Put it into words. 言葉にして。

[Insert witty title here]

Hmm, so today in class we were talking about the codification of local identity through shared hardship, among other things.  When I say shared hardship, I could be talking about a lot of stuff but I specifically want to talk about tourism.  I kind of wonder at this point, with certain places becoming incredibly touristy, there seems to have been a wave of people looking for authentic experiences when they visit different parts of the world.  (Authentic in and of itself is problematic when related to tourism…)  It’s kinda paradoxical to be a tourist and look for an authentic experience, because if there weren’t so many tourists it’d be easier to look for an authentic experience, since places have become touristy because of their presence.  I know that’s really badly worded…just forgive me for that, since it’s almost the end of the week.  Oh, um, furthermore, for people who go looking in out of the way places that they heard about in a guidebook, those kinds of places will eventually also become touristy…so it just seems like the more people go looking from a tourist’s point of view, the more they promote making places become more touristy.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that makes a place touristy; every place seems to have their local specialty because people within the country go and visit it.  The prevalence of places in Kyoto where you can get professionally dressed as a maiko or geisha in order to cater more to the taste of Japanese visitors than visitors from out of country comes to mind.

I don’t think there’s a problem with looking for authenticity necessarily; the problem comes when you do it to patronize a people.  It’s not about fetishizing another people, or elevating yourself above them.  I think it’s okay to look for authenticity if you go into it with the realization that you may be intruding on other people, and if you are it’s your responsibility to make sure you stop doing so.  Then it gets into that question of who you should ask for permission in visiting a place…I don’t know, I really do think even as a foreigner you don’t necessarily need to do things extremely intrusively.  And furthermore, it’s important that you realize that just because something is different it doesn’t mean it’s beneath you.  I don’t think that seeking to understand people, when it’s on their own terms, is a bad thing.  And I guess you have to accept that there may be things you are prohibited from doing at any stage.

I really really want to go abroad.  I want to understand the way of life of another people, and I’m willing to accept that I may always be an outsider.  Even so, I want to try to understand others on their own terms.  I guess at this point all I can hope is that people are willing to be patient with me.  And I really do hope that.



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