Nature-Based Tourism and Revitalization of Rural Communities in Japan: An Ethnographic Case Study of Oyama Town

Eid-Ul Hasan

Abstract


This paper explores the community revitalization efforts through nature-based tourism in rural Japan. The high economic growth in the late 1980s brought a new trend of nostalgia for the countryside and a desire for rural space in domestic tourism, which went together with the demographic transition in rural Japan. Since the 1990s, many rural communities in Japan have turned towards the nature-based tourism as a ‘potential savior’ from the effects of long-term depopulation, aging, urban migration, and decreasing agricultural profitability. This paper is based on ethnographic field research in Oyama Town, located in Oita Prefecture in the southern island of Kyushu. Since the beginning of the new millennium, Oyama has embraced nature-based tourism activities in order to sustain its’ community. Oyama’s version of nature-based tourism includes themes like green tourism, landscape tourism and agriculture tourism. The research found that nature-based tourism activities in Oyama have helped the community members identify, conserve and capitalize on many latent local resources. The research also found that Oyama has succeeded in addressing the new market opportunities and acted accordingly. Nature-based tourism in Oyama has also increased the promotion of farm products and local culture, income opportunities for local women and elderly, and the diffusion of implicit knowledge on traditional rural lifestyles and environment. The findings provide an important lesson on how small communities in rural areas can be successful in sustaining their communities through community-oriented nature-based tourism, and thus have a wider signification for community revitalization in the face of extreme socio-economic transition.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jsss.v4i1.10189

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Journal of Social Science Studies ISSN 2329-9150

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