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  • The Rules of Play: National Identity and the Shaping of Japanese Leisure
  • Sabine Frühstück (bio)
The Rules of Play: National Identity and the Shaping of Japanese Leisure. By David Leheny. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2003. xiv, 188 pages. $29.95.

Slicing through the vast land of leisure and tourism while carefully parting policies from other concerns, David Leheny approaches "leisure" and "tourism" as political rather than epistemological categories. The Rules of Play begins with an overview of the various interfaces of leisure, national identity, and politics in chapters one and two. Leheny reminds us that belief in a stereotype can have powerful implications for policymaking. As he shows in the rest of the book, the stereotype of Japan's uniqueness as well as the seemingly contradictory desire for and occasional necessity of sameness with other industrialized and postindustrial nation-states have served as rhetorical tools that have been employed by Japanese leisure and tourism policymakers to reach a variety of goals. Obviously, the ways these tools were put to use prior to World War II were different from the ways they were employed in the immediate postwar era and have kept changing ever since, but the state's conviction that people's leisure behavior should be guided and regulated by policies appears distinctive to the Japanese case. It is this very assumption that Leheny identifies as the "institutionalization of leisure policy."

In chapter three, Leheny outlines the distinctive features of early twentieth-century tourism policy in Japan. He describes the shape of state policies for tourism during the time when Japan's first researchers of leisure had been driven initially by the desire to understand contemporary society and later to help manipulate Japanese leisure behavior into mass mobilization efforts. Tourism policy was primarily designed not as leisure but as a tool for expansionism or—evoking the general and philosopher of war Carl von [End Page 486] Clausewitz—as a "policy by other means." Tourist maps, travel guides, and postcards from Japanese travel into the colonies have survived in abundance, but Leheny focuses on Western travel to Japan as the government's promotion of "international understanding" and the attempts at improving Japan's global image were directed primarily at the Western world.

The Japanese government implemented a Hotel Development Law in 1907, a Japan Tourist Bureau was established in 1912, and the Ministry of Railroads, the Board of Tourist Industry, and the Japan Tourist Bureau joined forces to enhance tourism in Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1936, when the marriage of tourism and imperialist propaganda gained momentum, visitors to Japan spent approximately ¥107 million or the equivalent of four per cent of Japan's overall trade (p. 61). Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, previous tourism organizations were abolished or merged with the Greater East Asian Travel Company and renamed the Greater East Asian Travel Public Corporation (p. 69). Against the grain of other historiographical perspectives, according to which traveling to unknown terrain had been intrinsically intertwined with exploring, documenting, and eventually colonizing new territory, Leheny argues that tourism in early twentieth-century Japan was easily instrumentalized for militarist ends because the government's role in tourism was not yet fully institutionalized and thus unclear. After the end of World War II, Japan quickly reestablished itself as an attractive destination for 100,000 visitors by 1955 (p. 93).

In a masterful sweep in chapters four through six, Leheny maps out the major postwar steps that resulted in the institutionalization of Japanese leisure policy, starting from the new assumption among Japanese policymakers that leisure was to be understood as a way to determine how a nation was performing on a timeline of development. Whereas postwar leisure policy has undergone major changes, Leheny writes, officials increasingly have believed that to maintain growth, citizens need to consume leisure services that can sustain that growth over the long term. Side-stepping the monstrous debates over questions such as whether Japan is unique with respect to the role of leisure in Japanese lives, whether Japanese enjoy their lifestyles, or whether the Japanese nation is somehow predisposed to work rather than engage in leisure activities, Leheny notes that...


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pp. 486-490
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