The Orient Strikes Back: A Global View of Cultural Display

The Orient Strikes Back: A Global View of Cultural Display

The Orient Strikes Back: A Global View of Cultural Display

The Orient Strikes Back: A Global View of Cultural Display

Synopsis

At the turn of the 20th Century, Japanese 'villages' and their exotic occupants delighted and mystified visitors to the Great Exhibitions and Worlds' Fairs . At the beginning of the 21st Century, Japanese tourists have reversed the gaze and now may visit a range of European 'countries', as well as several other cultural worlds, without ever leaving the shores of Japan. This book suggests that these and other exciting Asian theme parks pose a challenge to Western notions of leisure, education, and entertainment.Is this a case of reverse orientalism? Or is it simply a commercial follow-up on the success of Tokyo Disneyland? Is it an appropriation by one rich nation of a whole world of cultural delights from the countries that have influenced its twentieth-century success? Can the parks be seen as political statements about the heritage on which Japan now draws so freely? Or are they new forms of ethnographic museum?Examining Japanese parks in the context of a variety of historical examples of cultural display in Europe, the U.S. and Australia, as well as other Asian examples, the author calls into question the too easy adoption of postmodern theory as an ethnocentrically Western phenomenon and clearly shows that Japan has given theme parks an entirely new mode of interpretation.

Excerpt

Japanese tourists can now make visits to foreign countries with neither a passport nor even the least smattering of an alien tongue. Long and tiresome overseas journeys can be avoided, and it is not even necessary to change currency to buy souvenirs. the exoticism of foreign travel has instead been brought to Japan. For countries ranging from Canada, Switzerland and Spain, to Russia, Holland and Germany, parks have been built that offer replicas and reconstructions of buildings, furniture and all manner of other artefacts. Music and crafts are performed by native experts, and there is an abundant stock of food, drink and ornaments from the area in question, often advertised as exclusive to the location. All this, domestic tourists can enjoy without ever leaving their own shores.

In the northern island of Hokkaido, for example, it is possible to visit Canadian World, where scenes from the life of Anne of Green Gables nestle in a landscape reminiscent of Prince Edward Island, the home of her creator. a little to the south, in the Tôhoku region of the main island, visitors to Swiss Village are encouraged to climb a green pasture to Heidi's cottage, and gaze through her bedroom window at a local mountain, said to resemble the Matterhorn. in the Parque España of south central Japan, one may stroll the streets of a Spanish city, accompanied by the strains of wandering minstrels, pause to glance at the puppet theatre in a leafy square, and linger over a paella and sangria whilst flamenco dancers perform on the stage.

A chief landmark of the Russian village, in the north of the central area, is a beautiful domed church, exquisitely decorated inside and out. the same attention to detail is also displayed by artists from Moscow, who demonstrate the hand-painting of nested dolls, those well-known Russian souvenirs. in a Dutch park situated close to the site of a historical Dutch settlement in Kyushu, Japan's southernmost island, it is . . .

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