for a Japanese Hot Springs Resort?

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This study examines the complex relationship between the economic and ideological aspects of heritage, as observed in Kurokawa Onsen, a hot springs resort located on the island of Kyushu, Japan. In the 1980s, this remote village reinvented itself, on the way to becoming a nationally recognized tourist destination that currently attracts around one million visitors a year. The town's success is largely due to its utilization of a nation-wide nostalgia for the country's agricultural past. Through the careful incorporation of elements of the idealized rural village, known as furusato (native place), the resort's business leaders have used the country's rural heritage as a theme in which to situate its own business plan. This study argues that local business leaders use heritage not for ideological reasons, but purely economic ones. In other words, heritage is used as a theme that is profitable and desired by tourists, not because it offers a crucial representation of the past to be maintained at all costs. This paper argues that although the economic value of heritage can be based in its ideological significance, heritage is primarily a flexible commodity.
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Keywords: Heritage tourism; Japan; furusato; ideology; onsen

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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