9. Japan: the Pocket Guide

By Wonik Son

Japan’s re-entry into tourism after World War II began on the day that sovereignty was restored, seven years after defeat. In 1952, the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB), the Japanese government’s corporate arm tasked with promoting and facilitating travel to the country, published two tourist books, a Pocket Guide and an Official Guide. The Pocket Guide’s introductory message is dated as 28 April 1952 – the day the Treaty of San Francisco, which formally ended the American occupation of the Japanese mainland, took effect.

The guide explicitly targets an American audience, with prices converted to US dollars, and travel routes conveniently originating in the US. The Pocket Guide’s text is book-ended by advertisements from financial institutions such as the Fuji Bank, the Nippon Kangyo Bank, and Teikoku Bank; the exotic – the Ozawa Doll Shop; and the luxurious – Mikimoto pearls and jewels in the fashionable Ginza district. From a material motivation, tourism, as manifested by the guides, sought the influx of US dollars facilitated by the currency exchange services provided by Japanese banks and the commercial market for the Oriental.

Yet, with passages on Japanese customs and history, and an entire chapter on “what has changed” since the war, these guides are as much for the Japanese as they are for foreign tourists. The infrastructure that facilitated tourism in Japan – railways, highways, and leisure areas – without a doubt reconfigured Japanese citizens’ relationship with their surroundings. The governmental influence in the production of tourist sites and activities in preparation for publication effectively made the guides state sanctioned guidelines to leisure in the postwar. The JTB’s 1952 travel guides are exercises in recreating and reconstituting postwar national identity through a systematic revision of its recent history and a redefinition of what is legitimately “Japanese.” It is also a continuation of Japan’s own unforgotten colonial desires onto a new America-centric postwar reality, facilitated through the economics of foreign travel.[1]


[1] Nihon Kōtsū Kōsha, Japan. Tetsudōshō, & Japan. Kokusai Kankōkyoku, Japan: the Pocket Guide (1952).

Image: Nihon Kōtsū Kōsha, Japan. Tetsudōshō, & Japan. Kokusai Kankōkyoku. Japan: the Pocket Guide. (1952). Originals are held by the Harvard-Yenching Library of the Harvard College Library, Harvard University. Used with the kind permission of the Harvard-Yenching Library.


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