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3rd Unit : 4th Study Group Session

3rd Unit : 4th Study Group Session

Outland Tourism - Modernization of Bhutan and the Prospect of the Identity of Pastoral Tribe Brokpa

The 4th Study Meeting, the 3rd Unit

On Monday, February 20, 2012, at the Toyo University Hakusan Campus, a presentation entitled "Outland Tourism-Modernization of Bhutan and the Prospect of the Identity of the seminomads, Brokpas-" was given by Wakita Michiko (Keio University).

In Sakteng and Merak, two valleys located in the mountainous border region between eastern Bhutan and India, there lives a minority ethnic group called Brokpa. Visits by foreigners to the region had been restricted for a long time; however, those restrictions were removed and tourism to the area started in September 2010. By focusing on the rapid development of tourism in the region, Wakita studied the modernization of Bhutan and the prospects for the identity of the Brokpa people.

According to Wakita's study, tourism in Bhutan is characterized by the fact that it is part of the development program for the entire nation due to the high expectations for acquiring foreign currencies leading to greater job opportunities. These days, in particular, this country is attracting attention with the term GNH (gross national happiness). Thus, Bhutan may give Japanese people the strong impression that it is a happy nation; however, GNH is simply a principle of development; it does not mean that all the Bhutanese people are happy.

The 4th Study Meeting, the 3rd Unit

Within the context of tourism in Bhutan, tradition has great appeal. Though the number of tourists to Bhutan has increased each year, there are regional differences. The need to develop new tourist routes in undeveloped eastern Bhutan was urgent, and thus Sakteng and Merak were chosen as tourist destinations. As their culture as seminomads is uncommon even to the people of Bhutan, the Brokpas were targeted for ethnic tourism.

While the increase in tourists is expected because of the opening of domestic air routes to eastern Bhutan scheduled for this year and the improvement in the infrastructure, the inevitable tension between tradition and modernity is growing in this region as well. In the conclusion to this presentation, Wakita Michiko said that the future of the Brokpas deserves attention, especially with regard to whether the people move to reawaken their culture or to assimilate into the general population of Bhutan and whether the ethnic elite of the Brokpas that have acquired an education would open new avenues.