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THE EMPOWERMENT OF JAPANESE WOMEN AGED 50 AND OVER
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN RECREATIONAL STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This study is dedicated to my late father, Takeo Seki, and my mother, Shizuko Seki.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Heather Gibson for her knowledge and
patient guidance in implementing and writing this thesis. She is beyond an advisor: the
best mentor whom I have ever had. Without her help and guidance I could not have
completed this thesis. I would also thank my other committee members-Dr. Lori
Pennington-Gray and Dr. Amy Pienta-for their feedback and support of this study.
I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the 17 women who took
part in this study, and shared their experiences and knowledge with me. I deeply
appreciate the ETD consultants' wonderful guidance.
Special thanks go to my husband for his support. I appreciate my daughter for her
encouragement and support with using English. I would like to express my gratitude to
my friends in North Carolina, Darlene and Buddy Guerry, for their hearty
encouragement. Many thanks also go to my sister for constantly brightening me up. My
mother's never-ending support and love are of the greatest importance. I am always
inspired and encouraged by her and her way of life.
Lastly, I am forever grateful to my friend George Merritt for his inspiration and
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
L IST O F F IG U R E S .... ......................................................... .. .......... .............. vii
A B S T R A C T .......................................... .................................................. v iii
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
Statem ent of R research P problem ........................................................................ ......
Theoretical Rationale .................. .............................. ........ ...............
Purpose of Study ...................................... ............................... ......... 8
2 LITER A TU R E R EV IEW .............................................................. ....................... 9
Tourist M motivation ............................................ ............. ...............10
T tourist R ole ....................................................................... .......... 13
Travel and Aging ................................... ................................ ......... 16
Women and Travel ............................... ..... .. ......... .............. 18
Japanese W om en and T ravel ............................................ ....................................20
Japanese W om en's Life Course........................................................ ..................23
Japanese W om en's Changing Values......................................................................27
S u m m a ry ...................................................................................................... 3 0
3 M E T H O D S ........................................................................................................3 1
R e se arch D e sig n ................................................................................................... 3 1
Research M ethod ...................................................................... ......... 31
P ilo t S tu d y .................................................................. ................................. 3 1
T he Interview G uide ............. .................................. .................. .. .... ...... .. 32
D ata C collection ................................................ .......... ....... ....33
The Participants ................................... .. .......... ................. 34
Data Analysis................................ ........... 36
D description of Interview Site............................................................... ........ ..... 38
4 R E S U L T S .......................................................................... 4 0
H historical B backgrounds ........................................... .................................40
T h e W a r .....................................................................................................4 0
P a re n ts ........................................................................................................... 4 2
E d u c a tio n ....................................................................................................... 4 4
V o lu n te e rin g ................................................................. ...............................4 5
Feelings of Freedom .................................................................. .. ......... 47
F feeling Free ......................................................................................................48
R elativ e F reed o m ........................................................................................... 5 1
L ongoing for K now ledge ........................................................................................ 54
O w n E experience .............................................................55
K now ing One's Ow n Country .................................................................. 57
C h a lle n g e ....................................................................................................... 5 8
5 D IS C U S S IO N ...............................................................................................6 0
R e sista n c e .............................................................................6 0
Empowerment ................ ........ .......................64
Resultant Model ................ ....... .................. 67
C onclusions.................................................. 69
Limitations and Delimiations .................................................71
A IN T E R V IE W G U ID E ........................................................................................... 73
B 4 -- ............................................................................................... 7 5
LIST OF REFERENCES .......................................................................77
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ....................................................................................... 88
LIST OF FIGURES
3-1 The interview site m ap ................................................. ................................ 39
5-1 Meanings of leisure-travel for Japanese women aged 50 and over........................68
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Recreational Studies
THE EMPOWERMENT OF JAPANESE WOMEN AGED 50 AND OVER THROUGH
Chair: Heather Gibson
Major Department: Recreation, Parks, and Tourism
With increased longevity, people are enjoying longer periods of later life. Some
studies show that leisure-travel is one activity that contributes to the life satisfaction of
older adults. In recent years, leisure-travel has become a popular activity among
Japanese women over the age of 50. Indeed, these older women are likely to travel more
often than younger Japanese women.
This study examined the meanings of leisure-travel for Japanese women aged 50
and over, and explored the contribution of leisure-travel to the quality of their later lives.
A poststructural feminist perspective was the guiding framework for this study. It was
proposed that leisure-travel might provide these older Japanese women, who had grown
up with very traditional values, with opportunities for resistance and empowerment.
Using a semi-structured interview guide and theoretical sampling, 17 Japanese
women aged 50 and over were interviewed about the meanings of leisure-travel and their
lives. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, translated, and analyzed using
constant comparison and grounded theory methods. They ranged in age from 50 to 83
When socio-historical influences were taken into account, two themes emerged
from the data: feeling of freedom and longing for knowledge. Most women in this study
felt inequality and constraints in their lives due to the traditional social system. However,
they felt free through leisure-travel as it took them away from their ordinary lives.
Furthermore by interacting with different cultures, they acquired knowledge, self-
confidence and self-esteem. Some women showed evidence of resistance to the social
structure. More commonly, the women were more likely to feel empowered as leisure-
travel provided them with a chance to find and construct their true identities.
Employing grounded theory methods, a model of meanings of leisure-travel for
Japanese women aged 50 and over was suggested. Influenced by the war, their parents,
and education, the women enjoyed their freedom outside their home through leisure-
travel and gained knowledge which they used to establish their true identities. Their
actions did not necessarily bring about radical change at the societal level, but at the
micro level they were able to exert more control over their lives.
In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating
1999 as the International Year of Older Persons. With increased longevity, more people
can look forward to enjoying a longer period of later life than ever before. At the same
time, in line with the objectives of United Nations' International Plan of Action on
Ageing that promote older person's independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and
dignity (Management and Coordination Agency, 1996), more attention is being paid to
the quality of life for older adults. One of the pressing social issues of the 21st century is
the aging of the world's population. Among the many "graying countries," Japan is
rapidly turning into an aging nation.
According to the projection of the National Institute of Population and Social
Security Research (2002), the percentage of the aged generation (aged 65 and over) will
grow from the current 17.4% (2000) to 25% in 2014, meaning that this age group will
account for one-quarter of the population of Japan. Impacted by the low fertility rate, it is
projected to increase to 35.7% by 2050; that is, a ratio of 1 in 2.8 people will be over 65.
Responding to this demographic change, the Management and Coordination Agency of
the Japanese Government established the General Principles Concerning Measures for the
Aging Society in 1996. The Principles are implemented with the goal of building an
affluent society full of solidarity and vitality where each and everyone can feel that they
are happy to live long and are in perfect harmony with one another (Management and
Coordination Agency, 1996). In order to achieve this goal, several basic objectives have
been set. One goal is to promote social involvement through engagement in meaningful
activities. By improving the facilities for recreation, sightseeing, hobbies and leisure, it is
hoped that older adults will be able to live meaningful lives. "Sightseeing" is one of the
activities which tourists may engage in, however, it should be noted that "sightseeing" is
considered as a general term meaning travel for pleasure for Japanese. Although
Japanese elders have fewer hobbies than do elders in other countries, as Maeda (1993)
found that the mean number of hobbies per person aged 60 and over was 2.7 in Japan,
compared to 7.0 in the United States, leisure-travel was the most frequently reported
leisure activity of Japanese elders next to watching television.
Statement of Research Problem
Despite the economic downturn, 17.81 million Japanese people traveled abroad in
2000, a 108.9% increase above the previous year (Japan Travel Bureau [JTB], 2001).
The remarkable growth in Japanese outbound travelers is attributed to the fact that the
number of travelers in their fifties, sixties, and seventies rose 12%, 12.8% and 15.1%
respectively from the previous year, while the number of travelers in their twenties, who
were the main outbound travelers before, only increased 2.7% (JTB, 2001). In addition,
more women aged fifty and above traveled in 2000 (12.2% increase) compared to men of
the same age (8.7% increase) (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport [MLIT],
2001). How do we explain the increasing number of female travelers aged fifty and
Previous studies have investigated various aspects regarding the preferences of
Japanese overseas travelers (Ahmed & Krohn, 1992; Cha, McCleary & Uysal, 1995;
Lang, O'Leary & Morrison, 1993; Mok & Lam, 2000; Woodside & Jacobs, 1985; Yuan
& McDonald, 1990). Although researchers have examined the relationship between
aging and travel propensities (Sakai, Brown & Mak, 2000; You & O'Leary, 2000),
motivations (Kim & Lee, 2000), and behavior (Faranda & Schmidt, 1999), few studies
have investigated the travel and tourism patterns of female Japanese tourists aged 50 and
over. Furthermore, little is known as to why more Japanese women like travel after they
reach fifty or sixty years old compared to younger Japanese women. There are several
reasons for focusing on this group of female tourists. One reason is that the number of
Japanese female outbound travelers aged 50 and over has shown remarkable growth. The
other reasons are largely due to cultural background.
Traditionally age 60 has a special meaning for Japanese people. There are
numerous practices of praying for and celebration of long life. To share the joy of
longevity, a celebration is held at certain ages. The first celebration is held at age 60.
This age is referred to as "kanreki" for "the combinations ofjikkan, on the decimal scale,
andjunishi, on the duodecimal scale, complete a full cycle and return to the original
combination of the year when one was born" (Sugiura & Giillespie, 1993, p. 139), or, a
return to one's original birth combination of the sexagenary cycle. This is a happy event
for the person who reaches age 60. In addition, most companies set mandatory retirement
between the ages of 55 and 60. The ages between 55 and 60 may be considered as the
pre-retirement phase (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1975). At present, similar to much of the
Western world, those who are aged 55 are regarded as baby boomers in Japan. They
were born just after World War II. By including women in their fifties, this study may
provide insights into the lives of women who grew up during the internationalization of
Japan after World War II as well as those who are pre-baby boomers. The last reason is
that middle-aged and older women have experienced more gender inequality than those
who are in their 20s or 30s. At the present, the relationship between conventional
Japanese social values and recent women's travel patterns has not been studied. This
study will adopt a poststructural feminist perspective to help us understand the
relationship between social values and travel patterns. It is proposed that tourism
provides a personal space to enable mid to later life women a chance to resist traditional
Japanese behavioral expectations. With a better understanding of Japanese women,
especially those aged fifty and over, more positive and active ways of life that promote
older person's independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity
(Management and Coordination Agency, 1996), may be identified. Moreover, by
knowing how those women cope with traditional society through leisure-travel, it is
hoped that this study will demonstrate an idea of resistance and empowerment through
leisure-travel to younger generations, and shed some light on recent problems in Japan.
The idea that tourism is a space for resistance is based on Wearing's (1998) idea
that "for women, leisure is a 'heterotopia', a personal space for resistance to domination,
a space where there is room for the self to expand beyond what it is told it should be" (p.
146). She cited Foucault's (1986) idea of"heterotopias"; that is, "heterotopias" in
contrast to utopias which are fictitious places, "exist in reality" (Foucault 1986, p. 24).
According to Shaw (2001), resistance refers to acts challenging the structured power
relations of class, race, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other forms of
societal stratification. Such resistance may be conscious or subconscious. Wearing and
Wearing (1996) postulated that tourism is an individual experience and interaction in a
space apart from the everyday life of the tourist. Thus, in this sense, tourism can be
viewed as an escape to a social space where individuals can learn and grow rather than
merely an escape from the mundane world (Wearing & Wearing, 1996).
There are various kinds of feminist theories; this study will adopt a poststructural
feminist perspective of aging. Feminist perspectives are defined as "philosophical and
theoretical framework that embodies equality, empowerment, and social change for
women and men" (Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw & Freysinger, 1989, p. 14). Bengtson,
Burgess, and Parrott (1997) described the advantages of using feminist perspectives of
aging, which not only focus on the needs of women who are the majority of the aging
population but also emphasizing the need to explore other forms of difference among the
aged. They also suggested that feminist theories "provide models for macro-micro
conceptual linkages in the sociology of aging by addressing both structural and individual
levels of theory" (p. S81). Poststructural feminist theory addresses both individual and
structural levels of everyday life and it focuses on the needs of the majority of the aging
population: women. Aitchison (2000) suggested, "engagement with poststructural theory
has enabled analysis of both structural and symbolic power through the direction of our
attention to ... the social-cultural nexus of gender-leisure relations" (p. 131). She cited
Adkins's (1998) writing at the intersection of sociology and gender studies, referring to
the 'social/non social nexus'(p. 47), and called this the "social-cultural nexus"(p. 131).
In other words she advocated an analytical perspective that recognized individual agency
within the context of the social forces of the wider society. As such, this supports
Rojek's (1995) warning that "one cannot separate leisure from the rest of life" (p. 1).
Shaw (2001) pointed out that the advantages of a poststructuralist view of resistance is
that it recognizes diversity among women as well as among men and that it also "focuses
on diversity of personal subjectivities and on idiosyncratic factors which may affect
access to power and to resistance strategies" (p. 190). Wearing (1998) emphasized
Foucault's idea of resistance in that it "allows for a more flexible and optimistic situation
grounded in the everyday experiences of individual, real-life women" (p. 145).
The concept of leisure as 'personal space' is based on the assumption that leisure
and leisure experiences provide a site of personal choice, self-determination (Green,
1998), a space for challenging traditional gender identities and creating liberating
individual identities for women (Wearing, 1991). In spite of the fact that leisure is a
basic right of all individuals, women have been constrained by traditional gender roles
and tend to have fewer opportunities than do men (Henderson & Bialeschki, 1991).
Henderson (1990) suggested that for many women, activity in the home is for the most
part never free from such role obligations as household chores and childcare
responsibilities. Henderson concluded, however, "a number of women have expressed a
need for leisure experiences as an opportunity for expressing autonomy, self-definition,
and choice often not present in other aspects of their lives" (1990, p. 240). Freysinger
and Flannnery (1992) explained that leisure might be a realm of life where women can be
relatively free to generate a time and space in which they can define their identity, and in
which they step outside of socially expected roles.
When the notion of space is applied to tourism for Japanese, the dualism of hare
and ke arises. According to Sakurai (1981), hare refers to sacred or special, while ke
refers to mundane or everyday. These Japanese symbolic principles are based on rice
planting farmers. Ohmuki-Tierney (1993) explained when the production of ke
decreases, it becomes kegare (impurity or a state of waning ke). There are two ways to
rejuvenate the state of; one is a festival, and the other is travel (Kanko Marketing, 2002).
Ritual is central to these concepts and is reminiscent of the idea of liminality as it has
been applied to tourism (Turner, 1969; Graburn, 1983a, 1983b). Cohen (1988) explained
that in ritual states:
through the separation, the individual has crossed the threshold (Latin limen) of
his[sic] ordered world, and finds himself[sic] in a state of"anti-structure," "out of
time and place," where his[sic] ordinary role and status obligations are suspended
and where general human (rather than particular social) bonds are emphasized. (p.
In addition to the notions of hare and ke, the concept of the spatial boundary for Japanese
is fairly important in understanding Japanese society. The social boundary such as uchi
(inside) and soto (outside), or ura (rear) and omote (front) implies "sex segregation"
(Lebra, 1992). Soto or omote corresponds to "public", and belongs to male domain,
whereas, uchi or ura parallels to "private", and is equivalent to female domain (Lebra,
Smith, 1987). Those spatial demarcations might bind women to traditional gender roles.
For Japanese, travel is to escape from profane life, thereby invoking the concepts of
ritual process (Turner, 1969). This study will also apply the notion of 'heterotopia"
(Foucault, 1986). Whereby it is assumed that tourism will provide Japanese women with
a space to uncover their true subjectivities, which may engender resistance and
empowerment to conventional forms of behavior.
Palmore and Maeda (1985) found that among Japanese the most satisfying
activities were in the home for women and in work for men. These findings were
confirmed by the Report of the Survey on the Opinion on late Life in 1973 by the
Japanese Government. Almost thirty years after the survey, are these findings still valid?
What about Japanese women who are exposed to traditional values in which men are
viewed as superior to women? Under the influence of Western ideas of identity
construction, with women's increasing higher education and labor force participation, as
Wearing (1991) suggested, can Japanese women have space to choose leisure activities
which provide them with experiences that are not necessarily in accordance with the
traditional patterns of feminine passivity and caring?
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate the meanings of leisure-travel for
Japanese women aged 50 and over and to identify the contribution of leisure-travel to the
quality of their later lives. Particularly, this study examined both traditional Japanese
gender roles and the opportunities to resist these values provided by leisure-travel.
Specifically, as Wearing (1995) suggested, this study focused on "what a person can do
rather than what she ... cannot do (p. 276). The aim was not to focus on older women's
problems but to identify ways in which they enjoy vivid, and fulfilling lives in their later
years (Friedan, 1993; Kart & Kinney, 2001).
This study was guided by the following research questions:
1. What are the leisure-travel patterns of Japanese women aged 50 and over?
2. Have their leisure-travel patterns changed over their life course?
3. What meanings does leisure-travel have for Japanese women aged 50 and above?
4. Have their meanings related to leisure-travel changed over their life course?
5. Do Japanese women aged 50 and above consider their leisure-travel
behaviors socially acceptable?
6. How do their friends and family view these women's leisure-travel?
Although the number of Japanese outbound travelers decreased from 17.8 million
in 2000 to 16.2 million in 2001 due to the threat of terrorism, the JTB projected that this
number will increase in 2002. Actual bookings for package tours have steadily increased.
The JTB predicted that women in their thirties and fifties and over will play a leading role
in the Japanese outbound market (JTB, 2002). It is interesting to look at their report.
They pointed out four noteworthy themes in the travel market for the future. Travel will
increase: (a) among women aged fifty and over who have sufficient savings; (b) women
aged thirties who are very active travelers such as solo-travel, group travel, mother and
daughter or three generations (her mother, herself and her daughter); (c) traveling with
specific themes is getting popular among women in their twenties; and (d) frequent
travelers (JTB, 2002).
Historically, the original aim of the Grand Tour was pleasurable educational
journeys for young men (Graburn & Jafari, 1991; Rojek & Urry, 1997). It is interesting
that several centuries later middle-aged and older women are becoming a subject of the
tourism market. This chapter reviews various aspects of the literature exploring the
meaning of tourism for older women's lives and examines the assumptions that leisure-
travel is a space for resistance to traditional gender relations, ageism and empowerment.
Cohen (1996) suggested, "travelling for pleasure ... beyond the boundaries of one's
life-space assumes that there is some experience available 'out there', which cannot be
found within the life-space, and which makes travel worthwhile"(p. 93). To explore this
idea, literature which addresses motivations for travel; tourist role; women and travel;
Japanese women and travel; Japanese women's life course, and Japanese women's
changing values are explored.
The origin of the term "motivation" was derived from the Latin word "movere",
which means, "to move" (Steers & Porter, 1979). What makes the subject of "move"
actually move? One of the most prevailing ideas in the area of motivation is Maslow's
need hierarchy theory. Maslow (1954) postulated that psychological needs range from
lower order to higher order. Physiological motives like hunger appear first, second
safety, third love motives, then esteem, and finally, self-actualization motives. Pearce
(1982) explained the advantages of using Maslow's theory as a fundamental framework
of tourist motivation. According to Pearce, historically, travel motivations were health,
education, spiritual values and self-indulgence. He explained that traveling for health
was the equivalent to emotional and physical security, educational reasons might be
connected to self-esteem, traveling for spiritual values would be tied with self-
actualization, and self-indulgence motivations were related to the satisfaction of
physiological needs and belongingness. He suggested that Maslow's "concept of self-
actualization contained an inherent notion of individual choice and self-determination",
because tourist motivation theory should be dedicated to "the non-deterministic nature of
intrinsically motivated behaviour" (p. 53). Pearce and Caltabiano (1983) employed
Maslow's hierarchy of needs in their study to understand travel motivations from
travelers' experiences and found that more experienced travelers were motivated by
higher order needs.
The concept of push and pull factors (Dann, 1977) is a widely accepted explanation
for tourist motivation (Cha, McCleary & Uysal, 1995; Parrinello, 1993). "Push" factors
refer to socio-psychological motives or internal forces (Cha, McCleary & Uysal, 1995).
Escape from everyday routine and obligations are one example of "push" factors. "Pull"
factors are motives attracting tourists to a certain destination. Iso-Ahola (1983) stated
that, "motivation is a more important determinant of recreational travel than other
factors"(p. 50) and suggested that recreational travel must be motivated by "intrinsic"
reasons. Furthermore, he explained that psychological benefits stem from the interaction
of two factors: escape from routine and stressful environment and seeking novelty.
Crompton (1979) interviewed 39 respondents and conceptualized the role and
relationships of their motivations for a pleasure vacation based on the concept of state of
disequilibrium. According to Crompton, when disequilibrium arises, a break from
routine is used to restore homeostasis. Going on a pleasure vacation is one component to
satisfy states of disequilibrium. The data suggested respondents' motivations were
located along a cultural-socio-psychological disequilibrium continuum" (p. 415). He
found seven socio-psychological motives or push factors: escape from a perceived
mundane environment; exploration and evaluation of self; relaxation; prestige;
regression; enhancement of kinship relationships, and facilitation of social interaction,
and two cultural motives: novelty and education.
McGehee, Loker-Murphy and Uysal (1996) examined female Australian leisure
travelers' motivations from a gendered perspective. They conducted a survey of 1,503
Australians, and found that Australian women travelers put more importance on cultural
experience, family and kinship and prestige. Cultural experience includes, new lifestyles,
foreign destinations, learning new things, trying new foods, historical places, and
escaping the ordinary. The prestige factor represents safety and security, reporting back
on the trip, being entertained, maximizing experience, new places, and a homelike feel.
While men rated sports and adventure as more important than did women.
Cha, McCleary and Uysal (1995) explored the travel motivations of Japanese
overseas travelers using a factor-cluster market segmentation approach. Their study
revealed six motivation factors: relaxation, knowledge, adventure, travel bragging, and
family sports. They identified three major needs: sports, novelty, and family/relaxation.
Age and education explained statistically significant differences among the three groups
in relation to motivation. Novelty seekers were more likely to be aged 60 and over, and
family/relaxation seekers had the highest education levels. Cai and Combrink (2000)
focused on the gender difference among male-female Japanese tourists in terms of travel
motivations. They found that seven push factors and nine pull factors were evident. The
data suggested that men and women were remarkably differentiated in their travel
motivations. Japanese females showed a stronger need for escape from the demands of
home than did the males. Sirakaya, Uysal and Yoshioka (2003) examined motivations of
Japanese travelers to Turkey. They applied Iso-Ahola's (1983) arousal theory as a
framework to describe and segment Japanese travelers' motivations. They found eight
factors: love of nature, enhancement of kinship, experiencing culture, living the resort
lifestyle, escape, education in archaeology/history, living the extravagant lifestyle, and
travel bragging. The factor-cluster segmentation analysis of motivations indicated two
types of Japanese travelers, seekers and escapers.
According to Wickens (2002), "the word 'role' refers to the pattern of behavior
expected of an individual who occupies a particular status, with each role carrying certain
characteristic actions, emotions, and attitudes" (p. 846). Based on Goffman's (1961)
concept of role enactment, Wickens explained, "Role embracement is used to describe
the tourist's purposeful engagement in certain activities"(p. 847). As Gibson and
Yiannakis (2002) suggested tourist behaviors or roles are related to specific background
characteristics, and as such might help to understand tourist needs and the meaning of
tourism for individuals over the life course. Cohen (1972) proposed four tourist roles
based on a continuum of novelty and familiarity: the organized mass tourist, the
individual mass tourist, the explorer, and the drifter. The organized mass tourist
experiences familiarity at a maximum while novelty is at a minimum. The individual
mass tourist is still controlled by familiarity but the novelty experience is greater.
Although the explorer prefers contact with local people and tries to leave the
"environment a bubble"(p. 166), he/she is not completely in a situation where novelty
dominates. On the other hand, the drifter experiences novelty at the highest level and
familiarity is at the lowest.
Cohen (1996) developed a phenomenological typology of tourist experiences. Five
modes of touristic experiences were identified: the recreational, the diversionary, the
experiential, the experimental, and the existential. The main concerns in these modes
were "where the 'spiritual center' of the individual is located" (Cohen, 1979a, p. 22).
The recreational tourist just enjoys the trip and recuperates physical and mental powers.
They enjoy "pseudo-events" (Boorstin, 1964). This type of tourists still holds the cultural
center of his/her society, but finds no meaning in the surrounding cultures. The tourist in
the diversionary mode does not possess a spiritual center at home and does not seek it
outside. He or she takes a trip to merely escape from the boredom and mundaneness of
everyday life. The experiential mode corresponds to MacCannell's (1973) concepts of
the tourist. This type of tourist has lost their own center and seeks and leads experiences
of authenticity in the life of others. The tourists of the experimental mode do not cling to
the spiritual center of their own society; instead, they engage in an unfamiliar, alternative
ways of life in quest of a new spiritual center. The existential mode tourists have
acquired a new "elective spiritual center" (Cohen, 1979, p. 22), and "the elective center
becomes the new center of his[sic] cosmos "(Cohen, 1979, p. 22).
Redfoot's (1984) typology of touristicc realities" classified tourists in the following
way: the first-order or "true tourist," the second-order or "angst-ridden tourist," the third-
order or "anthropological tourist," and the fourth-order or "spiritual tourist" (p. 291). The
first-order tourists experiences are constantly related to the reality back home and the trip
is a temporary escape for them. The experiences of the second-order tourist are
characterized by having an anxiety and shame over being a tourist. They are likely to
seek real experiences like traveling alone or learning a few words of the local language.
The reality experience of the third-order tourist is built into the anthropologist's role
whose strategies are "developed to maintain a subjective detachment, to avoid 'going
native"(p. 299). The fourth-order tourists are "engaged in saving their own souls"(p.
301) through a rejection of modern culture. They search spiritual reality in the
experiences of others.
Pearce (1985) identified 15 travel-related roles. A multidimensional scaling
analysis revealed five clusters of roles: environmental, high contact, exploitative,
pleasure first, and spiritual travel. Wahlers and Etzel (1985) investigated the relationship
between vacation activity preferences and individual stimulation needs. Using the 40-
item Arousal Seeking Tendency scale (Mehrabian & Russell, 1974), the findings
suggested that stimulation seekers preferred invigorating and innovative vacations, while
stimulation avoiders preferred structured and enriching vacations. Yiannakis and Gibson
(1992) found at least 13 leisure-based tourist roles. They also found gender differences
among tourists in that females prefer safer and more tranquil settings to seek self and/or
spiritual knowledge, and males prefer more stimulating or exciting environments.
Yiannakis and Gibson suggested that, "tourist role preference may be influenced by
culture specific factors and may reflect, to a great extent, culture-specific patterns in sex-
role differences and opportunities"(p. 298).
In a later study Gibson and Yiannakis (2002) employed Levinson's model of the
adult life course (Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson & McKee, 1978; Levinson, 1996)
to investigate the relationship between psychological needs and tourist role preference
patterns for men and women. The findings showed three trends in tourist role preference
patterns over the adult lifecourse. Trend one was described by decreasing preference
over the lifecourse such as the action seeker, the active sport tourist, the thrill seeker, the
explorer, the drifter, and the sunlover. Trend two was characterized by roles increasing
in preference like the anthropologist, the archaeologist, the high-class tourist, the
educational tourist, and the organized mass tourist. The anthropologist refers to those
who are willing to experience local cultures, such as enjoying the local people and
sampling the local food. The archaeologist is described as acquiring the history of
ancient civilizations. Trend three was roles, which demonstrated variable patterns over
the lifecourse such as the seeker, the jetsetter, the independent mass tourist, and escapist.
The findings also suggested gender differences. There were slightly different patterns
according to stages in the lifecourse. Women engaged in or followed male preferences
activities about five years later. These findings indicate that women may be constrained
by cultural expectations such as motherhood and 'ethic of care', but in their late 50s they
might be less constrained and have more freedom of choice.
Wickens (2002) interviewed 86 British holidaymakers in Chalkidiki, Greece and
identified five types of tourist: the Cultural Heritage, the Raver, the Shirley Valentine, the
Heliolatrous, and the Lord Byron. The Cultural Heritage type demonstrated a strong
emphasis on the natural beauties of Greece, its culture and history. This type of tourist is
similar to MacCannell's (1973) tourist authenticity seeking. The Raver type looked for
sensual and hedonistic pleasures and their interest was primarily in the beach and night-
clubs. The Shirley Valentine type was characterized by their expectation of a romantic
experience with Greek males. This cluster consisted of all women travelers. The
characteristics of the Heliolatrous type showed the need for sunshine. They expected and
wanted the "authenticity of the Greek weather" (p. 841). The Lord Byron type was the
tourist who returned to the same place every year. They were more likely to have contact
with and direct experience of the locals. Thus, the literature shows that a range of tourist
behaviors exist and men and women may be motivated by different needs to choose
certain types of behaviors and at different stages in the life course.
Travel and Aging
There are many studies about aging and tourism. However, many of them have
focused on tourism strategies or marketing as aging was seen as an emerging trend in the
travel industry, rather than understanding the meaning of travel for older adults. These
studies focused on "the maturing market", which ranged from 50 to 65 and over, because
it was assumed that they have the time and money to travel (Faranda & Schmidt, 1999;
Hagan & Uysal, 1991; Shoemaker, 2000; Tongren, 1980). Zimmer, Brayley and Searle
(1995) examined the differences between seniors who travel and those who do not. They
found that household income level was the most influential predictor classifying travelers
from nontravlers. Education was the second most powerful influence of travel behavior.
Cleaver, Muller, Ruys, and Wei (1999) explored travel motives among seniors aged
between 56 and 93, and identified seven travel-motive segments: nostalgics, friendlies,
learners, escapists, thinkers, status-seekers, and physical. The first four segments
accounted for 83 percent of the senior tourism market. Nostalgics tend to renew
memories and gaining satisfaction from experiencing favorite memories again, to tighten
family togetherness, and to return to places that are full of pleasant aspects of their past.
Friendlies like to meet new people and make new friends. Learners have a tendency of
collecting new experiences, discovering the world, learning new things and knowledge.
Escapists travel for the need to get away from the responsibilities of daily life. However,
as Kelly (1999) suggested, "leisure is not a separate domain of life, but is woven through
all sorts of roles and relationships" (p. 143), it is also important to examine what role
travel plays for older people in later life.
Hawes (1988) investigated the travel-related life-style profiles of women aged 50
and over. His findings suggested that many older women had the energy and desire to do
active things. Penatla and Uysal (1992) suggested that travel contributes to a sense of
continuity of life style for older people because travel would provide new roles and create
new and positive role images lost due to retirement. Lipscombe (1995) postulated that
travel experiences would facilitate self-development, learning and unique individual
experiences. Gibson (2002) interviewed men and women aged between 65 and 90 years
old. She found that most of the participants felt leisure-travel was an important part of
their lives. Indeed, Rojek (1993) wrote, "Travel is required to yield an intensified,
heightened experience of oneself' (p. 175).
Recent studies about Japanese travelers showed different tendencies among
Japanese seniors. For instance, more Japanese seniors are familiar with English movies
because of the domination of the American movie industry. For those people, New York
City or Hollywood is a niche for seeking authenticity. Sakai, Brown and Mak (2000)
examined Japanese population aging and its potential impact on Japanese international
travel in the 21st century, and they suggested that Japanese outbound travel was expected
to continue to rise.
You and O'Leary (2000) compared two senior Japanese groups, age 55 to 64 years
old, both in 1986 and 1995, and they stated, "the 1995 senior market seems to be more
experienced, place higher values on overseas travel and have an overall higher activity
involvement level" (p. 36). Future seniors may show different leisure behavior, travel
desires and patterns, and interests. More seniors may choose to expose themselves to
new experiences or more novelty.
Women and Travel
Many studies related to women and tourism focus on women as producers (Gibson,
2001; Swain, 1995; Butler, 1995). This study concentrates on women as consumers
(Gibson, 2001; Timothy, 2001). As Timothy (2001) suggested:
Women experience travel, whether for business or pleasure, in context of a male-
dominated industry; therefore women must go out of their way to create their own
space and be recognized as equal consumers of a similar product but with
individual needs. (p. 240)
What are their needs for travel? Few women could travel outside of their
homelands before the eighteenth century (Tinling, 1989). Historically, men traveled for
exploration, conquest, challenge, adventure, and imperialism (Robinson, 1990; Tinling,
1989). For women, their needs to travel seem "very personal" (Tinling, 1989, p.xxiv).
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whose husband was appointed to Turkey as British
Ambassador in 1716, decided to join him. She was the "first authoress to travel abroad
for mere curiosity's sake, and call herself, with considerable pride, 'a traveller"
(Robinson, p. 32). Lady Carven began to travel in 1783 searching for adventure, as she
was bored with her husband. She continued to travel until 1817 (Robinson). Isabella
Lucy Bird Bishop was one of the most well-known Victorian women travelers. Although
she took a trip to North America and Canada in her twenties, her traveling career started
quite late in life. Until she was 40, she devoted her life to caring for her parents.
Robinson described Isabella Bird, "in her 'up-to-anything free-legged air' she certainly
had her moments" (p. 83), and "she was a born traveller, and a lasting inspiration"(p. 83).
Alexandra David-Neel was the first Western woman to enter Lhasa, the capital of Tibet
in 1923 (Robinson; Tinling). She went there "simply because she was not allowed to---
and because it was her spiritual home"(Robinson, p.9). Some were with their husbands;
others were escapees from family responsibilities or attracted by curiosity. Whatever
their reasons were, they were questing spirits, a characteristic which "is not confined to
one sex" (Tinling, 1989, p. xxiii). Hall and Kinnaird (1994) pointed out that Victorian
women used travelling as a means to an end. They were "doubly removed, from other
women and from societal norms, for seeking fulfillment in life other than with family and
fireside" (p. 194).
Japanese Women and Travel
Graburn (1983a) observed that the Japanese have had a very long history of
domestic tourism. Umesao (1995) explained the beginning of Japanese travel as follows:
By the mid-seventeenth century, in the first half of the Edo period, not only was the
entire nation equipped with a system of roadways, but numerous way stations were
also established with inns offering lodging and meals. The establishment of the
"sankintotai" (alternate attendance) system spurred the development of these travel
devices. And yet, transportation facilities hardly advance at all during the Edo
period. This was because the shougunate's policy forbade the use of mobile
transportation facilities such as horse drawn carriages. As a result, people were
forced to travel the roadways on foot. This led, paradoxically, to the popularization
of travel among the general populace. (p. 5)
About 350 years later, more than 16 million Japanese travel abroad. After the
Japanese government liberalized international travel in 1964, with the help of several
changes such as rapid economic growth, surging values of the yen, introduction of wide-
bodied jets and rising labor force especially among women, Japanese rushed into
traveling abroad (Sakai, Brown & Mak, 2000). Graburn pointed out that, "the Japanese
are inveterate tourists"(p. 2). It might be true, but do international travelers' motivations
differ because of travelers' cultural background? For example, it is well known that
American Society is based on individualism, while Japanese society values, a sense of
harmony, or togetherness. Kim and Lee (2000) investigated tourist motivation between
Anglo-American and Japanese tourists. They found that Japanese tourists were more
likely to show collectivism, while American tourists were more likely to show
individualism. These findings show that there were cultural differences based on
nationality in terms of individualism and collectivism.
The geographical feature of Japan: an archipelago whose distance from the Asian
Continent was neither too far to accept cultural influence nor too close to be invaded, it
was suitable for Japan to create a peculiar cultural realm: homogeneous in race, language,
religion and sentiments (Sugiura & Gillespie, 1993). An encounter with the outer world
is both fearful and exciting for the Japanese. Cohen (1972) pointed out that the organized
mass tourist remains mainly within his/her "environmental bubble"(p. 167) throughout
his/her trip. Package tours to the U.S. accounted for nearly half of the total Japanese
outbound travelers both in 1998 and 1999, and about two-thirds of senior travelers bought
full a package tour (JTB, 1997). These numbers show, "familiarity is at a maximum,
novelty at a minimum" (Cohen, 1972, p. 167) for Japanese travelers in their preference
for a collective style of travel. Language barriers are one of factors of strangeness for
Japanese outbound travelers. Language barriers are influential on destination choices
(Cohen & Cooper, 1986). Even their search for different environments and new social
contacts suggests a desire for novelty and strangeness, but at the same time many
Japanese maintain some sense of familiarity.
Lang, O'Leary and Morrison (1993) studied Japanese female overseas travelers
using activity segmentation. They found that five types of travel were popular: outdoor,
sports, sightseeing, life-seeing, activity combo, and naturalist. Also, they found many
females took package tours. Mok and Lam (2000) reviewed the literature of travel-
related behavior of Japanese leisure tourists, and they indicated that travel-related
behavior of Japanese tourists was influenced to a great degree by cultural values. March
(2000) identified eight stages of the Japanese travel life cycle: the family trip, school
excursion, graduation trip, overseas weddings, honeymoon travel, in-company trip, and
silver market which refers to senior travelers. March suggests that a combination of
cultural and historical factors unique to Japan have shaped the travel life cycle.
By looking at recent travel trends, especially, the fastest growing segment of senior
women travelers, it is conceivable that outbound female traveler aged 50 and over and
women in their 20s and 30s who choose to have fewer children or later marriage have a
common idea: resistance to the social conventions of traditional Japanese society.
Several studies showed that fertility change was due to changing values and gender roles
among younger women (Ogawa & Retherford, 1993; Tsuya & Mason, 1995; Raymo,
1998; Yamada, 1999). Higher education and labor force participation has led women to
greater economic independence and realization of individualism and gender equality
(Retherford, Ogawa & Sakamoto, 1996). As a result, they refuse or delay entry into the
traditional ie (family) system, where conservative values about women's roles prevail.
Women should be a good wife and good mother without an identity of her own.
Moreover, it is conceivable that if Japanese female outbound travelers aged 50 and over
seek a non-ordinary domain apart from home-based daily life, they might resist not only
the traditional wife's image but also negative stereotypes of aging.
Creighton's (1995) study of craft tourism for Japanese women provided a sense of
how the idea of some Japanese women legitimate their travel. She described Japanese
women who participated in the craft workshops. The travel, which has educational and
traditional nature, is cloaked in cultural legitimacy so that they could visit various
sightseeing spots, "rather than having it defined as "pleasure travel" (p. 476). As Craik
(1997) pointed out, cultural tourism has been 'feminised' (p. 133), Japanese women need
some legitimate reasons to travel not just to escape from ordinary life or to relax, but
socially accepted reasons like touching and feeling authenticity or learning from
professionals (JTB, 2002). In fact, the Japan Travel Bureau provides a new package tour
especially for people in their fifties and sixties. They do not focus only on women, but
their main focus is women who are over fifty (JTB, 2002). Moreover, from the JTB
report in 2002, two interesting characteristics of Japanese oversea travelers are found.
One is that more mothers and daughters are traveling abroad, and the other is that more
women who are fifty and over prefer traveling with their friends than their husbands
(JTB, 2001). The former trend can be explained by Kawamura (1994) in that parent-
child relationships in Japan are much stronger than those between husband and wives.
The latter can be understood by the desire that these women have for a space to construct
her own meanings and own self-development (Gibson, 2001). For Japanese women who
travel with their husbands, they will not be afforded the same opportunities to liberate
themselves from traditional family roles.
Japanese Women's Life Course
Probably most Japanese women who are middle age and older have heard or have
been told that they are like Christmas cakes. This riddle-like expression implies one
stage of Japanese women's life course. Brinton (1992, 1993) explained this riddle in that
Christmas cakes are "very popular and sell like hot cakes up until twenty-five and after
that you have a lot of trouble getting rid of them"(p. 80). The metaphor of 'twenty-five'
indicates women's marriageable age. This story suggests the strong norm about marriage
and age (Brinton). According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security
Research (2002), mean age at first marriage of Japanese women was 23 years old in
1950, and 27 years old in 2000. Though nowadays this metaphor may be obsolete, still
Japanese women are bound to cultural norms. For example, women who are approaching
the appropriate marriage age are often asked when they are going to marry. Once they
are married, they are asked, when they will have their first baby. Then again they are
asked when they will have a second baby. After women have had two children, they are
free from these questions. Finally, they have become socially regarded as a fully-fledged
woman. Marriage and childbirth are culturally the most deep-rooted life events for
women in Japan.
Brinton analyzed the life course in the U.S. and Japan. She suggested three
dimensions of the life course presented by Modell, Furstenberg, and Herschberg (1976)
were useful in cross-cultural comparisons. They are spread, reversibility of entrance and
exit from specific institutions, and age-congruity. According to Brinton, spread refers to
the length of time it takes to make a specific transition for a given proportion of the
population. Reversibility represents "whether entrance into a role or state tends to be
reversed (by exit) at a later date" (Brinton, p. 83). Age-congruity may be described as the
extent of overlap between statuses. She suggested how to apply these concepts to life
course comparison between Japan and the United States. In addition, she pointed out,
"American researchers of the life course have usually treated the individual as a fairly
independent decision maker responding to a set of choices regarding significant role
transitions according to a normatively defined 'life script" (1992, p. 82). On the other
hand, those who have a stake in exercising some control over the individual's life course
transitions have more influence on individuals' life course transitions entering and exiting
social institutions in the social organization of Japanese society than American society.
She argued the timing of life course transitions for Japanese women is described as
irreversibility, with little spread, and age-incongruity, and strongly influenced by
stakeholders such as parents, spouses, and employers. On the contrary, the life course
transitions of American women are more reversible than permanent, and show a good
amount of spread and age-congruity across individuals. The stakeholders in the life
course of American women seem to be less influential than those for Japanese women.
Those dimensions of the life course and the stakeholders are deeply rooted in
Japanese cultural and traditional norms. For example, a main purpose of women's
education in Japan is "preparation for family roles" (Brinton, 1992, p. 87). It is very rare
that Japanese women return to school after marriage, and there is very little overlap with
roles such as students and wives, or mothers. The labor market in Japan also reflects
three dimensions and the stakeholders. The labor force participation of Japanese women
increases until age 24 and declines from age 25 to 34 (The Cabinet Office, 2002). When
they enter the work force, employers encourage them to "think of the workplace not as
the first stage of a working career but rather as a way station on the route to marriage"
(McLendon, 1983, p. 156). Brinton (1992) explained, "Employment before marriage was
followed by exit from the labor force after marriage. Reentry into the labor force
occurred after the last child left home. In other words, labor force participation was a
reversible decision" (p. 92). Age-incongruity between marriage and labor force
participation is attributed to Japanese euphemistic expression of marriage, which is
regarded as "lifetime employment" (Brinton, p. 93).
As Brinton suggested, "The life course is affected by the historical development of
social institutions within specific cultural settings" (p. 101), ages at marriage and at first
birth in Japan have risen over the twentieth century, while that of the United States have
dropped. Educational attainment has risen in both countries, but Japanese women finish
their education as scheduled. American women show more diversity such as returning to
school after marriage, or divorce (Brinton). Though the Japanese women's life course is
strongly influenced by the conventional ideas, changes have gradually occurred. For
example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Laws put into effect in 1986, which
officially prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex and from denying
opportunities for jobs and promotions to women (Brinton, 1993; Rosenberger, 1996).
Other aspects of change are the aging society and fertility decline. Aging itself is
not a problem, rather aging is considered as a happy occasion in Japanese Confucian
values, however, population aging is thought to bring a health-care system collapse and a
financial crisis in the social security system (Ogawa & Retherford, 1993). Moreover, the
continuing low birthrate accelerates a demographic change into an aging society. The
National Institute of Population and Social Security Research revised the birthrate
projection downward froml.61 to 1.39 (2002). It indicates old-age dependency ratios
will exceed 60.0 by 2050. Several studies have investigated fertility decline in Japan
(Morgan, Rindfuss & Parnell, 1984; Ogawa & Retherford 1993; Raymo, 1998; Tsuya &
Mason, 1995). Raymo pointed out increasing number of unmarried women in their 20s
and early 30s have contributed to the recent fertility decline. Tsuya and Mason argued
that because of the new opportunities in the educational and economic systems Japanese
women tend to delay their marriage.
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare take the trend of fewer numbers of
children seriously; they have adopted several measures to cope with it. They held "the
Meeting of the Learned to Consider Measures to Cope with Fewer Numbers of Children"
(Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 1999). The proposals submitted at the Meeting
include: revision of the division of roles between men and women, the promotion of joint
participation by men and women in family affairs, and the improvement of child care
services such as daily nurseries (Chapter 5, Section 1). In response to the proposals, the
government has promoted day-care measures. They have introduced more flexible and
less uniform nursery care services than have been traditionally provided. Encouraging
men to participate in child rearing was also one of the measures that the Ministry took in
1999. Low fertility rates will result in decreased labor force population, which may
hinder the economic growth and increase the burden on the younger generation. Whether
she chooses family roles or not is an individual's matter. However, when this movement
becomes collective, it may be construed as a form of political practice (Shaw, 2001).
Nozawa (1995) examined the Japanese tourism industry and found, There seems to be a
correlation between the growth of the Japanese female outbound market and the
improvement of the working conditions and environment for female professionals in
travel-related industries" (p. 486).
Japanese Women's Changing Values
Improved educational opportunities were thought to be one of the main factors
leading to changing values for women. With the prevalence of the egalitarian ideology
introduced by the postwar constitution (Meguro, 1990), more women became better
educated and independent. It is expected that the young generation at present will have
an influence on the behaviors or attitudes of the next generation. Anderton, Tsuya, Bean,
and Mineau (1987) found indirect associations of intergenerational transmission
regarding the timing of fertility-related life-course events. Although women's higher
education was supposed to be associated with the recent fertility decline through four
generations, it was not a single factor. The number of junior colleges or universities for
women is an important indicator in understanding women's status, but more importance
should be put on intergenerational relations. Daughters of the first generation spent their
adolescence in the typical traditional family where their mothers did not have any right to
choose or decide, because they had neither higher education nor economic independence.
Some women might have antipathy against inequality, but most women would give up
fighting inequality, and some would not even think of fighting inequality. Coupled with
the introduction of democratic and egalitarian ideologies, daughters of the second
generation began to advance in higher education and participate in paid work. Increasing
numbers of daughters from the next generation graduated from junior colleges or
universities, and got paid jobs. Thanks to high economic growth during 1950s to 1970s,
they would have material security. However, gender roles in the family still reflected
pre-industrial culture (Inglehart, 1990). More women began to enjoy themselves fully
until they were bound to traditional family roles.
The recent survey by the Institution of Population Problems (2000) showed that
50.7% of respondents felt that men were treated better than women at home, 60.7% of
them thought men received better treatment than women at work, and 76.6% of them
believed that men had better treatment than women culturally and traditionally.
However, 63.9% of them thought that men and women were treated equally in education
(N=3,378). Tsuya and Mason (1995) suggest that unless gender roles especially at home
change and become more attractive for young women, the Japanese government should
expect a continuing declining in fertility. However, the Japanese traditional systems may
be changing, but at a very slow pace. According to the survey by the Institution of
Population Problems in 1997, from 1975 the number of women of 20 to 29 years old who
have never married increased sharply, and that of women aged 30 to 34 almost doubled.
These trends coincide with the onset of women's educational opportunities. More
opportunities for women in education provided them with more opportunities to
participate in the labor force, and women gained "significant new opportunities for
individual survival, as well as a sense of belonging, esteem, and self-realization" (Tsuya
& Mason, 1995, p. 142). As a result, fertility and female marriage may have declined in
There were important transitions for women's life course after the Second World
War. For example, the age cohort of 70 years old experienced the democratization of
educational system just after the war. They encouraged their daughters to take higher
education. Women aged 60 and over devoted themselves to hard work after the war.
They sacrificed their adulthood for their country's development. It is not surprising that
they thought they did not want their children to live like them (Yamada, 1999). Their
children inevitably came to enjoy time and money for themselves until they met an ideal
partner. Moreover, because of the current recession and low-growth economy, male
wages are relatively low. On the other hand, women who co-reside with their parents are
relatively wealthy because their parents have higher income based on the seniority
system. It may be difficult for a woman to find a man who has a higher salary and
education compared to her parents.
It is ironic that the purpose of women's education in Japan was to produce "good
wives" and "good mothers" and to prepare for family roles (Brinton, 1992). However,
the contemporary educational system which is considered to be equal for both men and
women makes women realize how their world has been still confined to the traditional
demand and age-appropriate norms (Iwao, 1993). Iwao explains that women's education
in Japan has encouraged the ideas of independence and self-identity in women who were
born after the World War II. Consequently, the number of unmarried women has risen
and as a consequence the birth rate has declined. Moreover, Japanese women may resist
Japanese government policies which "channel women into nurturing positions at home
and lower-level positions at work in order to maintain a societal order" (Rosenberger,
1996, p. 12), and may pursue the fulfillment of their desires based on the ideals of
individuality and freedom.
Given that tourism is considered to enable "individuals to spend a period of time in
a new place or places" (Kinnaird & Hall, 1994, p. 11), leisure-travel may provide women
with spaces where they can express themselves more freely than in their home
environments (Graburn, 1983a, 1983b; Wearing, 1998). Like the Victorian women
travelers, although the number of travelers was much smaller than that of today, Japanese
women may travel in search of experiences that they find meaningful. Coupled with the
prevalence of women's higher education, their labor force participation, and exposures to
egalitarian ideas, more Japanese women have become aware of their own identities. The
literature clearly shows that traditional Japanese values are changing. The increasing
numbers of Japanese female leisure-travelers aged 50 and over suggests that this may be
one realm of their lives where they can resist traditional family roles and a society where
they are expected to do as they are told. Tourism may enable them to learn more about
their own subjectivities to a greater extent (Wearing, 1998) and develop a sense of
A qualitative research design was adopted for this study. In-depth semi-structured
interviews were the primary method used to uncover the meanings of leisure-travel for
Japanese women who are 50 years old and over. The purpose of the study was to
investigate the relationship between tourism and quality of life for these older women.
Particularly, this study examined both traditional Japanese gender roles and changing
women's values and how these might be related to leisure-travel choices in later life.
As Gibson (2001) suggested, "Interviewing tourists about their experiences may be
one way to understand the meaning of travel in people's lives" (p. 27), using a semi-
structured interview guide, in-depth interviews were conducted in two data collection
stages with older Japanese women. The first stage involved two interviews via the
telephone during spring 2003 and was the pilot study for the second stage of data
collection. The telephone interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, read and re-read,
and then examined line-by-line to identify prominent patterns and concepts. Then the
transcripts were translated into English. The initial patterns that emerged from the data
were: both women were strongly influenced by the Second World War and their parents;
they were willing to learn what they did not know; they preferred an individual tour to a
package tour and they had optimistic views toward their life. From this process the
interview guide was revised in three ways. First, when asked about their travel
experiences, they were asked whether their travel was domestic or international. Since
this study worked from the assumption that tourism provides a personal space for
challenging traditional gender roles and creating individual identity for women, no
specific limitations as to the type of travel was used. The second revision was as they
talked much about their parents, but little about their husbands, one more question, "Tell
me about your husband" was added if they did not mention their husbands for married
women. The final revision was to employ some flexibility in the order of the interview
guide so as to allow participants to speak more freely during the interviews.
The Interview Guide
Interview questions were based on the women's life events, life review, identity,
aging, and the present (Kaufman, 1986). Hence, the interview guide was designed to
encourage the women to talk about their lives, family roles, and travel history. The
questions included: (a) asking interview participants' travel history and experiences, and
meanings of each trip for them (Gibson, 2002); (b) the role of travel over their life
course; (c) insights on their parents, marriage, and children; and, (d) their feelings about
growing old (see Appendix A for Interview Guide). Six questions addressed their travel
history: (1) Please tell me about your most recent vacation or trip; (2) Looking back over
your life talk to me about some of your travel experiences; (3) What meanings does travel
have for you; (4) Do you have any activities you regularly take part in; (5) In comparison
to these activities, how important is travel to you; and (6) Do you have a dream vacation.
Three final questions asked about life in general: (7) Life events; (8) Life review; and (9)
Aging. These questions also had probes associated with them and were used to delve
more deeply into aspects of their lives. The first question had two objectives: a) to make
the participants feel at ease; and b) to talk about their most recent travel patterns. The
second question was asked to find out whether their travel patterns changed over their life
course. The third question attempted to ask participants about the meanings of travel
through out their lives. The fourth question endeavored to recognize their daily activity
patterns. The fifth question asked them about the role of travel in their life compared to
everyday activities. The sixth question asked them about their dream vacations. The
seventh question asked about their parents. The eighth question inquired about their
personal history. The final question asked their feelings about getting old and their
attitudes toward later life.
The second stage of the data collection comprised face-to-face interviews
conducted during summer 2003. During this second stage, snowball and theoretical
sampling were employed based on concepts from the literature review and patterns
emerging from the pilot study interviews. Consequently, participants were selected on
the basis of age, travel experiences, socio-economic background, and marital status.
Participants were initially contacted by letter or phone call. They lived in the Kagawa
Prefecture, Japan. (see Figure 1.) The study was explained to them and they were asked
to participate in a 40 to 60-minute face-to face interview about the meanings of travel in
their lives. Upon their consent, an interview was scheduled at a time and place they
designated as convenient for them. The interviews lasted between 35 minutes to one
hour and 30 minutes. Ten were interviewed at their residences, four took place in a quiet
coffee shop, and one woman was at her office. Prior to beginning the interview, the
interviewer read the informed consent form, asked for a signature on two copies of it,
obtained permission to audiotape the interview, explaining that the tape could be turned
off at any time, and their confidentiality would be maintained at all times. The principal
investigator conducted the interviews in Japanese. Tapes, transcripts and translations
were stored in a locked file cabinet. Research participants were identified with codes to
ensure their privacy and confidentiality. After each interview a transcribed copy was sent
to the research participant for verification and approval.
Purposive sampling was employed initially in the pilot study. Two women living
in the Kagawa Prefecture, Japan were interviewed via the telephone in April 2003. The
two women were selected on the basis of the researcher's knowledge of their travel
experiences and socio-economic background. They were first contacted by the
telephone. Then both the consent form and the interview guide were sent to them via
email and surface mail. After a few days for one woman and two weeks for the other,
they were contacted by telephone to confirm their agreement to participate in the study.
One of these women is a 66-year-old married retiree with two grown-up children. The
other is a 70-year-old married English teacher with no children. The former woman has
extensive travel experiences. The latter woman has visited the USA once every two
years since 1990. After the interviews the two women were asked to suggest additional
people for interviewing. A further 15 Japanese women who were 50 years old and over,
and have travel experiences were recruited to take part in the second stage of the data
collection process. All participants of this study are residents of the Kagawa Prefecture,
Japan. In the middle of June 2003, the primary investigator had an opportunity to give a
presentation about Florida's tourism to an audience of about 80 in the Kagawa Prefecture
Japan. As part of this presentation she spoke about the study and recruited additional
interview participants. Six women responded after the presentation and consented to
Table 1: Profile of interview participants
*Participants Age Marital Status Biographical Notes Work
Aki 66 Married Swimming, English Retired
Two grown-up children.
Kaori 70 Married No children. Frequent traveler Teaching
Chisato Late-60s Married Volunteer for people who have Retired
a visual impairment.
Tomo Mid-60s Married Volunteer for people who have Retired
a visual impairment. Longing
for Tibet. Extensive traveler
Etsuko 70 Married Volunteer for people who have Housewife
a visual impairment. Travels
abroad twice every year
Fumi 66 Married Chorus, Arts Housewife
Takako 65 Single, never Swimming, more than 20 Retired
married international trips
Haruyo Late-50s Married Volunteer for homeless people Housewife
Izumi Mid-50s Married Teaching Japanese for foreign Housewife
people. Extensive traveler
Junko 54 Married Trekking. No children Housewife
Kumiko 58 Married Two children. Taught in Retired
schools for handicapped
Rie 53 Single, never Individual traveler. Volunteer Secretary
married for an international exchange
Mai 65 Married Extensive traveler. Teaching Novelist,
English & Women's Studies at translator,
several colleges. & teacher
Naomi 70 Married Lived in Panama for two years. Poet
Volunteer for people with
Sumire 83 Widowed Loves nature. Three children Pharmacist
& six grandchildren
Yuri 50 Married Three children Pharmacist
Ryoko 52 Married Two children. Substitute
_Infrequent traveler teacher
participate in the interview. The rest of women were introduced to the primary
investigator by the first and second stage interview participants. Coupled with the
findings from the first telephone interviews, such as influence of the War and parents,
marital status, and work experience, and the purpose of the study, these participants were
selected on the basis of theoretical sampling. On two occasions, two participants
unexpectedly invited their friends to their homes. Consequently, collective interviews
were conducted, that is, three women were interviewed at once. The interviews were the
same as the others although a few questions regarding to their socioeconomic
backgrounds including age, education and income were not asked because of their
sensitive nature. The interviews were conducted to the point at which the data were
theoretically saturated and no new findings were evident in subsequent interviews.
Research participants were selected from several different communities and volunteer
groups in the Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. A total of 17 women ranging in age from 50 to
83 years were interviewed (see Table 1). Seven were in their 50s, six were in their 60s,
three were in their 70s, and one woman was in her 80s. One was widowed, two had
never married, and 14 women were currently married. As for travel experiences, one
women who was in her 80s did not have any international travel experience, however,
most women traveled frequently both domestic or internationally. All names used in this
study are pseudonyms. As some women were unwilling to answer annual income,
education and accurate age, they were not required to answer them.
Constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was employed through out
the interviews and analysis of the data. Data analysis began with reading the
transcriptions intensively. Then the interview data were broken down into distinct
episodes, events, remarks, ideas and feelings. They were categorized by using the
technique of labeling. Open coding was used to identify initial categories in the data.
Then axial coding was used to explore how these categories were interrelated. Selective
coding then was used to integrate and refine these categories into a grounded theory
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Along with coding, memos were also used to clarify the
categories and reduce ambiguity (Sausser, Dattilo & Kivel, 2000). According to Strauss
and Corbin (1998), memos are "to serve as reminders or sources of information", and
"very specialized types of written records-those that contain the products of analysis or
directions for the analyst" (p. 217). Through these methods, the interviews were coded,
which allowed for the discovery of new concepts. Participants were contacted by follow-
up letters, emails or phone calls for subsequent data collection based on these emerging
new concepts. When no new concepts were identified, the principal investigator felt that
the data were saturated and no further interviews were conducted. Glaser and Strauss
described the constant comparative method as having four stages: a) comparing incidents
applicable to each category; b) integrating categories and their properties; c) delimiting
the theory; and d) writing the theory. Through these processes, important themes and
sub-themes were identified from the data. To validate these themes and sub-themes, they
were compared against the initial patterns that had been identified and also to the raw
data. In addition, two women were contacted by email and asked for their comments
about these themes. Following their confirmation, the themes and sub-themes emerging
from the interview data were verified.
As for the translation from the original language into English, Strauss and Corbin
(1998) suggested, "key passages and their codes can be translated, approximating the
original as closely as possible"(p. 286), because "often, there is no equivalent English
word capable of capturing the subtle nuances in meaning of the original language"(p.
285). Much attention was paid to the translation process from Japanese into English.
Initially the principal investigator translated all of the interviews into English. Then a
Japanese individual who has lived in the US more than three years was asked to translate
the English translations back into Japanese, and then those Japanese translations and the
original interviews were then compared for discrepancies. When different nuances were
found, the primary investigator and the bilingual person discussed them and agreed on a
Description of Interview Site
The Kagawa Prefecture is located in the northeast area of Shikoku Island, which is
in southwest Japan (see Figure 1). Kagawa faces the Seto Inland Sea. Kagawa's
population is slightly over one million. Almost 40% of employed people (210,000) in
Kagawa engage in the primary and secondary industries. Kagawa's population is
growing older with elderly people comprising about 21%. Today, internationalization in
Kagawa is pervasive. After Kagawa created friendly ties with Shaanxi province in China
in 1994, various cities, towns and groups around the prefecture have sister city
affiliations and friendly links with cities including St. Petersburg FL, towns and groups
overseas. Furthermore the number of people traveling abroad and the number of
exchange students coming from various countries to Kagawa increases every year.
Internationalization is growing steadily at both governmental and grass roots level
(Kagawa Prefecture, 1999).
There are two reasons why Kagawa was chosen as an interview site. One reason
was that Kagawa was the place where the primary investigator was born, brought up, and
lived until 2000. Because theoretical sampling was employed in this study, it was
convenient to conduct interviews in the place where prospective interviewees lived. The
other reason was that despite the fact Kagawa has relatively conservative atmosphere,
people tend to be influenced by non-traditional ways of life, and they are becoming more
conscious of internationalization.
i Kouachi Pref.
Figure 3-1. The interview site map
This study investigates the meaning of leisure-travel for Japanese women aged 50
and over and identifies the contribution of tourism to the fulfillment of their later lives.
Particularly, this study examines both traditional Japanese gender roles and the
opportunities for women to resist these values and to empower themselves by seeking
new aspects of their identity through leisure-travel. Two themes were identified from the
interviews with 17 Japanese women and the memos taken during the interviews. Feeling
of freedom from ordinary life or obligation was the first theme. The second theme was
longing for knowledge. Under these two themes there were several sub-themes, which
were difficult to categorize as they were closely interconnected. Before discussing the
themes, however, it is essential to understand the life context of these women in terms of
the historical time frame in which they grew up along with the attitudes of their parents,
and their educational backgrounds. In addition to the socio-historical events,
volunteering is also discussed, as it is perceived that volunteering is an important part of
the majority of the women's present lives.
The Japanese women in this study were born between 1920 and 1953. When asked
about leisure-travel through their lives, seven women who were 50 and over did not talk
about the Second World War at all, instead, they mentioned their family trips with
parents or grandparents. Eight women aged 60 and over, however, did talk about the
War. They said that when they were children or young adults, little thought was given to
leisure-travel. Rather, some women thought travel meant going or moving somewhere.
Aki, a 66-year-old married retiree, and Takako, a 65-year-old single and never married,
returned to Japan from China when the War was over. Both women had similar
experiences. Aki vividly remembered the day she returned to Japan, she said:
My memories of childhood travel are totally miserable. The ship we were on was
the last one from China. It was a cargo boat. We were packed in the bottom of the
ship with cows and horses. We arrived in Sasebo, and then went to Niigata,
Kagawa, Kobe, and Hokkaido. I kept crying the whole journey.
Just four months after coming back to Japan, Aki lost her mother when she was ten. After
the War, times were difficult so she, her father and brother traveled around to live with
various relatives. Takako also recollected:
I barely remember, but I think we left Shenyang, China in September 1946. We
consisted of myself along with my two sisters and two brothers. I was the oldest
and in the second grade. One sister was six and one three months. One brother
was five and one three. As my father and mother carried all the baggage, my sister
of six carried my baby sister of three months on her back. I carried my three-year-
old brother on my back because he suffered from malnutrition and could not walk
by himself. We boarded the train, an open freighter car, and were fortunate it did
not rain on the way to the port to board the ship. The ship's hold was like a sports
field, and probably had been loaded with tanks. On the trip I saw a ship get caught
in a torpedo net, it sank, and the ships crew that died were buried at sea. I still
remember the fear I felt at that time. We arrived in Sasebo, Japan in October. I
remember the whole trip took one month.
After they returned to Japan, Takako's mother had a baby boy. She died of pancreatic
cancer when the baby boy was one year and six months old. When she was in the sixth
grade, her father remarried. Takako did not say much about her stepmother, but she
missed her real mother. She explained:
My stepmother was not a bad person, but I wanted my mother. I didn't really want
to marry. Maybe I live an easy life. I don't think seriously about my life, but the
loss of my mother was the most tragic memory in my life. I am happy now and I
don't regret not marrying or having children.
She has traveled abroad both intensively and extensively since 1968 with her sisters,
brothers, other relatives or her friends. For example, between 2000 and 2001 she traveled
to Israel, Jordan, Oregon, Canada, Europe, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and North Carolina. She
wants to travel to several places where she has never been including the Arctic and
Antarctica. When asked the most important thing in living a good life, she answered,
"Peace and no war."
Sumire, an 83-year-old pharmacist, did not have much to say about the War except,
"I never relaxed a single day until the War was over." Like Kaori, a 70-year-old English
teacher, Etsuko, a 70-year-old housewife, and Chisato, late 60s married retiree, they did
not really travel when they were children. They said, "It was that kind of time."
Therefore, most women aged 60 and over did not really travel, while women in
their 50s had a few travel experiences with their family with the post-war high economic
Their parents were born in the period from the 1880's to the 1930's, roughly just
after the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the pre-war era. Smith (1987) noted those women
who lived during this period were meant to obey three men throughout their lives: their
father, husband, and the eldest son. The eldest son is included because he acts as the head
of the household in her later life. Smith described this further:
(P)rewar Japan was a highly andocentric society ... the good and virtuous woman--
mother and wife, be it remembered--was nonetheless a limited being. Women were
thought to be less intelligent than men, more emotional and so less rational, less
reliable, vindictive, potentially dangerous if not rigorously disciplined, and worst of
all, silly. (p. 9)
Women in this study grew up in such families where traditional gender roles dominated.
They spoke of the great influences their parents had over them while growing up.
When asked who had been the most influential people at various stages in their
lives, most women mentioned their parents in different ways. Chisato, Etsuko, and Rie, a
53-year-old single secretary, remembered that their fathers were powerful and oppressive.
Typically, my father was a commanding tyrant when my mother was at home.
Recently she has been suffering from dementia and only remembers when she had
a hard time with him. She often says she wanted to be free from him. So I told her,
then why didn't you leave him when you were young. She did not say anything
about it, though.
Aki's father was different from those described by the other women. She described
My father, I think, lacked vitality for living, but he bought me a set of paints even
though we were on welfare, because I liked painting. My mother was very realistic
and a hard-worker. I think my personality is similar to hers. I act like her.
Although her mother died when she was ten years old, Aki was strongly influenced by
her mother. Izumi, in her mid-50s and married, explained that her mother served her
husband obediently until he retired. However, Izumi closely looked at her mother and
noticed that her mother began to get very domineering after her father retired. Chisato
spoke about her parents. She explained that her father had great influence on the family,
but he also contemplated much before doing anything. Her mother was a woman who
walked behind him, but after he died, she became a much more active woman. Naomi, a
70-year-old poet, depicted her father as a reticent man who made his presence felt, yet
her mother was a very social and out-going person.
Though their mothers lived according to typical traditional Japanese norms, some
of them differed from societal expectations. Junko, 54-years-old and married, portrayed
her mother as a woman who got her own way. Tomo, mid-60's and married, said her
mother has been complaining to Tomo's father that only she is always busy working.
She wanted to be a man if she could be reborn because men could do whatever they
wanted to do. Sumire remembered her father was very gentle, while her mother was a
strong-minded woman. Thus, the women in this study had been influenced by their
parents and their mothers' influences in particular appeared to be reflected in their
daughters' lives. Some mothers were typical traditional mothers, while the others were
not. Women in this study assimilated their mothers' influence either by adopting or
rebelling against their mothers' way of life.
Women in this study were not explicitly asked about education, even so, ten
women among those interviewed were college or university educated. Until the
Fundamental Law of Education was proclaimed in 1947, the idea that "learning is
unnecessary for women" and "an over-educated daughter would fare poorly in the
marriage market of the times" (Smith, 1987, p. 7) were widely recognized. Some women
talked about their education in terms of endearment, some in terms of anger, and some a
little of both. Their mothers were always happy with the fact that their daughters
received an education, but their fathers primarily believed that an education was
unnecessary. Fumi, a 66-year-old married retiree, said quietly but firmly:
My father liked to look down on my mother because she had only an elementary
school education. He had a bachelor's degree in business. She encouraged me to
go to a college, though he insisted that higher education was not necessary for me.
Despite this, she graduated from a university in Tokyo with her mother's blessing, for
which she was very grateful. About 40 years later, she completed a master's degree in art
in a graduate school at a national university in Japan.
My father was a very gentle and enjoyable person. But as for education, my
mother was an "education mom"(kyoiku mama). They could not afford to let me
have higher education, but she persuaded him that women would certainly need
education in the future. I attended a mission school, which was her great
contribution to me. At that time, it was conventional wisdom that women did not
have to get a higher education. However, my mother insisted that the time for
higher education had come, and convinced him not to miss the chance.
Iwao (1993) defined herself as an "education mom", one "who pursues vicarious
fulfillment through the accomplishments of her children". Whether their mothers were
"education moms" or not, there were some women who pursued educational attainment
by resisting social norms with the help of their mothers who had not been able to fulfill
their own educational ambitions.
Aki reminisced about her younger days and said, "I really wanted to go to a
college." However, she finished her high school education attending evening classes
while she worked during the day. She has been learning English conversation twice a
week. Her dream vacation is staying at homes in English speaking countries. Though
Kaori had a college education, she still wants to study English in a university.
Historical events and social structure prevented some women from pursuing higher
education. Some women attended community education programs, while others were
involved in volunteer activities.
In their home lives, twelve women were involved in volunteering activities. Eight
women participated in volunteering regularly, while four women did so occasionally.
Chisato, Tomo and Etsuko belong to the same volunteer group where they read books for
people who have visual impairment once a week. Tomo described volunteering as a
facilitator of mind growth. She believed travel was along the same lines. Chisato
explained her thoughts about volunteering:
When we are volunteering, we interact with people at a daycare center. They teach
us how to make pickles. When they say they anticipate seeing us next month, we
feel all the more pleased. I think volunteer experiences help my personal growth.
Her engagement in volunteer activities gave her an opportunity to interact with others and
participate fully in society. As a result, she could find a place outside her home within
her ordinary life, similar to escaping the mundane through travel.
Haruyo supports homeless people in Osaka mainly by sending goods twice a year.
Once she stayed at the shelter with them. She described her experience:
I was shocked to see people lying on the street such a cold night in February. At
night between buildings, cardboards, just a size of coffin, were placed one after
another. Next morning, I saw a long, long line and found they lined up to get rice
balls. I found myself asking that this happened in Japan?
She added that most important thing for her was a moment that is just a moment and
cannot be repeated. She cherished the chance of once-in-a-lifetime (Ichigo ichie), which
is the idea that every single encounter never recurs in a lifetime introduced by Sen-no-
Rikyti in the sixteenth century. She always thinks of this concept in everyday life as well
as in traveling and volunteering.
Bradley (1999-2000) said, "Individuals use volunteering to construct an enhanced
sense of purpose by doing things for others, to build a fuller sense of identity by pursuing
personal interests, or to create a reasonable structure for their daily lives"(p. 45). In
addition, as Henderson et al. (1989) pointed out, volunteerism has generally been
considered as work rather than leisure, women in this study think volunteering is a
socially acceptable activity, in other words, they do not have to feel guilty for not being at
home or not taking care of their husbands while they are volunteering. The women have
found a space where they can maintain their personal growth away from home which is
On the one hand the women participate in volunteering without feeling guilty
because it is not for their own sake but for other people's sake, but on the other some
women feel guilty when they travel because it is not sanctioned in the same way as
volunteering. However, they may negotiate such feelings by persuading themselves that
they should have a right to travel, as they dedicate themselves not only to their families
but also to others. Moreover, their motivations to engage in volunteering are very similar
to their travel motivations. By involving themselves in the lives of others this provides
them with a sense of self-worth. Likewise, by interacting with local people and cultures
the women know the differences between their own cultures and other countries.
Consequently, they became conscious of themselves.
Feelings of Freedom
The women in this study shared or experienced common historical contexts in
regards to their social and cultural background. From their travel patterns, all women in
this study had travel experiences when they were children, even though some times these
were tragic. However, most women in their 50s went on family trips as well, other
women did not mention family trips, instead they brought up the excursions from their
school days. A school excursion refers to a systematized school trip where elementary,
junior and senior students travel around to see historical and cultural interests as a part of
their school program. These trips originated in the 1880s as a means of physical and
spiritual education for Japanese youth (March, 2000). Kaori remarked, "When I was in
the sixth grade, I went to Kochi and in high school, we went to Osaka as a school
excursion. Until I began to work, I did not specifically travel anywhere." The only
enjoyable memory about travel for Aki was the school excursion to Tokyo. Sumire also
experienced a school excursion in sixth grade. Although she only traveled 40 miles, she
remembered it took a long time. She noted, "I was sitting in the school yard in the faint
morning light. I only remember that charcoal soot got into my eye."
Thus, most travel undertaken in their childhood tended not to be motivated by
intrinsic reasons. Therefore, when did such desires as getting away from the demands of
home or escaping from the ordinary emerge for these women? It obviously began after
they married or got a job. Twelve women remarked that the meanings of travel for them
were to feel free, including relaxation (rirakkusu), escape (tohi), and enjoying non-
ordinary life (hi-nichjio). An additional sub-theme, relative freedom, is also related to the
main theme. This sub-theme may negatively influence aspirations for travel, but the
women were somehow able to negotiate any constraints they felt might impede their
Six women explained relaxation was the meaning of travel. Kumiko, a 58-year-old
retiree said, "Relaxation is the most important. Travel takes me to a more dynamic
world, because I'm free from ordinary life." Izumi said that travel energized her. Sumire
emphasized the importance of relaxation by traveling. She felt that when she traveled she
could be free from busy days. Although she is 83 years old, she still works as a full-time
pharmacist in a hospital six days a week. She continued:
I prefer traveling by myself to a group tour. When I am surrounded by nature in a
different place, I feel I can be selfless. Only travel can enable me to get away from
busy days and rest my body and soul in Mother Nature.
Being a full-time pharmacist, Sumire traveled less frequently than the others, but
she remembered her past travel with her husband and family. Although she was
concerned about her age and health, she always cherished a hope of visiting places of
natural beauty, which, she thought, encouraged her to stay healthy.
When asked the meaning of travel, two women in their 50s, mentioned that it was
escape. Rie said, "For me travel is just escape, escape from work, and escape from
various pressures. That is the most important." Yuri a 50-year-old pharmacist with three
children said, "Travel means escape from the real world. Travel enables me to feel I live
in a different world." Yuri is in the middle of motherhood, has a job, and is concerned
about her children's education, and about her husband who is approaching retirement age.
She wants to travel whenever she feels like it, but does not want to worry about her
As Rie is single, she has different social pressures than Yuri. Sooner or later nearly
90% of Japanese women marry (Statistics Bureau, 2000). She did not talk about her
feelings of remaining single, but she did say that her father puts great pressure on her to
marry. Since he is a very traditional man, it is assumed that he may worry about the
surrounding world (seken). As Benedict (1967) pointed out, Japanese culture is a shame
culture, for Japanese behavior is not ruled by an inner belief but an external feeling of
shame (Sugiura & Gillespie, 1993). Lebra (1984) emphasized the importance of seken
(surrounding world) and sekentei (the honorable appearance as viewed by the
surrounding world), "The seken (surrounding world) in whose eyes the ie reputation is to
be preserved consists of shinseki, nakodo, neighbors, employers, employees, bosses,
subordinates, colleagues, customers, or a more vaguely defined "community" (p. 154).
Because of this, it is likely that Rie is under pressure from not only her parents but also
her surrounding world. Indeed, she said, "One thing I am looking forward to is being 60
years old is because I will travel without any obligations." As noted in Chapter 2, the age
of 60 symbolizes the entrance to the last life stage beginning with the middle age. Lebra
explained this life stage that:
(W)hen a woman, freed from the burden of childrearing, can enjoy autonomy,
obtain power and leadership in and out of the household, begin to have her past
hardship and energy investment repaid, taste a sense of accomplishment and, ikigai,
[life's worth] and develop a retrospective insight and wisdom on life. (p. 253)
Therefore, she thought she could be free from social obligations when she reached 60
For Fumi, the meaning of travel was escape from everyday life. She added,
"Travel lets me feel free from the ordinary life, traveling abroad especially allows me to
escape from the burdensome relationship with family or relatives." Five more women
also said travel was something they used to escape from everyday life or obligations.
Four women said leisure-travel took them to non-ordinary life. Ryoko, a 52-year
old substitute teacher, explained traveling with her friend is the most enjoyable because
she could feel liberated and was fully satisfied with non-ordinary life without family.
She added travel plays a role of adding punctuation marks on life. Aki said, "Regardless
of domestic or international, travel brings me to a non-ordinary world. That's fun." Aki
truly enjoys her non-ordinary life, but interestingly she is attracted by an everyday life in
different cultures. Mai, a 65-year-old novelist, pointed out the reason she liked travel is,
"I don't have to wash the dishes or clear the table. That's really nice. I can be anybody.
I feel I am coming back to life as a new person. Travel recreates my soul." Tomo
depicted her feeling when she went on a trip to northern Japan. She said:
First, I read a book; next, I visit the places where I am inspired by the book. Then I
can feel the spirit of the places. I can't tell what I feel, but the most important thing
is the fact I experience myself with my body and spirit standing in the places
surrounded by nature. I love nature. I feel liberated, no, not such a saccharine
sentimentality, something sinking deep into my mind, a great peace in mind. As a
result, I can attain a spiritual state of selflessness. I think I look for those senses in
When she had argued with her husband about values of freedom, or other values, she
found a great gap existed between the two of them, so she started traveling alone, which
she found to be much more pleasant because it allows her to communicate with her inner
Thus, some women just enjoyed the free atmosphere apart from home, others
recreated their body and mind. Though their feelings of freedom may come from
different psychological situations, Wearing (1998) explains women construct many
subjectivities, many 'I's. This seems to describe the women's experiences of travel in
The second sub-theme is relative freedom. Four women mentioned somewhat
negative feelings accompanied by leisure-travel. Women's lives are influenced by
various social roles and values, particularly family responsibilities. While most of the
women in this study spoke of the freedom that leisure-travel afforded them, they also
identified two constraints: husbands tagging along and feeling guilty.
The majority of women agreed that tourism enabled them to feel free from various
situations. Nonetheless, this freedom sometimes depended on whom they traveled with.
Fumi was disappointed that she did not get a chance to revisit England by herself, where
she had lived for two years, before her husband retired. She explained:
After he retired, he was always tagging along with me (wahi-mo-zoku). I feel I lost
my freedom. It was difficult to deal with because caring for him made it hard to
enjoy my feeling of freedom at times. When I was in my 50's, I had a lot of
dreams. I will feel relieved becoming 70 when everything will be settled. I will be
happy with being a good grandmother.
Although generally the onset of 60 years old means the beginning of feeling rewarded for
the long years of hardship and energy investment (Lebra, 1984), Fumi did not feel that
she had achieved this state as her husband's retirement had constrained her somewhat.
Instead she looked to the age of 70 where she could either give up her dreams or find a
new dream in grandmotherhood.
Etsuko also felt constrained by her husband. She had traveled abroad several times
with her friends before. However, she began to feel sorry for her husband, so she asked
him to go abroad with her, and since then he plays a leading role in her travel. They
travel twice a year regularly. However, she complained:
Whenever I travel with him, I feel like I am dragging my home. He asks me where
his underwear are, where his pajamas are. When we get on a train or bus, I can't sit
by the window, because he insists on taking pictures. He always sits by the
window. So I feel half-free from everyday life when I travel with him. Traveling
with friends is much more pleasant than with my husband because we have a
different sense of values.
She went on to explain that her dream vacation was anywhere without her husband.
Chisato agreed that traveling with her husband was a limited freedom, however, she
always went abroad with her husband. She said:
I enjoyed traveling with my friends twice as much as traveling with my husband,
because I totally feel free and relaxed. I can visit whenever and wherever I want to
see. I can view things from the new situation. Since I've hurt my back, however, I
knew going with him is very convenient, because he is my exclusive porter.
Aki also expressed complaints about her husband:
Every time we boarded a plane, he got airsick. He needs a lot of looking after.
Nevertheless, he will not go anywhere without me, there is no way to travel and
leave him behind. I think in general, husbands are jealous of wives for enjoying
themselves without husbands.
She traveled abroad several times, and all her international travels were with her husband.
Their views that traveling with husbands might reduce their feelings of freedom from
home or everyday chores are in common with Shaw's (1992) findings. She explained
that the caring aspects of family leisure frequently brought negative effects for women,
because family leisure experiences often resulted in work for women, and furthermore:
If women consistently put the leisure needs of other family members before their
own needs, they may tend to lose a sense of their own right to leisure and right to
leisure and right to time and enjoyment for themselves. (p. 284)
These four women knew traveling with friends or alone was much more enjoyable than
with their husbands, on the other hand, they recognized that the husband and wife were
the last companion as they were left alone (Lebra). By maintaining the marriage the
women feel a sense of accomplishment in perseverance.
Mai was a little different from these women. She had lived in the United States for
one year, and explained:
American men, they take care of their wives when traveling together such as
driving and buying ice cream. On the contrary, Japanese men expect to be taken
care of by their wives even in their travels as a matter of course. It is not surprising
that Japanese wives don't want to travel with their husbands. I travel within my
own budget, with my own money. I don't financially depend on him. Our
daughters have already grown up. Japanese women have served their family
enough to deserve to be free. I keep house well. It's my choice to travel or not, or
with whom to travel.
She often travels abroad not with her husband but with her friends.
Three women mentioned they felt guilty about their travel. Etsuko and Chisato felt
guilty about their husbands. Their guilty feelings can be explained in terms of the ethic
of care and a lack of entitlement to leisure (Henderson et al., 1989), Chisato explained
how she got over her guilty feelings. She pulled her husband into her world, in other
words; they share the enjoyment of travel. However, Izumi felt differently. Izumi felt
guilty about people in developing countries; guilt accruing from her social conscience.
She teaches Japanese to Asian people as a volunteer. She explained, "For me traveling
means spoiling myself with extravagance. Since I see many foreign people from poor
countries, I feel guilty." She convinced herself when she traveled she could alleviate this
feeling by saying that she only did this once a year.
When asked about other people's views of leisure-travel for women aged 50 and
over, all of the women except Rie said their leisure travel behaviors have been socially
accepted, and most of their family more or less support them. Rie lamented "Some
people made sarcastic remarks, while others reluctantly accept my travel." When she
was interviewed, she was very busy with personnel changes at her office. She seemed to
be very tired. It is not surprising that she says she is looking forward to being 60 years
Three women agreed that women aged 50 and over already enjoyed domestic
autonomy to some extent. Mai and Yuri stated, "Whether accepted or not, I will travel
when I want to go." Thus, it seems that Japanese women aged 50 and above may be
establishing their own place as their contributions in all aspects of life are getting valued
and appreciated (Henderson & Bialeschki, 1991), though it may not be at the societal
level, but at least in their immediate environment. Since traditional Japanese cultures and
norms are so strongly embedded in their everyday life, it is still very difficult to resist
them. Instead these women seem to have adapted themselves to the cultures and norms
on the one hand, and they are able to experience feelings of freedom and establish their
own identities in another world through travel, on the other.
Longing for Knowledge
The second theme found in the data was a longing for knowledge. Many women
said they traveled because they wanted to see, to feel, to touch, and to make choices with
their own senses. Some women wanted to have a new experience. The others wanted to
fulfill their curiosity. There are three sub-themes in the second theme: experience by
oneself; knowing one's own country; and challenge.
The women in this study understand the importance of establishing their own sense
of self. Seven women mentioned the importance of their own experiences in leisure-
travel. Aki explained how she felt when she traveled abroad, "Traveling abroad gives me
a lot of opportunities to see different cultures, to feel different atmospheres, and to soak
myself in often unseen nature." Kaori's first international trip was not by a packaged tour
but as an independent traveler. She reminisced about when she arrived in Washington
D.C. for the first time in 1990. The airport officer greeted her saying, "Welcome to
Washington, President Bush also welcomes you." She replied to his joke with humor,
"Thank you. I am planning to visit the White House tomorrow. I will say 'hi' to the
President." She felt happy that she could speak English during her trip to the United
States. Further she continued, "Travel gives me opportunities and joys to learn by
myself, challenge new things, and to meet local people." Similarly, Rie commented
about her travel to Europe when she was 19 years old:
I traveled Europe alone without booking hotels, enjoying a carefree itinerary. I met
a lot of people. I did what I would not do at my present age. People whom I met in
my travels were very kind to me. Though I was told that I should be very careful
regarding strangers, especially people in a certain country, they were very nice.
They were opposite to what I was told. Mostly I believe what others say, but I
knew I couldn't accept whatever others say without question. I ought to make sure
of the truth with my own eyes and senses.
Haruyo, late 50s and married, also felt that she wanted to experience things for herself.
I want to see through my own eyes what is true. Even though I can see a picture of
the Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, I don't know the real size or color. It is hard to
get a good perspective from a photo. At times I am quite selfish, in other words, I
like to experience things on my own. I can then make my own conclusions about
what I have seen.
I don't know what the wind smells like, or what the wind feels like, unless I go to
the place. Each country has its own culture. I may think it is right, but in a
different country they may think it is wrong.
These, sentiments of experiencing something for themselves and seeking the true essence
of a destination were very important to these women and add to the meaning of leisure-
travel for them.
Over the years their travel patterns changed from family-based or family-oriented
to self-centered, from curiosity to more knowledge. Takako answered, "Travel satisfies
my curiosity. I am very curious about everything. I want to learn and see what I don't
know." Rie expects to experience new things and see a different world. She described
travel compared to volunteer activities, "Travel is for the sake of myself. I am the subject
who is looking for my own pleasure." Naomi said as well, "Travel is just for me, for my
own sake. When I feel suffocated, I want to go with no definite destination in mind."
Further she depicted her travel to Chile:
I went down to Punta Arenas, which is the closest town to Antarctica, and although
it was summer, it was very cold. I rode on the bus for many hours without seeing
anything except great open spaces of green pastures, and where there were homes
people raised sheep for a living. At some of the stops only one person would
depart the bus and I would imagine what a lonely and isolated life they lived out in
the middle of nowhere raising sheep. This travel was very inspiring because
nothing was there, nobody was there, except a wonderful sense of isolation,
desolation and loneliness. Even though the media keep us very well informed,
there are so many places we still know very little about. It was wonderful and a
very exhilarating travel experience.
She concluded her impression of the trip by saying that the meaning of travel was
somewhat to see and feel such feelings of isolation and loneliness. She believed such
experiences could create self-confidence in a traveler.
Thus the women emphasized "I" not "We". Most women in this study had
experienced the inequality of power distribution in the domestic domain. The women's
experiences in travel enable them to construct their own spaces as being a subject of the
action not a subordinate (Wearing, 1998).
Knowing One's Own Country
In addition to acquiring knowledge and satisfying their curiosity, seven women
who traveled abroad said they learned more about their own country than before they
traveled. They compared the Japanese ways of life or ideas with those of foreign
countries. Aki explained the importance of travel:
I believe travel was necessary for me, because I learned more about Japan when I
was in foreign countries. For example, I thought people in the US lived in so much
luxury like Hollywood movies, but they didn't. They lived in a modest way. On
the contrary, Japanese people waste things."
Naomi expressed her disappointment when she lived in Panama:
We often say Japanese value wa, a sense of harmony and togetherness, but it only
applies to domestic matters. I don't think that value is used fully outside Japan.
We are not all open to other nations. I think it was a pity. Seeing other countries
means to stare into Japan itself. Then we can know what and who we are.
She emphasized more Japanese people needed to experience overseas travel. She went
on to explain:
I will continue to travel. Travel enriches my life. I could not speak Spanish, but I
could communicate with local people. I am not afraid of being humiliated. I knew
we are all incomplete until we die. I've learnt there are various different people in
the world. I am very thankful what I gained from my trip.
Thus, as Wearing and Wearing (1996) suggested, women's subjective experiences
may enhance the self, offer opportunities for self-awareness, and help to construct
identity by interacting with people and environments from different cultural backgrounds.
The last sub-theme was challenging attitudes through their travel modes and
patterns. Most women in this study preferred an individual tour to a package tour. Their
preference for individual tours may support further their desire for freedom than arranged
tours. Aki explained the advantages and disadvantages of a group tour:
A group tour is convenient and economical, if we don't have time, money,
experience, or knowledge. I have no interest in brand shopping. I prefer visiting
museums and markets. I like seeing everyday life in travel destinations. I want to
interact with local people. If I am in a group tour, I can't have free time. Riding
public transportation by myself and reading maps are not easy, but such difficulties
are good for me. I can learn much more on my own.
Aki has traveled abroad five times. She traveled as part of a package tour four times, but
her latest trip was an individual tour. Most of her domestic travel was independent. This
is very similar to the other women. They planned by themselves and used public
transportation or their own cars when they traveled in Japan. As for their international
travel, five women who spoke English well traveled by themselves, but others used a
package tour. Even so, they chose package tours, which allowed them to have more free
Three women thought travel was a test of their physical limitations. Tomo
sometimes traveled just to prove her physical and spiritual limitations. She explained,
When I travel, I make a reckless plan beyond my physical strength. Then arriving
in the destination, I just walk, walk, and walk. While walking I can be pure
without worrying about anything. I feel so refreshed. Through that kind of travel I
After she finishes her trip she feels she has confirmed her physical strength and
rejuvenated herself. Then she begins to look for a new trip.
Fumi explained her most enjoyable trip was visiting England alone:
When I traveled abroad with my husband, as he can speak English, I felt left out.
But when I traveled alone, I did or managed to do everything by myself. Meeting
people and preparing plans for everything I did, was really fun and an adventure.
As several women mentioned, it was sometimes difficult to travel abroad by themselves
because of the language problems. Even so, after finishing their travel, they felt a sense
of fulfillment because they had accomplished something using their own knowledge and
skills. Through these challenging experiences they acquired a renewed sense of self-
confidence and self-esteem.
The positive views toward their life were a common theme throughout the
interviews about both their travel experiences and their life in general. Fortunately, all of
the women were relatively active and healthy, though every woman was concerned about
her future health. Nevertheless, the women were hopeful of their future life because the
burdensome relationships and influences of their parents and husbands were fading and
they felt they had opportunities to make some good memories and widen their
knowledge. They were also proud of their accomplishments in their home and family
lives. Thus, they are able to maintain a sense of freedom by negotiating the demands
from their parents and families and keeping a balance between the traditional social
structures and cultural values and their inner selves through leisure-travel. Through
leisure-travel they could increase their knowledge and find their true identities.
This study set out to examine the meanings of leisure-travel for Japanese women
aged 50 and over, and to explore the contribution of leisure-travel to the quality of their
later lives. A poststructural feminist perspective was adopted as it was proposed that
leisure-travel might provide these older Japanese women who had grown up with very
traditional values with opportunities for resistance and empowerment. The interview data
provides us with several key ideas to understand what roles leisure-travel plays in the
lives of these women.
All women agreed that one of the most important meanings of leisure-travel was to
feel freedom, however, their definitions of freedom varied somewhat. Six women
pointed out the importance of relaxation. Three women highlighted escape. Eight
women valued enjoying non-ordinary time and space. These definitions were taken from
the words of the interview participants themselves, as Glaser and Strauss (1967) called
them "in vivo codes". Multiple situations and various aspects of their lives differentiated
how they captured leisure-travel into their lives. For example, Sumire mentioned the
necessity of relaxation, because her adolescence and young adulthood was spent in very
turbulent social conditions due to the war years. After all her schooling was completed
she joined the workforce and has been working to the present day. She thought travel
could provide her with a place to relax and enhance herself by resting her spirit. For her,
leisure-travel is an opportunity to seek self-fulfillment and at the same time to prepare for
the final phase of life. She did not use "resistance", but her desire to improve her inner-
self suggests that she may challenge physical and mental abilities through tourism
(Wearing, 1995), and resist traditional age-appropriate norms.
Travel patterns that challenged Tomo's physical and mental abilities showed two
types of resistance. One was to challenge the negative stereotype of the aged as being
fragile and sedentary. The other was a challenge to traditional gender roles. Her remarks
that she wanted to be a man implied she was aware that women had limited opportunities.
She still believes that men have received better treatment from society. Therefore, after
her children grew up, she traveled alone or with friends and let her spirit be free as much
as she could. She situated her body and mind in the place where she felt most free from
gendered constraints. The space that afforded her this freedom was leisure-travel.
Three women who said escape was the most important seemed to show evidence of
resistance as well. Rie seemed very stressed from both herjob and family pressure. She
tried to pursue a career path, but the male dominated career structure (Lebra, 1984)
disappointed her. More recently as young Japanese women delay their marriage,
remaining single is one form of resistance to the Japanese ie system and traditional
gender roles. Consequently, Rie at times escaped from such societal constraints and
found a space where she could express her true self outside Japan, another example of
Yuri is a typical Japanese middle-age wife and mother of three children, which
means she has primary responsibility for most household chores and child care, even
though she is working outside the home (Tsuya et al., 1995). Moreover, she will be a
care provider of her husband's parents in the near future as well, since she married the
eldest son, and society expects his wife to take care of his parents. Her remark that she
will travel whenever she wants to go shows a subtle form of resistance against these
expectations (Rosenberger, 1996).
In the case of Fumi, she was upset by the fact that she was losing her autonomous
time and space with her husband's retirement. Mason (1988) explained one effect caused
by a husband's retirement is that women feel constrained. During the day, while their
husbands were at work they had a certain amount of freedom. With retirement, this
means that their husbands were more likely to infringe on their space. Fumi was in the
middle of negotiating this new situation. She knew her husband would come with her if
she wanted to travel. Although she seemed to compromise and tried to find new ways to
enjoy her time and space with him, she often visited her daughter who lived near Tokyo
by herself. This "strategy" (Mason, p. 84) or her resistance to conflicting feelings
between her true desires was compromised as a result. Other women including Aki,
Chisato, and Etsuko, also felt constraints on their personal time and space because of
their husbands' "being there" (Mason, p. 82), yet they all were able to successfully
persevere and have a sense of harmony in their family life.
This dilemma between their personal time and space and their husbands was
attributed to the traditional gendered division of labor in Japan. Though the Japanese
economy has been weak in recent years, and in spite of the Japanese government's efforts
to reduce annual work time by spreading five-day workweeks and improving the
frequency of paid holidays (Sugiura & Gillespie, 1993), still Japanese men are business
warriors, who devote themselves to their work. Indeed, only half of paid holidays were
used in 2002 (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 2003). Once they reach
retirement, they are perplexed by the free time suddenly entering their lives (Sugiura &
Gillespie). However, when husbands retire, wives have already established their own
way of life, such as volunteering and going out with their friends and the sudden
infringement on their freedom by their husbands can be problematic.
The other problem is found in gender roles. According to a survey conducted by
the Statistics Bureau in Japan (2002), married women spend an average of five hours per
day on housework and related work such as caring and nursing, childcare, and shopping,
while married men spend 36 minutes. The Statistics Bureau noted that there was still a
significant difference between men and women in household responsibilities (The
Statistics Bureau, 2002). As such, these patterns reflect very traditional gender roles and
might be expected to be more prevalent among older couples.
Therefore, it is necessary, though extremely difficult, to change Japanese traditional
cultures and systems into more equal relationships between women and men, especially,
a wife and a husband. It is hoped that husbands will help their wives not just after their
retirement but also from the start of marriage.
Although Japanese society has traditionally respected elders based on the
Confucianism and its doctrines of filial piety (Palmore & Maeda, 1985), the fear of the
fast-pace of aging impacting the social security system in Japan has created negative
feelings toward elders. However, resistance to conventional discourses on aging in that
to be old is to be regarded as inferior (Wearing, 1995), could be seen in the women's
preferred mode of travel as well. They preferred an individual tour to a package tour,
which suggests challenging attitudes toward a passive type of travel and their craving for
a positive experience so that they might come to know their own mental and physical
strength. Leisure-travel enabled them to resist the dominant discourse on aging and to
challenge physical and mental abilities in old age (Wearing, 1995).
Women in this study used leisure-travel to challenge their dissatisfaction with
societal expectations about women's roles and behaviors by placing or situating
themselves in a different world, a 'heterotopia' (Foucault, 1984), in which to find or
liberate themselves (Shaw, 2001).
Through their travel experiences, women in this study felt empowered because they
could liberate themselves somewhat from traditional gender roles, which in turn gave
them a sense of self-confidence in who they are (Wearing, 1998). Nonetheless, it is more
appropriate to say that most women in this study have already acquired the power of self-
expression, self-control and a relative autonomy, and they still seek self-enhancement and
self-actualization, which can be described as self-identity. It should be noted that there is
no proper Japanese translation of the concept of "identity". Despite the fact that the
National Institute for Japanese Language (2003) has been making every effort to find a
right Japanese translation of 'identity' for years, they announced that there is no plain or
understandable translation because the concept of "identity" is not so popular or prevalent
among the Japanese society or people. They suggest explaining it in an easy to
understand as possible when the need arises. If Japanese women are asked what your
identity is, the answer will most likely be wife, mother or what kind of work they do. For
that reason, in their interviews no one used the word, "identity", instead, for example,
Naomi she said, "we can know what and who we are."
It is perceived that some women in this study who are empowered and autonomous
in their personal lives, may be ambivalent as they may face oppression at the societal
level. They tend to evaluate their life experiences negatively first, but then convert these
negativities into positives. The positive attitudes, or optimism in their lives accrued from
paying off or feeling rewarded for their "earlier endurance and role investment" (Lebra,
p. 298); their pride in their past time in which they had dedicated themselves to their
family and society, resulted in a sense of entitlement to make their own choices
(Henderson & Bialeschki, 1991). Indeed, except health matters most women in this study
were quite contented with their lives. Several women testified that once they reached 50
they had more opportunities. For instance, Izumi said, "After I turned 50, I was willing
to be involved in various activities." Furthermore, Mai stated, "Life was not interesting
until I reached 50 years old." Naomi added, "I'm not jealous of young women, because
women aged 50's and 60's are more attractive." They would not confront the traditional
Japanese social culture at the macro-level, because they knew they could not change it.
Instead they might choose to cope with the Japanese social structure by micro-level
resistance, one of their strategies being escape and expression in leisure-travel.
This dual functioning partly resulted in mirroring their mother's life or rebelling
against her way of life. For example, Takako might be fearful of motherhood because
her mother died from childbearing. Likewise, Rie saw her mother obey her father and
later her mother regretted her life. Rie might not want to replicate her mother's regret.
Remaining single is the clearest expression of choosing their freedom by refusing the
conventional gender-specific role (Lebra). Even though Takako and Rie could continue
to remain single, it is very harsh for them to live by themselves in Japanese society
because when Japanese women get old they accumulate a sense of lineal bonding both
with their ancestors and with the succeeding generations (Lebra) so that they do not feel
isolated. However, Takako may feel self-fulfillment by engaging in frequent
international travel, and Rie may completely release herself from various pressures by
choosing individual travel. Leisure-travel was not the only way as a means of acquiring
empowerment, but helped to liberate them from restrictive gender roles, or social scripts
(Wearing) and establish a sense of self-awareness.
Despite the fact that they witnessed Japan's rapid economic development
accompanied by new opportunities in educational and economic participation, they knew
that the traditional social system would not be easily changed (Tsuya et al., 1995).
Accordingly, Japanese women might choose one tactic of getting along with the
traditional social structure like their mothers did, but the difference between their mothers
and the younger generations is that the latter ones were more aware of their identities
with the help of education, economic independence and their mothers' encouragement or
Women in this study certainly exhibited resistance to the traditional Japanese
culture and family system, and they seemed empowered as a result. Yet, they seemed to
obtain a more self-centered fulfillment than resistance to the society. As Creighton
(1995) pointed out, Japanese women do not try to take over men's position, but they
attempt to find and perceive themselves as free as possible. Travel by means of their own
senses, physical strength, and knowledge gives them the sense of independence and
fulfillment, which enables a higher quality of life. However, its resistance and
empowerment are still at the individual level (Foucault, 1984) and Japanese women have
not yet stored up enough power to change traditional culture and social norms through
political practice (Shaw, 2001). Therefore, these women find and enjoy their time and
space through leisure-travel. Nonetheless, it is likely that the younger generation will
show stronger resistance and empowerment not only through tourism but also in
everyday life than these women from an older generation. This individual level
resistance has been critiqued by various feminist scholars as it tends to weaken collective
resistance and change (Shaw, 2001). However, as Wearing (1998) and Shaw suggest
individual level resistance may ultimately lead to macro level change as more women
develop a sense of their true abilities.
By employing a grounded theory method which attempts to derive theories from
constant comparative analysis of the patterns, themes and common categories in the
interview data, a model of leisure-travel for Japanese women aged 50 and over is
suggested (see Figure 2). The lives of the women in this study have been shaped by a
particular time in social history. For the older women in this study memories of the
Second World War were very prominent in their recollections of their early lives. As in
most countries affected by this war, rapid social and economic change occurred in the
post war period. Thus, even though most of their parents were very traditional, social
values were beginning to change and mothers in particular appeared to be very influential
in shaping opportunities for their daughters, especially in their access to education.
Growing up in post war Japan, with its technological innovation and resultant
economic boom afforded these women different opportunities from their mothers. Some
women pursued careers outside of the home and remained single. Others spent time
volunteering which provided them with a socially acceptable space outside o the
domestic realm which had been the domain of their mothers. Thus, within this very
Feelings of Freedom
structures and culture
Longing for Knowledge
-Knowing one's own
Figure 5-1. Meanings of leisure-travel for Japanese women aged 50 and over
unique socio-historical context, we can understand the leisure-travel patterns of
these mid to late Japanese women.
These women comprised the first generations to travel abroad extensively. In
leisure-travel they experienced freedom from the constraints of their own society and
their social responsibilities. They also looked upon travel as a source of self
development; a source of knowledge that helped them better understand themselves as
well as their own society. Through leisure-travel, the women in this study enjoyed
feelings of freedom and acquired knowledge, which helped them feel empowered and
find their own identity. In the context of the social cultural nexus of tourism relations
(Aitchison, 2000), in other words within the context of the social forces of the wider
society, they seemed to reconcile themselves to traditional Japanese cultures and social
structures, but privately they recreated their identities in the cultures of others when they
The lives of the seventeen women were so complex that they could not be entirely
grasped in the short interviews. Nonetheless, their words, expressions and reactions
indisputably conveyed some insights into their lives and a various number of ideas.
Overall, women in this study seemed to be relatively economically and educationally
advantaged and enjoyed moderate levels of autonomy. The women, however, in
particular, as a 'housewife' seem to "carry a sense of obligation to guard the fixed home
base" (Lebra, p. 296). Even though they have relative autonomy at home, they need to be
free from home in order to seek, establish and confirm their identity and a sense of self.
Graburn (1983b) suggested:
Styles of tourism may be leading indicators of fundamental changes which are
taking place in a class or national culture, changes which may be latent in the more
restricting institutions of the everyday world, because tourism is that short section
of life in which people believe they are free to exercise their fantasies, to challenge
their physical and cultural selves, and to expand their horizons. (p. 29)
Leisure-travel is one option for them to express their true feelings and construct
their identities, because leisure-travel takes them away from the mundane world, which
enables them to feel free by geographical and psychological separation from traditional
constraints. Leisure-travel also offers the possibility of self-reflection and self-
enhancement (Wearing & Wearing, 1996). Though women in this study were frustrated
by their domestic responsibilities and societal expectations, they incorporated them into
their lives in a positive manner.
It is debateable whether enhancing individual empowerment through leisure and
tourism will lead to positive societal level change (Shaw, 2001). Even so, if the long-
lasting Japanese fertility decline is one outcome of young women's reluctance to engage
in the traditional family structure (ie), certain policy changes can be expected, such as
creating friendly childrearing environments. Yet, as Tsuya et al (1995) pointed out:
Real change, however, must come from drastic alteration of conjugal relationships.
Unless Japanese men are able and willing to shoulder much more of the domestic
work that a household and children require, and to treat their wives with greater
respect as co-equal partners in the family enterprise, other policy interventions
affecting work and non-familial child care are unlikely to bring about real change.
Neither blaming women for the fertility decline because more Japanese young women
remain single and delay marriage, even though it accelerates Japan's aging society, nor
putting the pressure of traditional gender roles on women is the answer, but encouraging
them to be aware of their individual identities may be one route to change. Perhaps as
Japanese women of the younger generations are more educated and economically
independent, they will have more options and are likely to show more resistance to
traditional gender roles than women from the older generations.
Limitations and Delimiations
Potentially, the most influential weakness of this study was that the interviews were
to be conducted in Japanese and translated into English. The data were translated with
great care. However, it was inevitable that nuances of the original language were not
exactly the same, as Strauss and Corbin (1998) suggested. The other limitation was the
extent to which interview participants answer honestly, because the Japanese usually
keep private feelings out of the public eye. The interviewer spent time making sure that
the interviewees felt comfortable with the research process before the first question was
asked in an attempt to gain the trust of the female participants. The interviewer explained
how the data would be confidential and if the interviewee felt uncomfortable answering a
question she could refuse to do so without penalty. In the future, perhaps closed-ended
questionnaires should be prepared for the sensitive nature of several questions including
age, education, income, and health condition. Some Japanese hesitate to unveil this kind
of information. If an interview participant is asked to select an answer from among a list
provided by the researcher, she is more likely to respond than to verbalize the response.
Due to the sample size and the use of non-probability sampling the results of this
study might be limited in their generalizability. However, the use of theoretical sampling
ensured diversity among the participants in the sample related to variables deemed to be
relevant to understanding the role of leisure-travel in the lives of Japanese women aged
50 and over. It is possible however, that various regions and different social backgrounds
may yield different results, for example, rural versus big cities, or farmers versus white-
The findings from this study suggest further needs for research. Because the
sample was small, specific differences such as married with successor sons or not, or
married to farmers or urban white-collar workers, were not examined. A woman who
marries a successor of family (ie) or a farmer is more likely to take family burdens. In
addition, the need to investigate younger women including those from ages 18 to 49 is
recommended. The meanings of leisure-travel may differ among women in these age
groups because they are less likely to have experienced the traditional Japanese social
systems than women aged 50 and over. For example, single women in their 30s and
married women in their 30s with children may differ in terms of the gender specific
expectations. Moreover, the reactions of Japanese men about women's identity
construction may also be useful in understanding Japanese society. Exploring differences
of travel motivations between domestic and international destinations may also be useful
to further crystallize the roles of leisure-travel for Japanese women.
Leisure-travel is in essence based on one's own choice and it gives the women
opportunities to express themselves, construct and confirm their own identities, and gain
self-esteem (Show, 2001). For example, the travel patterns that the women chose in
terms of independent not group travel may lead to greater sense of empowerment.
Moreover, leisure-travel makes them aware of different cultures, lives and people. These
senses contribute to what they are and who they are. The women's positive attitudes
clearly showed empowerment in their later lives. As a result more women of all ages are
encouraged to travel as far as both financial and heath enable them to do so.
We are going to talk about your travel patterns both now and in the past, some of
your life memories and how leisure and other activities fit with travel in your life now.
1. Please tell me about your most recent vacation or trip.
Probe: Where did you go?
How long did you travel?
How did you decide your travel destination?
2. Looking back over your life talk to me about some of your travel experiences
Probe: Did you take vacations as a child
What sort of trips did you take as a young adult
What sort of trips did you take when you married/ had a family
When did you go?
Where did you go?
What did you remember most about the trip?
3. What meanings does travel have for you?
Probe: learn, try, develop, relax, feel confidence, etc.)
How these meanings changed over time?
If so, how?
4. Do you have any activities you regularly take part in?
Probe: If yes, what is it? (volunteer work, religious, creative, physical...)
With whom do you participate?
How long have you participated?
What meanings do these activities hold for you?
5. In comparison to these activities, how important is travel to you?
Probe: What is important about travel?
Has the importance of travel changed for you over the years?
What makes travel meaningful for you?
Has your style of travel changed over years?
How have you become to like travel?
What role does travel play in your life?
6. Do you have a dream vacation?
Probe: or have you achieved your dream vacation?
Now, I am going to talk about your life in general.
1. When and where were you born?
2. What did your parents do?
3. Tell me about memory of your parents?
4. Tell me about your first job, marriage and your children?
5. Who have been the most influential people at various stages in your life?
1. What kinds of things gave you the most pleasure in your 20s, 30s, 40, and 50?
What about now?
2. If you could live your whole life over, what would you do differently?
3. What do you think is the most important thing in living a good life?
4. Is there anything in your life that you would have liked to do but didn't?
1. How do you feel about growing old?
2. What is the hardest thing about growing older? The best thing?
3. Do you think about the future? What are your concerns for the future?
Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with me about your life, your
leisure or your travels?
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Michiko Yonemaru grew up in Kagawa Prefecture Japan blessed with her parents'
love. She attended Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, majoring in English literature.
After she married, she volunteered as a tour guide. This experience prompted her to
study tourism and obtain a master's degree at the University of Florida. In the process of
her study, she also realized the importance of the study of aging. She studied
gerontology as a minor as well. She will continue to strive for providing older people
with quality of life.