How Japan, The World’s Most Polite Country, Lost Its Patience With Tourists

Japan, the world’s most polite country, lost its patience with tourists and built a massive black barrier to block its well-liked viewing area in Fujikawaguchiko after locals complained about tourists littering, parking illegally, and even climbing onto surrounding roofs to get the ideal image.

How Japan, The World’s Most Polite Country, Lost Its Patience With Tourists 1

One of the most recognizable images in Japan is perhaps the triangle shape of Mount Fuji rising into the clear blue sky, its snow-capped peak precisely reflected onto the placid waters of a neighboring lake.

The artist of the well-known “36 Views of Mount Fuji” series, Katsushika Hokusai, depicted this scene in a 19th-century woodblock print with controlled simplicity.

The scene depicted in number 35 is Lake Kawaguchi, which is both picturesque and classic. After over 200 years, Mount Fuji continues to draw tourists, which is becoming a bigger issue for the surrounding towns that are inundated by visitors.

Furthermore, one lake town, Fujikawaguchiko, reached a breaking point last week, making news worldwide for beginning to build a massive black barrier to block its well-liked viewing area. Locals had been complaining about tourists littering, parking illegally, and even climbing onto surrounding roofs to get the ideal image. These accusations culminated in a long list of complaints that led to the judgment.

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Tourists pictured behind the barrier’s metal bars in Fujikawaguchiko. The black curtain will be installed in the second half of May CREDIT: Shutterstock

The screen may seem excessive, especially in a nation known for its cool-headedness and stoicism, but this isn’t a unique instance. Open borders following the epidemic and a delectably low value of the yen are driving record levels of inbound tourism, with foreign visitor numbers reaching 3 million in March for the first time. More visitors than ever are flooding Japan, and the locals who are bearing the brunt of this are getting impatient.

As a result, a wide range of programs are being implemented throughout Japan in an effort to address the deepening cultural sensitivities and developing problems associated with overtourism.

For instance, local government representatives in the Mount Fuji area recently said that a new mandatory tax of 2,000 yen would be implemented to reach the summit. Beginning on July 1, tourists will be required to pay the fee; the daily cap is 4,000. This year’s climbing seasons also commence on that date.

Another hub of overtourism is Kyoto, the former capital of ancient times, which in recent months has implemented a series of more drastic steps to curb overtourism in its historic streets.

One of its most well-known actions was the recent shutdown of a portion of Gion, the famed geisha area, due to an increase in the number of instances of “badly behaved” visitors yanking at geishas’ kimonos and swarming them for pictures.

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Kyoto’s historic geisha district recently imposed no-go areas for tourists following reports of them harassing performers CREDIT: Akio Kon

Kyoto city officials announced plans in March to introduce special buses to tourist spots in an effort to relieve the strain on overcrowded local routes. The congestion of the city’s local buses is another major problem.

Sara Aiko, the director and creator of Curated Kyoto, a luxury travel curation firm based in Kyoto, says that it is uncomfortable when tourists start interfering with locals’ everyday routines and overcrowding peaceful locations like temples and shrines. As global citizens, we all support sharing our lovely cities, but when a routine bus ride to the grocery store turns into a battle or when a packed bar occupies your favorite spot, locals become irritated, which breeds conflict.

She adds: “Of course, this isn’t fun for tourists either. I want visitors to experience the best of Kyoto without feeling like they’re just part of a mass movement. There are still magical, quiet corners of Kyoto waiting to be explored, but the problem lies in the infrastructure and the lack of regulation on visitor numbers.”

Due to its renowned white powder, Niseko on Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, has become an increasingly popular destination for winter sports. However, Niseko is experiencing growth during the winter and is finding it difficult to keep up.

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Snowboarders in Niseko, Japan. The resort will increase accommodation charges from next November, in the aim of reducing numbers CREDIT: Moment RF

In an effort to cut down on the number of guests, the resort will start charging up to 2,000 yen per night for lodging starting in November of next year, right in time for the upcoming winter ski and snowboarding season.

A 100 yen admission fee has been introduced in Hatsukaichi city, farther south in Hiroshima prefecture, to support the preservation of the famous shrine Itsukushima on Miyajima island, a Unesco-listed monument famous for its crimson torii gate encircled by sea during high tide.

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Hatsukaichi city recently introduced an entrance fee to help protect Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima island CREDIT: The Image Bank Unreleased

‘Avoid the algorithm’

The Japanese government is also looking into measures to lessen the negative effects of excessive tourism in areas of the nation that are already under stress. As one such initiative, it is planning to reroute travelers from the popular Golden Triangle, which includes Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

In order to encourage travelers to visit less well-known (and less crowded) locations throughout the nation, Japan is instead pushing 11 so-called “model” destinations. These include Hokuriku’s samurai culture, Nasu, Tochigi’s natural attractions, the Alps of Nagano and Gifu, the volcanoes of Kagoshima, and the eastern Hokkaido national parks.

The creator of the Japan-based travel design company People Make Places, Charles Spreckley, offers some tips for travelers who are eager to see Japan but also want to avoid the crowds and lessen their impact on the local community.

“Avoid the algorithm and create your own adventure,” he suggests. “Ignore Google reviews and other tourism portals. The nice thing about Japan is that because it’s so safe, you can literally pick a destination and just start walking and you will make so many discoveries along the way.” 

Will Japan’s more drastic actions, though, yield the intended outcome? The nation appears to be becoming more and more popular with tourists from abroad, and as the people there are naturally worried about the preservation of their lovely, old, and delicate culture, there might be problems in store.

As reported yesterday by GreatGameIndia, the Ministry of the Interior has announced that due to the upcoming Olympics in 2024, Paris will be off-limits without a QR code this summer.

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  1. Doesn’t identify the nationality of the vulgar and ill mannered tourists. Let me do it: China. 🇨🇳

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