Reimagining selves, liminal tourism spaces as sites for lifestyle migration: An exploration of the reflexive narratives of tourism business owners in Niseko, Japan

Kim Nelson

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    263 Downloads (Pure)


    Tourism spaces are social constructs, and due to their liminal qualities are places in which individuals have enhanced psycho-social space to explore new ways of living and working. One such space is Niseko, a small agricultural community in northern Japan that has, since the early 2000s, transformed into a ski destination through the development of international tourism. Many Australians have settled in the Niseko area and established tourism-based businesses and holiday homes, transforming local streetscapes. Despite evident socio-economic and environmental change, Niseko has received little academic attention, particularly in regard to advancing understanding of how Niseko is functioning both as a tourism destination and as a unique social and cultural space in Japan. This research aimed to explore the experiences of tourism business owners to offer insight into how Niseko as a social space may be influencing the lifestyles and identities of tourism business owners who live in Niseko, Japan.

    This research is framed by a social constructivist perspective and takes an interpretive approach which valorises subjective and contextual research participant perspectives. The research was premised by the idea of stories being windows to understanding subjective human experience, and Giddens’ (1991) conceptualisation of self as a self-constructed narrative. Accordingly, the research design drew upon a narrative method of inquiry, specifically designed to illuminate the voices of participants to enhance understanding of experiences of living in a tourism space. Responding to the recognised scarcity of emotionally reflexive tourism research, two creative strategies were employed which resulted in the composition of seventeen micro-stories and seventeen interpretive poems, in response to the participant narratives. The creative interpretations of the data sought to unpack and illuminate the key experiences of the participants and thus served the dual purpose of illustrative data and a method of analysis. In addition to the creative strategies as forms of analysis, a thematic narrative analysis of the narrative and creative data was also undertaken.

    The research findings revealed Niseko, Japan as functioning as a liminal tourism space which was being shaped by cosmopolitan tourism business owners who relocate there to pursue their ‘second life’ after experiences of living abroad. Five key conclusions were drawn from the findings of this research. These included (1), experiences of living abroad changes both the people and the places they inhabit, (2), liminal tourism spaces are locations in which individuals may explore different ways of living and working, (3), lifestyle choices can be understood as part of the narrative of self, (4), narrative methodological approaches have the capacity to generate new connections and knowledge, and, (5) creative research strategies can create, interpret and communicate research data in innovative ways which offer insight into the subjective and multilayered experiences of individuals who construct and shape their lives in tourism spaces.

    This thesis builds on the emerging research area which explores the link between tourism and lifestyle migration and offers new insight into how participation in tourism businesses can facilitate lifestyle migration. It reveals how experiences of living overseas can influence individuals to establish alternative lifestyles in tourism spaces, underpinned by the desire to live in a way that is more congruent with their sense of self. This research contributes to understanding how highly mobile, cosmopolitan individuals in tourism spaces relate to place and are influenced by it.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Black, Rosemary, Principal Supervisor
    • Bamberry, Larissa, Co-Supervisor
    Award date21 Feb 2020
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2020


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