2015 Summer Travel Grant Series: Conducting Pre-dissertation Fieldwork in Okinawa

Sakumaphoto: Sayaka Sakuma with Peace Tour Guide and colleague

Summer Travel Grant 2015 Recipient

Sayaka Sakuma

PhD student, Geography Department

Obuchi Fellow

The purpose of my summer travel was to conduct pre-dissertation research in which I aim to develop my scope for looking into tourism development in Okinawa. Mainly, I conducted ethnographic research in two topics: 1) Peace Tour; and 2) UNESCO World Heritage-related Tourism activities. For the first part of my research, Peace Tour, I joined a tour group in which the members explore the memory of WWII and US military bases in Okinawa. Such tours have been gaining popularity in Okinawa, where the prefecture aims to spread the message of peace through its tourism industry. Particularly, I conducted surveys and interviews with the tour members and peace tour guide as well as participant observation during the tour. Based on the data I gathered during the tour, I am currently working on a paper that examines the major discourses on tourism activity and political participation, which I hope to present in Association of American Geographer conference next year.

The second part of the research was to look at various activities related to UNESCO World Heritage designation in Okinawa. Firstly, I visited Hokama Karate Dojo in Nishihara City, Okinawa, where a number of karate practitioners visit regularly from abroad. Karate is a type of martial arts developed in Okinawa, where many practitioners are supporting to designate it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. I conducted an interview with sensei Hokama Tetsuhiro in asking how he perceive the history of karate and Okinawa, as well as how he values the martial art. Secondly, I visited Kunigami Village where a large area of its forest is under the process of UNESCO World Heritage designation. I attended public meetings and workshop where people discussed the process of decision making and how the designation may bring both merit and demerit. It was very helpful to visit the meetings as I was able to learn how people see the on-going project, as well as people’s concerns on local economic development tied to the international branding of UNESCO World Heritage.

Positive outcome from such visits includes: obtaining literary resources in Japanese, obtaining primary data from interviews and surveys, building network with key informants in the research sites, as well as deepening my understanding on each topic. Such outcomes certainly play a significant role in clarifying my research questions and further building my research, as I aim to incorporate such findings into my research proposal. I deeply appreciate for the generous support provided by the EWCA and Hawaii Chapter, as well as the EWC staff members who helped the processing my request, as I would not be able to conduct such research without the funding and I would be still a lot confused without better understanding on the research matters. As this is my second year as a PhD student, my next step is to complete the requirements before conducting further in-depth ethnographic research from 2016-2017. I would like to share how grateful I am after being able to conduct my pre-dissertation research, and how this experience motivates me more and more to pursue my interests in the development of studies in Okinawa.

Sakuma karatephoto: Dojo members at Hokoma Karate Dojo in Nishihara City, Okinawa