I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of ethical tourism – my maternal grandmother was originally from Burma and I’ve always wanted to visit the country, yet its turbulent state makes me think twice. There are compelling arguments on both sides as to whether tourism is beneficial or harmful to Burma, and of course there’s no right or wrong answer.

Bringing the subject back to Japan, the indigenous whaling culture and industry has been under fire in the public eye of late. Is whaling inhibiting tourism to Japan? Japan has had a long history of whaling for various purposes (food & science, mostly), but with ever-declining numbers of whales there have been more and more calls from other nations for it to be stopped. As the voices calling for a ban on whaling are from other countries, this then becomes an issue of outside forces inhibiting Japanese culture, especially for the right wing. Look out for black vans and pickets!

This article raises the question of whether a whale is worth more to the tourist industry dead or alive, and asks if tourism can in fact save the whales. By continuing controversial Japanese whaling does it in fact bring more publicity to the plight of whales?

One of my trend predictions for this autumn & winter is that fur will be firmly back in fashion again. New, non-vintage, fur is still very much taboo in many countries – where Samuel and I live there’s a high vegan population who are probably itching to chuck red paint over anyone who dares to wear a fur coat on the streets! However, in Japan many items that would be made of synthetic fur if produced for a Western market will be of real fur – rabbit or fox – instead. There’s no real sense of taboo to fur in Japan: fur is a beautiful luxury, and decorates everything from hats & scarves to collars & cuffs. I can’t help but wonder where the fur comes from; China? Yet synthetic fur isn’t the perfect solution, it has it’s own issues as it produces yet more chemicals and non-degradable waste.

Fur is natural and humans have been wearing it for thousands of years, but would you buy from a shop that sold fur? How does it affect you as a tourist?

Examples such as these often serve to highlight the differences between cultures, adding to the ‘orientalism’ or ‘otherness’ that characterises the West’s perception of the East.

As a visiting tourist, it seems that are three options available to you: one, totally avoid the country and make a point of not going; two, visit the country & try to educate/inform/downright complain; three, have a good time being a tourist & totally ignore any moral problems you may have. All these options have downsides – is it our place to impose our own values on other cultures? Should we ignore issues we may otherwise feel passionate about?

As with my dreams of visiting Burma, there’s no right or wrong answer to being a tourist in Japan!

Does whaling & the use of animal products in fashion make you less likely to visit Japan?

Rebecca

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4 Responses to Ethical tourism & Japan

  1. icymice says:

    It is interesting to me that you raise the topic of whaling in Japan. As much as I love Japan and Japanese culture, this is just one thing I cannot stand. Japanese whaling ships consistently go way over their limit to whaling and are endangering whales.
    However, this did not stop my going to Japan, as I don’t really think visiting the country really affects the whaling industry, as I did not purchase or consume any whale while I was there. I think there are other methods to raise awareness and try and stop the over-whaling in Japan. (A more extreme example being the sea shephards-who actually have warrants for their arrest in Japan)

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephenie Noah, R & S. R & S said: Ethical tourism & Japan http://bit.ly/dgWM3T […]

  3. tokyotelephone says:

    Thanks for the great comment!

    I agree with you that whaling itself doesn’t really discourage me from visiting Japan, however I’m not sure I’d like to visit (for example) China based on their human and animal rights record. You mentioned other methods of raising awareness – what did you have in mind?

    This is such a complex issue… I think I’ll have to write another post on this topic at some point soon!

  4. […] I think I prefer the idea of fur cuffs (such as the Me Jane pair) rather than actual fur shoes – what happens if you get caught out in the rain? I suppose it’s the same trouble with fur coats… it’s a practicality issue for many people, as well as moral. I’m in no way looking to open a debate on fur, but I feel it’s necessary to talk about it as a trend as it is a major factor in Japanese fashion this winter. You might also be interested in taking a look at my post on whaling & fur – ethical tourism & Japan. […]

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