Magazine Dedicated To 'dark Tourism' Hits Bookstores

Magazine dedicated to 'dark tourism' hits bookstoresThe first issue of a travel magazine dedicated to sites associated with negative legacies like war and natural disasters hit bookstores this summer.
While most tourist sites in Japan tend to focus on the bright and admirable aspects of their history or circumstances, the new travel magazine, Dark Tourism Japan, published by Million Publishing, encourages readers to enrich themselves through visits to places with dark pasts.

The first issue of the magazine features National Sanatorium Nagashima Aiseien -- a sanatorium for leprosy patients on an island in the Okayama Prefecture city of Setouchi -- forcing readers to confront Japan's past discriminatory and prejudiced policies and attitudes toward leprosy and leprosy patients.

In the past, Dark Tourism Japan's editor-in-chief, Kaoru Nakata, has published books that feature abandoned buildings and other structures such as Hashima island, more commonly known as Gunkanjima -- meaning "battleship island" -- in Nagasaki. He came up with the idea of a travel magazine dedicated to dark tourism, with editorial support from others, including Akira Ide, an associate professor of tourism studies at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka Prefecture. The magazine will be issued four times a year, and possibly every other month at some point down the line.

The magazine's inaugural issue features an essay on the question, "What is dark tourism?" by Ide, who argues that Japan could be a hub of dark tourism because of its defeat in World War II and the frequency and magnitude of its natural disasters. The issue also includes an interview between Ide and Hiroki Azuma, a philosopher who has been involved in a proposal to turn Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant into a tourist site.

Some criticize the magazine for taking advantage of those faced with misfortune. But each travel report is accompanied by commentary by researchers that tries to help readers to find positive meaning in learning unfortunate history.

The article on National Sanatorium Nagashima Aiseien was written by Tomohisa Tamura, a curator of the museum at the former sanatorium. He reviews the government's faulty isolation policy toward leprosy patients, and explains recent developments including the opening of the museum and efforts to have the site registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The issue also introduces "dark tourism" sites overseas, such as the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The next issue, which is set to go on sale in October, will feature industrial heritage sites in response to the recent addition of Meiji Industrial Revolution sites to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. The listing sparked controversy over how the fact that Koreans were forced to work at these sites would be represented.

"We want people to feel the shadows -- or inevitable byproducts -- of modern industry through travel, and to help the idea of dark tourism take root in Japan," Ide said.

The inaugural issue is 96 pages and costs 880 yen.