Lost in Translation: Japan Heritage and the New Direction of Heritage Policy in Japan

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores the new direction of cultural heritage policy in Japan by examining the Japanese- and English-language versions of promotional materials for the “Japan Heritage” initiative of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA). The ACA has long played a central role in implementing Japanese cultural heritage policy, but its traditional goal of preserving heritage sites and culture for their own sake has been overshadowed in recent years by emerging policy agendas related to Cool Japan, regional revitalization, and creative industries. Against this backdrop, Japan Heritage was introduced as an experimental initiative aimed at preserving and promoting cultural heritage from a new angle; in contrast to existing heritage policies, whose primary concern has been the preservation of heritage, Japan Heritage promotes Japanese cultural heritage to international audiences in order to spur regional revitalization and enhance the nation’s soft power. A comparison of Japan Heritage stories written in Japanese with those written in English shows that the Japanese versions explicitly glorify the national character and Japanese traditions while the English versions do not. Such polyphonic narratives reflect two opposing forces: pressures to utilize and instrumentalize heritage to convey compelling national stories and Japan’s “coolness,” and the tradition of offering value-neutral descriptions of national heritage in deference to the sensitivities of Asian nations that suffered under Japanese cultural imperialism in the years leading up to the Second World War.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Heritage in Japan and Italy: Perspectives for Tourism and Community Development
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-97-1499-5
ISBN (Print)978-981-97-1498-8
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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