French Anime and Manga Fans in Japan

Pop culture tourism, media pilgrimage, imaginary

Clothilde Sabre



Japanese pop culture, particularly anime and manga, have been an important part of the French cultural scene since the 1980s. French fans have created communities that share references about this pop culture and more generally about Japan. This specific imaginary drives some fans to travel to Japan to discover the actual places which appear in their favourite manga/anime. Focusing on the travel experiences of French tourists, this article introduces the notion of media pilgrimage as a useful way of conceiving such behaviour. Taking an anthropology of tourism approach, the article details the processes that guide the tourist experience on trips induced by media-contents-related imaginaries. This clarifies the connections between media-related images, perceptions of Japan as a tourist destination, and the concrete activities of foreign tourists during their stay. The article also identifies a gap between the Japanese perception of Western tourists, as indicated by the ‘Cool Japan’ campaign, and the tourist experiences of French visitors. Places chosen as sites for media pilgrimage by French fans are heavily influenced by the ways in which the Japanese contents were first viewed and consumed in France, but there is little evidence of awareness of this in Japanese promotional materials aimed at French tourists.



Author Biography

Clothilde Sabre is a JSPS postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Advanced Tourism Studies, Hokkaido University. She holds a PhD in Anthropology and Ethnology from the University of Lille 1, France, and a degree in Media Studies. Her main research themes are anthropology of tourism, contents tourism, imaginary, exoticism and representation, and popular/fan culture. She has been conducting ethnography among French fans and tourists for many years. Her previous research focused on the connection between the success of Japanese pop culture in France and tourism in Japan, and she has published academic articles and book chapters on this topic in French and in English. Her current research focuses on the development of Hokkaido through contents tourism.