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Travel News Swamped with tourists Japan visitors veer off the beaten track


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
As surging visitor numbers strain popular sites, tour operators start touting Japan's less explored regions, such as Nagano 's Kiso Valley or Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita. The operators also believe in tourism's power to positively impact rural communities and spur chihō sosei (地方蘇生), or regional revitalisation.

As Japan's population greys, many small villages are on the brink of extinction. For such communities, tourism can be a welcome and much-needed rejuvenating force. "With the right support, some communities genuinely want [tourists] to experience their hospitality and their local lifestyles and find out about their region, as long as they aren't overwhelmed by visitors and the quality of life isn't degraded," Alex Bradshaw, founder and chief consultant at travel and tourism consultancy Gotoku, told Al Jazeera. "Even if a village doesn't survive into the future, the fact that it's been remembered by somebody is incredibly powerful; people lived here and had this lifestyle, and we shared a little time together. That kind of human interaction is very important.'

I was just talking with a friend about when she took a visiting friend to Kyoto, and 5 minutes into walking up sannenzaka towards kiyomizu-dera he asked if they could go back to Osaka because the crowd was stifling. I was just there a few weeks ago and I can totally understand his reaction.

People on SNS try so hard to create an illusion of this magical place you can enjoy all to yourself, but the reality of it is usually the absurd disappointment of waiting in line just so you can get your own photo exactly like everyone else's, after cropping out the unsightly fellow tourists and imperfections that ruin the impression that convinced you visit in the first place

Tourism in itself doesn't have to be more than a mild nuisance far outweighed by the economic benefits to the area, the problem is these destinations suffer from their own success, while that money pouring in right over the heads of those who need it most. I see this new initiative as an admirable goal to encourage people to explore lesser-known areas of Japan; it'll hopefully reduce congestion at the major attractions, help revitalize those previously ignored areas which are just as deserving of visitor attention, and also give people a more diverse, authentic experience of a place that's not so marred by expectations and jockeying for the right position to perpetuate an illusion.

I love taking a beautiful dreamlike photo effused with the beauty and splendor of a spot, but I equally enjoy taking photos of the hordes of people taking photos of a thing, highlighting the absurdity of it all.
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Kyoto was a great place to visit during the pandemic. You were virtually alone, イェンス's pictures in the Media gallery attest to that:

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The good thing is that plenty of untouched locations still exist to experience the "real Japan". In August, we spent a week in Fukushima and Yamagata. We encountered many European tourists at Aizu Castle, but I guess it's just a stopover en route to Sendai. We didn't see any foreign tourists elsewhere. When we visited Kanazawa with my brother's family in 2018, we couldn't believe our eyes (and ears), as the predominant languages in Higashi Chayagai were Italian and French! Perhaps @johnnyG knows more about the recent developments in Kanazawa.

I am glad we have seen a lot of Kyoto, Osaka, and whatever Lonely Planet recommends, but our future destinations will be those that aren't mentioned on Instagram.
Yes, tourists are back, tho not the chinese (yet).

But those folks and I move in different circles, go to different places. I like photography, but have no interest in showing japan-esque things. About the closest to that is Daijoji (大乗寺), which is just over a kilometer from home. The last time I was there, last week (see the photo thread), I didn't see anybody the whole time, let alone a tourist--tho I could hear someone moving around out of sight a time or two. (It's not at all convenient via public transport.) Similarly, I have about one cherry blossom picture. Higanbana are an exception, and I need to get out this week to see if any of those are up.
Even in Kyoto if you just walk up the trails in the mountains behind most temples, you'll quickly lose sight of most of the crowds even now I would bet. Also there are many temples and sites in Kyoto that are less well traveled.
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