Lust for Death
Dark Tourism, Creation and Consumption of Haunted Places in Contemporary Kyoto
Since the seventies, Japan has witnessed an increasing boom in narratives about ghosts and the supernatural, spread on a national level by specialised books and magazines. This ‘mediascape’ often refers to specific sites, describing them as ‘haunted places’ (shinrei supotto), thus informing people about where they may have some supernatural experience. In the case of Kyoto, starting from the summer of 2009, haunted places have also become the destination of a guided tour created by a small local travel agency, that could be framed as one example of the so-called ‘dark tourism’. Drawing upon ethnographic data I collected through fieldwork, in this paper I will focus on this tour, in order to enlighten the processes of construction, commoditization and negotiation of haunted places in contemporary Kyoto. I will build on the concept of ‘Otherness’ of places related to death. Focusing on one of the haunted places visited during the tour – Kazan tunnel – in order to show the processes of construction of Otherness and their negotiations among supply, demand, and the locals, I will argue that Otherness emerges according to associations or networks of human and non-human actors, including material things related to the tunnel, as well as reified events in the past. I will show that ‘distance’ among actors and networks plays a major role in the emergence of possibilities of commodification and consumption of places connected to death. In doing so, I will argue that the idea of distance can also be useful to a re-conceptualization of ‘dark tourism’.