🔖 3 min read

Welcome to Far Side Japan. The column that keeps you in the know about the most
important and interesting happenings in Japanese news, business and society.

This week we bring you a story so big it’s reached into the mainstream news cycle across the globe. The recent tourist surge in Japan is leading to a tricky situation in the usually picturesque area of Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji rises up against the horizon


Falling Yen, Rising Tourists

The recent unprecedented low Yen has been great news for tourists to Japan. With the Japanese currency trading at a 34 year low against the dollar, and making visitor money go much further. At the time of writing 1 Dollar will get you around 155 Yen, opening up better value and more purchases when traveling around Japan. This has led to an expected surge in tourism to the country, with a record 3-million visitors across March and April this year. Given that increasing tourism has been a goal of the Japanese government for decades, everything seems to be going swimmingly…right?

But this bump in visitors isn’t all good news. Tourists bring money, but they can also bring bad manners, increased pressure on local economies and disrupt the very environments that drew them there in the first place. In fact across the globe we’re seeing a backlash to “over-tourism” with places like Barcelona, Majorca and the Canary Islands all facing recent political turmoil, as exasperated locals try to place restrictions on unruly visitors. To try and preserve their attractive locales, and their own sanity .


Pressure at Mount Fuji

One such Japanese example is the ongoing saga of a Lawson convenience store overlooking Mount Fuji, whose almost too-good location has set it up as a battleground between over-excited tourists and frustrated locals. This Lawson, located in the small resort town of Fuji Kawaguchiko boasts a fantastic and totally unique view of Mount Fuji, with the awe-inspiring mountain rising across the horizon right behind it. A contrast of ancient eternity with modern Japanese consumerism. So popular is the spot for tourist photos that the parking lot of the store has become a place of loitering, littering and overall bad manners. In a small town that gets annoying pretty quickly. To return some order local residents have constructed a large black screen measuring 2.5 metres x 20 metres around the konbini, blocking out the view of Mount Fuji and ideally dispersing the tourists elsewhere.

In recent developments however some clearly angry visitors have taken to puncturing holes in the mantle to stick their cameras through. An act that unfortunately escalates the incident into public vandalism. Hopefully cooler heads prevail.


Finding a Path Forward for Fuji

Japan has the kind of cultural pull most other countries dream of. That most other countries would spend millions if not billions to try and emulate. Japan Nakama’s whole existence is a reminder of how instantly recognisable and popular Japanese culture is. The spread of anime, manga, video games, food and assorted other cultural elements means there’s ever more people picking up the Japanese language, and planning their own trip to the land of the Rising Sun. That’s a great situation, but it’s important to make sure Japan doesn’t become a saturated theme-park. What makes Japan great is its organicness, its authenticity and clarity of culture. It can and will blend and meld with tourism and visitors, but it has to be done in a way that benefits and respects both visitors and locals.

With this in mind, it’s hard not to have sympathy for both sides of this divide. And hope that these localised skirmishes can be solved amicably, so that tourists can continue to enjoy the wonders of Japan for decades to come.


About Sam Barker

Sam L Barker is a business professional with years of experience working in software and technology. He is also a freelance writer focusing on the areas of Japanese culture, music, tech and business. He used to live in Tokyo and loves night walks through the city.