Throughout the ten days in Okinawa, I gradually understood what Figal in his article meant by pointing out the “tensions between recreation and respect”. Before reading the article Between War and Tropics: Heritage Tourism in Postwar Okinawa and today’s information session with people from Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, I had always thought that Okinawa didn’t have to make too much effort to have tourists. My reason was simple: because of the U.S. military base and the beach. I have been wanted to visit Okinawa because I wish to know how it feels like to live in an area which was severely destroyed during the war and has now an military base in Asia. But apparently the military base itself is not a strong reason for everyone to come to Okinawa.
Apparently I was only focusing on the first half of the heritage: the part of war. I didn’t think about the combination of Okinawa’s old culture, its natural environment and its relations with the second world war before. I could imagine the combination being awkward: every city when dealing with “recreation” and “respect”, is awkward and for the most part embarrassed by many people because of its choice.
In the information session I learned how the bureau had different strategies for different regions. For example, the bureau tried to portray Okinawa as somewhere fashionable and modern so that young people from Taiwan would come to visit. This is a good strategy regarding to the amount of tourists they can attract, but is Okinawa still itself in these different propaganda? To me, personally, I didn’t see the “fashionable” aspect of Okinawa as they advertised in Taiwan, or at least it is a minor part of the trip in Okinawa. I don’t know if this will hurt anything or not, but I think it stands for an example of what Figal illustrated in his article.
I can’t help but thinking that without the battle of Okinawa, where would Okinawa be now? It can be a tourist city for its good location and sub-tropical climate, but those could distinct it from other tropical islands. The heritage from the war made Okinawa the Okinawa it is now, instead of merely a group of islands where the old Ryukyu Kingdom lied. I can’t tell how important the U.S. air force base is to local tourism without statistics, but I’m sure before anything about profit, it makes Okinawa the place it is. That’s maybe why I think the heritage of the war is so important to Okinawa.
My thoughts on the topic might not be very organized, but I know to me the war side of the heritage is always more important than the tropical side– things related to humanity and social science are always more attractive to me. Overall it was really impressive how people worked really hard to get tourists and how many difficulties they encountered. Okinawa is never a simple area.