(PRWEB) March 21, 2014
While the number of US travelers to Japan remains high, Japan National Tourism Organization organized a lecture about the connection of Buddhism to the Japanese tourism industry.
Tourism in Japan became popular in the 16th century, when travelers would go on pilgrimages to visit Buddhist temples and shrines. In comparison to pilgrimages in western society, the Japanese tend to tour multiple religious sites in one trip to maximize their rare travel opportunity. The reminiscent remains today in the Pilgrimage of 88 Temples in Shikoku. The route follows the passage of a charismatic monk, Kobo Daishi, from the 8th century. The head of his school is located in Mount Koya, which is one of the top religious destinations in Japan. The most important pilgrimage destination is the Grand Shrines of Ise, which houses the tutelary gods of Japan since the B.C. era.
The Buddhist pilgrimage explains many elements of today’s tourism in Japan. In recent years, the wide opening to the main gate of temples and shrines usually includes services such as souvenir stores, restaurants, tea houses, local guide services, and other amenities. Souvenirs are particularly common at temples and shrines, because visitors want to bring home relics to show their family, friends, and neighbors.
The souvenir culture became a major contributor to the Japanese economy, and there are several contemporary twists and innovations to various products. To reflect the magnitude of the souvenir culture, and to appeal to each regional flavor, the Japan Travel Agency (JTA) organizes the annual souvenir (known as omiyage in Japanese) contest to choose the most popular products each year. Highly ranked products are great examples of combination of regional traditional industry and contemporary functional designs. In 2013, Kutani Pottery origami crane from Ishikawa Prefecture was the top souvenir, and tatami (thatcher weave) iPhone case was the top souvenir in 2012.
With the background of the origins of tourism in Japan, tourists will have a vivid cultural interpretation on many things in today’s Japan, including the abundance of regional and seasonal souvenir products; proximity between ryokans (Japanese inns) and pilgrimage sites, who was functioning as the travel agents, and how today’s modern transportation network was mapped out. Just traveling in Japan, it is already a history and cultural lesson, and Japan will promote rich cultural quality even more than ever.