July 20, 2024

Tourists have been flocking to Japan to take advantage of the weak yen, with the latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organisation reporting that visitor numbers are exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Last week, JNTO revealed that May saw a 9.6 percent increase in tourist numbers compared to May 2019, marking the third consecutive month this year where visitor numbers exceeded 3 million. 

Though inbound tourism has contributed substantially to the local economy, with Reuters reporting ¥5 trillion in visitor spending for 2023, some businesses and attractions have struggled to keep up with the numbers. In an attempt to offset rising inflation against the weakened yen and alleviate some of the effects of over-tourism, a number of businesses and attractions have adjusted their pricing while others are mulling over solutions that are more controversial.

Here are a few examples we’ve seen so far and what this could mean for the cost of tourism in Japan. However, it’s worth noting that this price increase for tourists is still rare and far in between, although talks surrounding the topic are gaining momentum of late.

Mt Fuji peak summit
Photo: Krisada Wakayabun/Dreamstime

Mt Fuji is capping visitor numbers and implementing a mandatory fee  

Starting this year, Mt Fuji will be charging people ¥2,000 to climb the popular Yoshida Trail. This is in addition to the voluntary ¥1,000 donation for conservation and maintenance purposes. Yamanashi prefecture has also placed a cap on the number of climbers, limiting it to 4,000 people per day. 

Some attractions are mulling a two-tier ticket system 

In Hyogo, Unesco World Heritage Site Himeji Castle is mulling a two-tiered pricing for admission. General admission is currently set at ¥1,000 per adult, but the mayor of Himeji is now considering decreasing this fee for local residents while increasing it for international tourists.

Under the proposed plan, the revised admission price for foreign visitors would cost ¥4,000. This is to supplement the maintenance and preservation fees that locals are already paying through tax. 

豊洲 千客万来
Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaToyosu Senkyaku Bandai complex

Restaurants in high foot traffic areas are bumping up prices 

Nadai Fuji Soba, a restaurant chain known for its affordable ¥500 meals, has recently changed the menu to feature dishes costing as much as ¥2,300. Restaurant manager Shinya Yamamoto told NHK that the decision was made to alleviate some of the burdens of its staff at one of the busiest sightseeing districts in Tokyo, where a high turnover rate is required to sustain the budget-friendly menu. 

Businesses in other areas like the recently opened Toyosu Senkyaku Bandai complex are also charging more premium rates to keep up with demands, with items like a ¥10,000 uni rice bowl. However, such prices might have also driven away local clientele.

To keep the local customers, others are introducing two-tier prices on their menus. ABC News has reported on one restaurant in the bustling district of Shibuya, where a note at the bottom of the menu explains that Japan residents will receive a ¥1,000 discount on their total bill. 

Osaka may implement a fee for overnight visitors ahead of Expo 2025 

According to Kyodo News, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura is currently in discussion to introduce a fixed fee for inbound tourists starting in spring 2025. The proposed fee would be applicable to tourists who plan on staying overnight in the prefecture.

This is in addition to the current accommodation tax of ¥100 to ¥300 per night on rooms costing above ¥7,000. If the proposal is approved, the fee may be introduced in April next year, just ahead of the 2025 Osaka Expo.

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