This is an ethnography of nature in translation. In particular, the book
focuses on Japanese tour guides living in Banff—Canada’s iconic na-
tional park—and examines how they translated various notions of
nature for tourists from Japan.
The experiences of the Japanese tour guides elucidate how transla-
tion of nature is not only about the superﬁcial differences of cultural
aesthetics, such as the idea that the Japanese love manicured gardens
with bonsai-like trees, whereas North Americans like rugged landscapes
of untouched wilderness. Translation of nature concerns what counts
as human, what kind of society is envisioned, and who is included in the
society as a legitimate subject.
The backdrop of this ethnography is the heightened sense of crisis
about the Japanese economy since the 1990s: The so-called Japanese-
style corporate system and work relations developed and praised as the
source of Japan’s post–World War II economic success were severely
challenged and became targets of harsh neoliberal reform. In this social
environment, quite a number of young Japanese “escaped” from Japan
to go overseas for self-searching travel.
In particular, the “magniﬁcent nature” (daishizen) of North America
had a strong allure in attracting some of these Japanese, many of whom
projected a vision of a utopian space for freedom onto the vast natural
landscape in North America. A journey to magniﬁcent nature has been
Prologue A Journey to Magniﬁcent Nature . . .
or Why Nature Needs to Be
Understood in Translation