MANGA: Okinawa Chapter 11: Homecoming
Continuing Mabui, by Susumu Higa
Hi everyone. Continuing on the theme of last week, that of depopulation of Japan’s more rural and distant towns and villages, we have Homecoming, by Susumu Higa. This one hit pretty hard for me, the struggle between things as they are—the mundanities and struggles of the day to day—and the way we want things to be.
Towards the end of his life, and his work as a traveler and TV host, Anthony Bourdain talked a lot about different towns, cities, even whole countries, making a wholesale change to their economies and embracing tourism and ‘access’ to the rest of the world. Put simply, there’s a lot of economic inequality in the world, and the best way to get some of that money that’s flowing amongst the uber-wealthy is to have it flow into your newly built resorts and other tourist attractions. The question he posed to many, many people involved in the tourism industries in many countries over the last few seasons of of his show Parts Unknown was pretty direct: Do you really think you can invite enough people to this place and show them what makes it special, enough to provide for the people here, without losing what makes it special in the first place?
He wasn’t asking in a vacuum, either for or against. Lots of places had revitalized their economies through tourism, through industry, etc. Conversely, the word “Overtourism” started getting thrown around a lot, pre-COVID. While in this chapter of Okinawa, the question is not strictly about touristic access, but placing a military base, the way that the bases drive local economies isn’t entirely dissimilar to opening up a new 5* Hyatt on your island. I don’t think anyone involved had an easy answer, everyone realizes “It’s complicated,” just as this story from Higa-sensei does. It’s worth thinking about and talking about.
On that note, the government of Japan announced this past week that it will begin to slowly reopen its borders to tourists beginning in June. While no one knows exactly what that will look like, the tourist industry is rejoicing, and the general population is… actually against the move. According to an NHK survey, 65% of respondents are against reopening the borders. Mostly those… who are older.
When we were first working on publishing Mabui, we remarked internally about how, even though the book was nearly a decade old, so little had changed with the state of the Okinawan island chain and its people that it was not only relevant, but still deeply timely. I don’t think we also thought that we would see the same issues—a desire for progress and ‘access’ through industry—play out on a national scale, along roughly the same generational lines.
It’s fascinating being a publisher.
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