July 20, 2024

Tourism in Japan has witnessed an unprecedented surge, with the country’s rich heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and unique experiences attracting visitors from across the globe. However, this influx of travellers has brought about unforeseen challenges, as Japan grapples with the delicate task of preserving its cherished cultural traditions while accommodating the growing tourism demand. As iconic destinations bear the brunt of overcrowding and disrespectful behaviour, the nation finds itself at a crossroads, seeking to strike a balance between welcoming guests and safeguarding its way of life.

As per the Japan Times, recently, tourists have been banned from certain private streets in Kyoto’s famous historic Gion district, traditionally home to the teahouses where geisha (geiko) and maiko (apprentice geiko) performers work, largely due to antisocial behaviour.

A video titled “Don’t do this in Kyoto” shows a tourist intruding on a geisha’s privacy by filming her persistently.

Gion District’s Struggle Preserving Geisha Heritage

geisha heritage japan

Kyoto’s Gion district, known for its geisha culture, has restricted tourist access on private streets due to a rise in disrespectful behaviour. Reports by the Japan Times detail incidents where geisha (geiko) faced harassment, with torn kimonos and discarded cigarette butts.

Mount Fuji’s Iconic View Disrupted by Overtourism

The iconic view of Mount Fuji in Japan’s Fuji Kawaguchiko town now stands disrupted with a black mesh screen. As per the BBC, the barrier has been put up by the Japanese authorities after the locals complained that their lives have been thrown out of gear due to the mess created by the incoming tourists, including littering, jaywalking, and trespassing.

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Japan’s New Tourism Policies To Combat Overtourism

japan overcrowd tourism

According to the AP, Japan had more than 25 million visitors in 2023, and the figures in 2024 are expected to surpass nearly 32 million, a record set in 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation. To combat over-tourism, new fees and restrictions have already been introduced on climbing-specific trails up Mt Fuji, in order to reduce overcrowding, and environmental impact, and improve safety.

Japan Dealing With Overtourism

crowd in japan

As per tourism experts, it seems unlikely that Japan will curtail its overall number of visitors because of over-tourism. More likely, we’ll see more examples of capacity restrictions in specific places, like on Mt Fuji, where a certain number of people per day are allowed in. Kyoto is also considering special tourist express bus routes and higher pricing for tourists to manage crowds and preserve cultural attractions.

While Japan welcomes visitors to experience its rich culture and natural beauty, the recent measures highlight the need to strike a balance between tourism and preserving the country’s heritage and local communities’ way of life. As the number of travellers continues to grow, Japan is taking proactive steps to combat over-tourism and ensure a respectful and sustainable tourism experience for all.

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