July 20, 2024

As the flood of overseas tourists shows no sign of slowing, complaints about overcrowding and poor behaviour by visitors are prompting some in Japan to look at ways of controlling the flow without losing income, including by charging higher prices for foreigners.

Foreign tourist arrivals came to 3.04 million in May, up 9.6 per cent from the same month in 2019 and marking the third straight month at more than three million, the Japan National Tourism Organisation said Wednesday. The weak yen has helped spur visitor numbers.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Himeji castle reached a record 400,000 last year.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Himeji castle reached a record 400,000 last year.Credit: iStock

The number of Australians going to Japan is up more than 26 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, with more than 330,000 Australians visiting in the first four months of this year, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Japan is now the third most popular destination for Australian residents, behind only Indonesia and New Zealand.

While many businesses benefit from visitors’ spending in ageing and shrinking Japan, the crowds have started to rile some locals annoyed about being crowded out of their favourite attractions or even being unable to squeeze on to the bus to work.

In the latest sign of a growing backlash, the mayor of the western city of Himeji on Sunday said he would like to start charging foreign tourists six times more than locals to visit the city’s famed 400-year-old castle. Overseas visitors should pay about $45 to visit the World Heritage-listed Himeji Castle, compared to about $7 for local residents, the mayor said.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura this week expressed support for the idea and said he’d like to do the same at Osaka Castle, broadcaster FNN said.

Mt. Fuji through a hole in the screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko, erected to stop tourists taking photos.

Mt. Fuji through a hole in the screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko, erected to stop tourists taking photos.Credit: AP

In Kyoto, tourists have been banned from parts of the historical Gion geisha district, and local authorities in Fujikawaguchiko, at the base of Mt. Fuji, last month erected a barrier to stop tourists from taking photos of a convenience store with the mountain in the background — a spot that had gone viral on social media.

Yamanashi prefecture, one of the two prefectures Mt. Fuji straddles, has also limited the number of people allowed to climb the mountain this summer amid concern about overcrowding, trash and waste. Just 4000 people a day will be allowed on the most popular route, with a new ¥2000 ($19) fee imposed on each climber.

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