chapter  7
21 Pages

Tradition and heritage

The preceding chapter showed Kyotoites divided about what precisely in their urban landscape – substance or appearances? – should be continuous. The value of some form of continuity is not questioned, however, quite in contrast to an earlier day when the fascination with all things new held sway in Japanese society. Kyoto, this means, is experiencing the same surge of public interest in tradition and cultural heritage that has swept the industrialised societies since the nineteenth century, particulary since about the late 1960s, when it has spread worldwide and to all social classes, producing a ‘heritage boom’ (Walsh 1992: 94). The modern-day ‘social life’ (Appadurai 1986) of cultural heritage has attracted considerable attention in the social sciences, and much has been learned about the motives and meanings with which people engage the past and its remnants. A good part of the literature, however, is dominated by a very circumscribed approach that can be summarised in a handful of common assumptions. Looking back on the case studies, but also introducing new aspects, I will explore how these apply to what I observed in Kyoto and how else the social life of tradition and heritage in Japan’s ancient capital can be accounted for.