Home News Japan loves tourists, but not in numbers

Japan loves tourists, but not in numbers


On two occasions recently, a foreign tourist walked into Shoji Matsumoto’s barber shop to get a haircut, and the door creaked loudly once it was opened more than halfway.

One was Italian, the other British. Mr. Matsumoto, 75, who spoke neither language, had no idea how to answer them. He picked up the scissors and started cutting, hoping his decades of experience would help him through.

Tourists, in part because The weaker yen gives them more bang for their buck Since Japan eased coronavirus-related entry restrictions in 2022, a large number of foreign tourists have flocked to the country. Some officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, have expressed concerns about overtourism. In March, the number of international tourists exceeded 3 million, a monthly record and an increase of more than 10% compared with March 2019.

Nearly two-thirds of international tourists typically come from South Korea, Taiwan and China. Foreign visitors accounted for about 9% of Japan’s gross domestic product last year.

Popular attractions include Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of Japan, It feels increasingly unmanageable. Tourists are pouring into places that had no visitors before, like the small town near Mount Fuji, or the commercial district of Kyoto where Mr. Matsumoto gets his hair cut.

“Before, it was normal to see tourists in certain places,” Mr. Matsumoto said on a recent Saturday, sitting in a low chair at his barber shop. “But now, they are scattered in random and unexpected places.”

Such a massive influx is testing the patience of a generally polite society.

In Kyoto and other cities with many tourists, some residents complain about overpriced hotel rooms and crowded buses and restaurants. Others say visitors sometimes disrespect local customs by chasing after geishas for photos or eating while walking, behaviors considered impolite in Japan.

One day last month, it took Ban six hours to visit Kyoto’s Heian Shrine, twice as long as usual. Mr. Ban, 65, attributed the delay in part to tourists counting coins to buy tickets, which delayed buses.

“Every day here is like a carnival,” said Mr. Pan, the event organizer. “We can’t enjoy our daily lives peacefully.”

Even those who directly benefit from tourism revenue worry that the model may not be sustainable.

Hisashi Kobayashi, a taxi driver in Kyoto, said business was so good that taking a day off felt like giving up easy money. But he said many tourism-related industries were struggling to meet demand as they recover from labor shortages during the pandemic.

“When Japanese people come here, they feel like they’re in a foreign country because there are so many tourists,” added Mr. Kobayashi, 56, as the taxi approached a bottleneck near a famous temple. “This is not Kyoto anymore.”

Some rural areas are feeling the pinch for the first time. One is Fuji City in Shizuoka Prefecture, about 200 miles east of Kyoto.

At the end of last year, after a bridge with a direct view of Mount Fuji became a hit on social media, the Shizuoka Prefecture Tourism Department On Instagram It was a great place to “take beautiful, dreamy photos.” What was not said was that the bridge was located in a residential area and had no visitor parking, public toilets or trash cans.

Residents said in interviews that many tourists litter, park in lanes and sometimes dodge vehicles to take photos from the bridge’s median.

Mitsuo Kato, 86, who lives near the bridge, said that on a public holiday last month, about 300 tourists a day came for four consecutive days, lining up to take photos all the way to the end of the street.

“They parked their cars right here,” Mr. Kato said outside his home on a recent Sunday, as a group of tourists from South Korea took pictures of the clouds obscuring Mount Fuji. “So we had to put up the sign.”

Officials across Japan have responded to the tourism surge to varying degrees.

In Fuji city, authorities built a temporary parking lot for six vehicles and began construction of a larger parking lot that will accommodate 15 cars and have toilets, said Motohiro Sano, a local tourism official.

In neighboring Yamanashi Prefecture, officials in Fujikawaguchiko town erected a billboard-sized screen last month to stop tourists from filming a Lawson convenience store. Its blue awning, located at the foot of the mountain, has become the subject of many social media posts. Local news media say it is now riddled with holes large enough to accommodate a cellphone camera. Reported.

In Tokyo’s tourist-dense Shibuya district, officials announced Plans to ban outdoor drinking at night in an attempt to curb bad behavior among young people and tourists.

In Kyoto, signs at train stations ask visitors to “be polite,” and the government this month began operating special buses for tourists.

At the city’s Nishiki Market, where some residents complained of finding grease stains on their clothes after squeezing through throngs of snacking tourists, Yoshino Yamaoka pointed to two signs hanging outside her family’s grilled eel restaurant.

Both sentences read, “No eating while walking,” in English. One of the sentences was in larger font and had the text underlined in red.

“People didn’t comply, so I put it up with a stricter tone,” Ms. Yamaoka, 63, said of the bolder sign. But she wonders if her new approach is too strict.

“Business depends on tourists,” she said.

On a recent weekend, some tourists visited Kyoto’s popular attractions at sunrise to avoid the crowds, or waited 40 minutes for a meal at a popular ramen restaurant at 11 p.m. Others complained that they were causing traffic jams.

“It’s a disaster,” said Paul Oostveen, a 70-year-old Dutch tourist, after leaving the popular Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

Mr. Matsumoto said in his empty barbershop that he had successfully cut the hair of two foreign clients and that he would not turn away anyone else who walked through his door.

But he said he worries about not being able to provide good service to customers who can’t understand, and wants patrons who don’t speak Japanese to go elsewhere.

Despite the benefits of tourism to the country, he added via radio: “There’s a part of me that’s not quite satisfied.”

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here