June 21, 2024

Recently, the town of Fujikawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture responded to resident complaints by blocking off a famous view that’s been clogged by badly-behaved tourists. However, news reports say that the curtain isn’t doing the job town officials thought it would.

A black spot

Hole in Mt. Fuji Lawson curtain
The plan to block off the Mt. Fuji Lawson view has a few holes in it. (Picture: FNN)

The view of Mt. Fuji from Fujikawaguchiko near a Lawson convenience store (combini) has gained famed both inside and outside of Japan as a spectacular view of the mountain. The fact that combini are just an integral part of Japanese daily life gives the photo a “Japanese-ness” that serves as a nice souvenir for both domestic and inbound visitors.

Unfortunately, as I previously reported, the site has become a source of consternation for locals. While local businesses appreciate the additional income, other businesses and residents find themselves frustrated by tourists who stand in the road, cross against the light, and throw their trash anywhere they see fit.

Mt. Fuji Lawson tourist spot near-accident
A woman nearly gets hit crossing to the popular photo spot against a traffic light. (Picture: FNN)

To circumvent this, officials erected a black vinyl curtain 2.5 meters high – enough to block any reasonable view of the mountain.

People find a way

Unfortunately for officials, people are clever. And the vinyl material from which the curtain is made is apparently woven (I’m assuming so as not to catch wind and be blown off in a hearty storm). That’s made it easy for some to open up holes through which they can see the mountain/combini combo anyhow.

Town police officers say they’ve received reports of people opening holes in the curtain. This is a daring move, given that the area is also monitored by security cameras, enabling police to identify and pursue the perpetrators.

FNN reporters who examined the curtain found 13 holes of about one centimeter wide apiece. That means it’s likely not an isolated incident but the result of several culprits breaking the rules.

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It’s not all bad news, however. Despite the workaround, locals say the curtain has dramatically reduced the number of tourists hanging around across from the Lawson and tangling up traffic. The town has also posted a security officer to keep an eye on things during daytime hours alongside the security cameras.

“I get coming from abroad and wanting to take a photo,” says one resident. “But rules are rules.”

Officials say they plan to set up a QR code with a URL introducing tourists to other Mt. Fuji viewing spots as an additional deterrent.

A predictable result?

Mt. Fuji and Shizuoka
Picture: Yoshitaka / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

On Yahoo! News JP, which has a lively comments section, users seemed sanguine about the development. “Anyone could’ve predicted this would happen after they set up a flimsy sheet on the road side, where people take pictures,” said one commenter. “Maybe they should set up something on the Lawson side.”

Comment on Yahoo! News

Another predictable result is that tourists would just go to a similar location. That appears to be what some are doing, as tourists are now congregating at a different Lawson combini five minutes away from the original one.

The combini brouhaha is only one challenge that Yamanashi Prefecture faces in dealing with overtourism. It’s also working out how to handle overcrowding and dangerous practices, such as bullet climbing, on Mt. Fuji itself. Recently, the prefecture introduced a reservation system for tourists who wish to use Fuji during climbing season, attaching a 2000 yen (USD $12.72) fee as the price of admission.

Other popular destinations in Japan are also contending with how to reduce the impact of tourism without impeding its progress, which is pouring money into local businesses and government coffers. The city of Kyoto recently instituted a bus specifically for tourist use. Meanwhile, the geisha district of Gion is leveling fines against people who trespass on private roads.

In March 2024, Japan set a record of three million tourists in a single month.

Sources

「コンビニ富士」の幕に穴、設置翌日から日に日に増加…富士河口湖町「モラル守って」. Yomiuri Shimbun

富士山“目隠し”騒動 別のコンビニに外国人観光客集結…撮影スポット化で車の妨げに. Asahi TV

黒幕に穴13個…コンビニ富士山“映えスポット”危険横断防止で設置も1週間で穴だらけ 観光客は減少. FNN via YouTube

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