Japan welcomed over 2 million international visitors for a fourth consecutive month in September.
International tourists have been flocking back to Japan, with visitor numbers nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels, according to government statistics.
While it’s good news for the country’s tourism industry and hospitality sectors that struggled with Japan’s snail-pace reopening after COVID-19, the numbers are putting pressure on people who live there.
The country’s tourism minister has announced new prevention measures to combat problems of overtourism.
The plans include boosting transportation systems in major cities and encouraging visitors to diversify their destinations.
Japan’s tourist numbers rocket
Japan welcomed over 2 million international visitors for a fourth consecutive month in September, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).
The numbers equate to just over 96 percent of levels seen in 2019 before the pandemic led to travel restrictions.
The influx of visitors has already led to problems. At Mount Fuji, concerns are growing over pollution and safety as human traffic jams clog up the slopes.
Japan to introduce measures to combat over-tourism
Now, authorities in Japan have outlined plans to mitigate the problematic effects of mass tourism.
One move is to bolster infrastructure – in particular, by expanding bus and taxi fleets – to better cope with visitor numbers in popular cities.
Taxi companies in some hotspots are struggling to cope with demand. The government hopes to boost areas that see a significant tourist increase in certain periods, such as Niseko and Hokkaido during ski season.
Every year, millions of tourists enjoy Japan’s high-speed rail network and use trains to get around the country, zooming from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka. But it just got more expensive to do so.
The price of a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which enables foreigners to buy and reserve Shinkansen tickets in advance, has gone up 65% as of October 1.
Japan considers more expensive bus fares to fight over-tourism
Another proposal is to establish direct bus routes from key stations to popular visitor destinations specifically for tourists.
Alternatively, authorities have suggested increasing fare prices during the busiest times to encourage travel during non-peak hours.
Tourists in Japan encouraged to explore lesser-visited areas
The tourism ministry has also highlighted the need to spread Japan’s tourism away from overcrowded hotspots like Toyko and Kyoto.
The proposal will build on the plans announced earlier this year to help develop tourism in 11 ‘model destinations’ including Ise-Shima in Mie Prefecture and eastern Hokkaido.
The plan will see authorities help promote their natural and rural attractions in a bid to ease the strain on honeypot destinations.
Japanese city introduces new tourist tax
In a separate move, the western Japanese city of Hatsukaichi is implementing a new tourist tax.
It’s not only bullet trains that just got pricier. One of Japan’s most iconic attractions began charging a visitor fee this week for the first time in its history.
The city in the Hiroshima Prefecture is home to the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine, one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Since 1 October, visitors to the shrine on Miyajima Island have been charged a 100 yen (€0.60) fee.
“We are responsible for preserving nature, history, and culture and passing them on to the next generations,” said Shunji Mukai, an official of the city’s planning and coordination division for Miyajima.