Event | Wageningen Geography lecture | Ryokan: mobilizing hospitality in rural Japan | Chris McMorran (NU Singapore)| Sept 27, 15.30 | Wageningen Campus

The Cultural Geography group, together with CSPS, cordially invites you to the upcoming Wageningen Geography lecture:

Chris McMorran (NUSingapore) –  Ryokan: mobilizing hospitality in rural Japan

Tuesday Sept 27th, 15:30 Gaia Building, 1st Floor Atrium, Wageningen University Campus

Followed by Q&A and a drinks reception

What does it take to produce one of Japan’s most relaxing spaces: the ryokan? In this talk, I share the behind-the-scenes work required to keep a traditional Japanese inn running smoothly, from the daily tasks of cleaning, serving, and making guests feel at home, to the generational work of producing and training a suitable heir who can carry on the family business. I share insights from nearly two decades of research in and around Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto Prefecture), including a year spent welcoming guests, carrying luggage, scrubbing baths, cleaning rooms, washing dishes, and talking with co-workers and owners about their jobs, relationships, concerns, and aspirations. In this talk, I share how Kurokawa’s ryokan mobilize hospitality to create a rural escape in contemporary Japan. I highlight the strictly gendered work found in the ryokan, and I contrast the generational work of ryokan owners with the daily embodied labor of their employees. I share the geographical spaces and embodied realities of ryokan work—celebrated, messy, ignored, exploitative, and liberating—that makes guests feel at home in contemporary Japan. 

Chris McMorran (Japanese Studies, National University of Singapore) is a cultural geographer of contemporary Japan focusing on the geographies of home across scale. He is the author of Ryokan: Mobilizing Hospitality in Rural Japan (University of Hawai’i Press), an ethnography of a Japanese inn, based on twelve months spent scrubbing baths, washing dishes, and making guests feel at home at a hot springs resort. He also has published research on tourism, disasters, gendered labor, area studies, and field-based learning. He co-produces the Home on the Dot podcast with NUS students, which explores the meaning of home on the little red dot called Singapore.