[From May Issue 2010]
While the Hatoyama cabinet is trying to increase the number of foreign travelers to Japan, their new task is learning how to convince tourists to spend their money once they arrive. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed tourism expert, Professor OHGAMI Manabu, to learn more.
鳩山内閣は日本を訪れる外国人観光客を増やそうとしているが、観光客からいかにしてお金を使わせるかが課題となっている。Hiragana Times CIAは、その点について観光産業に詳しい大神学教授にインタビューした。
CIA: What do you think about the government’s tourism policy?
Prof.: With increased globalization, manufacturers in advanced countries now have factories in foreign countries where wages are lower. In the future, advanced countries will find it increasingly more difficult to depend solely on the manufacturing industry. Japan is a small country and has no natural resources. The best decision is for Japan to become a tourism-based economy.
CIA: What should foreign tourists take interest in, in Japan?
Prof.: Decades ago, Japan was called the country of “Fujiyama and geisha.” Women regularly wearing kimono were once a common sight, but hardly anymore. Japanese cuisine was once only available here, but now it’s everywhere. Foreign tourists used to be able to really sense the cultural difference of Japanese daily life. Now, common foods, clothing and music are universal, making it difficult for a country to provide a unique tourist experience. At present, Asian tourists are purchasing Japan’s high-tech products as souvenirs, but that trend won’t last long.
CIA: Then what is Japan’s attraction?
Prof.: Geisha have almost all disappeared, but the beauty of Fujiyama or Mt. Fuji will remain forever. There still is tourism value in Japan’s abundant nature, and its cultural assets, such as shrines and temples.
CIA: Fortunately, Japan does still have many wonderful shrines and temples.
Prof.: Yes, and the government should pay more attention to how they are run. Japan’s notable shrines and temples charge entrance fees, in addition to placing offertory boxes. Furthermore, they charge book and magazine publishers high publication fees for the permission to shoot and print photos of them.
CIA: Can you blame them?
Prof.: No. In fact, the well-known shrines and temples all have similar business structures to companies that sell the rights to famous characters. Some of them even branch out into other regions, just like franchise businesses. There are all kinds of business models seen in the management of shrines and temples. That’s why their business is everlasting. The tourism industry should learn their know-how in getting money from foreign tourists.
One Comment from CIA
In medieval Christian times, churches sold forgiveness to anyone who wanted to buy absolution from their sins. Here in Japan, the saying “Bouzu marumouke,” means that “Priests gain all the profits.” Therefore, if Japan’s tourism industry learns religious business practices, then Hatoyama’s tourism policy will be a complete failure. Why? A long time ago, religious institutions convinced the government to let them collect money tax free. So, if Japan’s tourism industry does similarly, making money without paying taxes, then how will the government ever make any money?
* CIA（Cynically Insulting Agency ／皮肉冗談局）