The island of Miyajima (Hiroshima Prefecture) receives more than four million tourists a year. However, Miyajima Town has faced severe financial conditions since around 2000 and consequently merged with Hatsukaichi City in 2005. Although the number of tourists is increasing, the residents are aging and their number has been declining. Moreover, while tourism has diversified from the many Japanese tourists who visit Itsukushima Shrine, and now includes tourists from many countries, who enjoy Miyajima’s nature and engage in many activities, these new trends need to be addressed by new services and management systems. In this situation, many volunteers from the island and surrounding areas have been engaged in nature conservation and cultural activities. These include nature conservation inside the national park area, research into wildlife, interpretation of natural and cultural resources, and the development of new tourist experiences. Many of the volunteers are senior citizens, and without their contribution, the tourism space of Miyajima could not be managed.
This research focuses on the tourism spaces of Miyajima and examines the activities and consciences of senior volunteers engaged in activities to preserve and promote Miyajima’s natural and cultural environment. Through participant observation, questionnaires, and interviews with volunteers and local stakeholders, we aim to clarify the situation of volunteer activities on Miyajima and the problems related to them.
Through our analysis, we discovered that volunteer activities on Miyajima offer senior citizens a chance to engage in meaningful activities in an attractive place while simultaneously enabling them to enjoy their leisure time. However, many problems were identified. Overall, their activities are restricted to helping the local administration in fulfilling tasks and they rely on public funds, so the senior citizens are not independent actors. With a declining population and restricted public funds, Miyajima will continue to rely on volunteers to manage its tourism spaces. However, the volunteers’ role needs to be reconsidered to aim for citizen activities that are more independent.