There was an interesting article in today's International Herald Tribune about tourists in Kyoto sometimes crossing the lines of decency and manners to photograph Maiko and Geisha. It reminded me of the Tsukiji Fish Market badly behaved tourist episode in March of this year, when the market was closed for a limited period.
The Tribune piece closed with an astute observation by Yuji Nakanishi, professor of tourism at Rikkyo University, who said:
"Japanese tend to associate tourism with historical landmarks, but foreigners are interested in people’s lives and their lifestyles. Places like the fish market were never really considered a tourist site until quite recently, so both sides are really confused.”
These episodes reminded of Claire Bishop's critical essay (Download Claire Bishop, Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics pdf.) against Nicolas Bourriaud's relational aesthetics, published in October magazine Fall 2004. Leaning on the ideas of Laclau and Mouffe, Bishop argues that relationality is always underlined by antagonisms and schisms. Geisha-Hunters and Tuna-Harrasers mirror this sense of antagonistic relationality, highlighting the contradictions which underline global tourism between preserved 'local' traditions and free markets (Geisha were instruments for Japanese tourist marketing from the dawn of tourism in Japan. See Ihei Kimura's photographs for 'Travel in Japan' campaigns from the mid 1930s for example), as well as reminding us of the relative historical infancy of Japan's relations with the world. Accounts of early foreign visitors to Japan in the C17th, tell of the 'ill mannered' barbarian, a literary micro-genre which probably persists to this day.
Dutchmen with Courtesan, Nagasaki c1800.
Perry's Marines inspect a sumo wrestler, March 1854.