The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Anthropology of Tourism on Custodians/Owners of Heritage and its Wise-use

Joint Research Coordinator NISHIYAMA Noriaki

Reserch Theme List


With heritage sites it is important not to keep those who would enjoy them far away in the name of safeguarding, but rather to allow people to approach the sites so as to understand their significance for preservation. This conclusion is rooted in the experience that if a high degree of understanding and support for the need to preserve heritage is not present among the general public, then policy support and fiscal support will not be forthcoming for continued preservation. For that reason, building sustainable ties among heritage sites, their hosts and guests is essential. The objectives of this joint research are to elucidate from the viewpoint of the anthropology of tourism the variegated ownership relations among host societies and heritage sites under the social phenomenon of tourism, and to identify conditions for sustainable use (wise-use) of tourism. In particular, we will seek to propose appropriate paradigms for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and Japanese society. Hopefully this research will prove significant, if it can make clear these relationships of ownership and usage, and indicate ways for the Asia-Pacific nations to achieve restorative, internally generated and autonomous patterns of tourism development.

Research Results

During its three and a half years of study, in line with its announced goals this research group held repeated discussions concerning its objective of searching for possibilities of building sustainable relationships among heritage (sites), heritage owners (hosts) and visitors (guests). Discussions of tourism as a sustainable development paradigm for local societies in the twenty-first century, as a global force (force capable of global transformation) comparable to what oil was during the twentieth century, should be fundamentally made in the context of development theory concerning ecotourism. This approach stems from consideration of the essential significance of heritage, including nature, to all stakeholders (those with interests, including the hosts). The approach would also include ensuring access to their value for guests, education and enlightenment. Through interpretation, a range of management processes that would convert, including through education, users from being visitors to being participants, and would be validated through planning theory that would consciously incorporate various categories of heritage zones and owners.
Tourism paradigms that have attracted considerable attention among heritage hosts and local societies in recent years are the ecomuseum and community tourism models. This research committee used these models as specific examples for verifying development theories, through on-site analysis in Japan at Shirakawa-go (Shirakawa village), Taketomi Island, Nara-machi (Nara town), Hagi-shi (Hagi city), Minamidaito Island, Osawa no ike Pond (Kyoto City), and among the Ainu. We also studied the tourism management mindset in the United Kingdom and Germany, and observed various types of sites in Lijiang (China), Bhutan, Uzbekistan, the Galapagos Islands, Cameroon and Vanuatu.
Noriaki Nishiyama was responsible for planning this research group’s discussions on eco-tourism, eco-museums and cultural heritage management. As far as policy views of local governments are concerned, these are reflected in the actual Historical and Cultural Master Plans (provisional name) of Hagi City and Dazaifu City. The planning group of the Cultural Properties Subcommittee of the Council for Cultural Affairs, which includes Ishimori (chairperson) and Noriaki Nishiyama as members, in its report as of October 2007 ( adopted the historical and cultural basic concept, as well as the innovative concept of clustering related cultural treasures, which from the 2008 launch of the "Comprehensive Model for Cultural Treasures" ( have seen policy development.