After fears that tourist numbers would never return to pre-pandemic levels, it may now be a case of too much of a good thing for Japan.

A combination of a weak yen, more affordable airfares, the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions and “revenge travel” has led to monthly visitors to Japan hitting a record high.

Over-tourism is now such a problem for one Japanese town it has erected a barrier to block snow-capped views of Mount Fuji, after locals complained about the bad behaviour of selfie-seeking visitors.

So, what measures have been implemented to curb over-tourism?

How is Japan handling over-tourism?

A woman takes a photograph of illuminated cherry blossoms in full bloom

Japan welcomed 3 million visitors during the month of March which marks peak time for cherry blossom-viewing.(Reuters: Yuriko Nakao)

Over-tourism happens when so many visitors are attracted to an area that life becomes unpleasant for the locals, despite any economic or other ostensible benefits.

One of Japan’s busiest tourist periods of the year ended on Monday.

Golden Week — which ran from April 27 to May 5 — coincided with multiple public holidays and near-perfect spring weather.

To help deal with all the international tourists in the country during one of Japan’s busiest periods, authorities have tried a range of measures.

Two women wearing kimonos and masks walk down steps.

Tourists have been banned from some traditional areas.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

In Kamakura, a popular temple city, English-speaking guides have been helping to direct tourists to stop them obstructing busy train stations, according to Nikkei.

Kyoto’s traditional neighbourhood, Gion, recently banned visitors from its small private alleys. 

Locals had complained of snap-happy tourists harassing the city’s immaculately attired geisha, who had to remind them it was “not a theme park”.

Authorities in Kyoto have also reportedly installed screens at the main train station showing live feeds of tourist areas so visitors can assess crowds and plan their trips better.

Many people visit the small, scenic Japanese town of Fujikawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture, causing chaos on local streets while trying to photograph Mount Fuji.

Authorities said they had had enough of the excessive number of foreigners littering, ignoring traffic regulations and even climbing on roofs of office buildings in search of the perfect selfie spot.

Exasperated town officials eventually blocked the view of Mount Fuji with a 2.5-metre-high black barrier.

“It’s regrettable we have to do this because of some tourists who can’t respect rules,” a town official said.


Hikers using the most popular route to climb Mount Fuji, where the climbing season begins in July, will be charged 2,000 yen ($19.50).

Numbers will be capped.

Where are Japan’s visitors from?

The January earthquake in the western prefecture of Ishikawa had minimal impact on 2024 arrivals, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).

Tourist numbers have quickly rebounded, and apart from Australia, Japan has had a large influx of visitors from South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

An Asian man in a costume waves to camera at the head of a line of go karts on cherry blossom-lined street

Tokyo is one of three cities offering Street Kart rides, which is most picturesque during cherry blossom season.(Facebook: Street Kart Tokyo Bay)

Street Kart, which offers rides for tourists in Tokyo, Okinawa and Osaka, said most were from Australia, the US, Canada and the UK — with decent numbers from Europe and Asia.

“The demand for our activity has risen significantly [this year] in conjunction with the increase of visitors to Japan,” Street Kart spokesperson Mai Ishido told the ABC. 

Children smile as they walk through a colourfully painted tunnel in a tourist crowd

Families visit the 60-metre-long jumbo carp streamer in Kusu Town in western Japan over the weekend.(AFP: Koichi Nagano)

However, tourism from China has stayed well below pre-pandemic levels.

The JNTO said visitors from China, which had made up nearly a third of all visitors and 40 per cent of tourist spending, were slowly returning.

The April numbers aren’t out yet, but in March, visitors to Japan hit a record high of 3.08 million visitors, according to the JNTO.

The previous record of 2.99 million was set in July 2019 during a year that Japan welcomed a record 31.9 million visitors.

It’s a stark contrast from the early days of the pandemic, when Tokyo banned spectators from the postponed Olympics in 2021.

Tourists have been making the most of Japan’s weak yen, which fell to a three-decade low against the US dollar last month. 

Even Australia’s faltering currency still has buying power in Japan, with one dollar converting to almost 102 yen, up more than 10 per cent from a year ago.

A hearty dinner on Tokyo’s famous Ramen Street will set you back around 1,080 yen ($10.55) while a bus ride in Kyoto costs 230 yen ($2.25) — both cheaper than Australia’s capital cities.

A crowded restaurant in Tokyo with people outside in face masks

For just over $10, diners can fill up on ramen.(ABC News: Jake Sturmer)

What have other countries done?

Over-tourism has also affected other popular Asian destinations, like Bali and Thailand, with international travel returning to normal after the pandemic.

A new $15 tourism tax was introduced to Bail in February, after a series of incidents involving visitors desecrating holy sites and behaving badly.

A woman wearing a blue long sleeve shirt surfs a wave on her surfboard.

Visitors to Bali’s famous beaches are now slugged with a $15 tourist tax, introduced in February.(ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

In Thailand’s Maya Bay, which was made famous by The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, a maximum of 375 visitors are allowed at one time.

Even though access had earlier been restricted and it was later closed for three years, an estimated 80 per cent of the coral reefs there died due to over-tourism.

While there are plenty of plans to restrict and control tourist numbers, not everyone in Japan is sick of all the foreign visitors.

Ms Ishido from Street Kart said there was no such thing as having too many tourists and that everyone was welcome.

“We hope to see many more happy smiling faces coming to and from our shops,” spokeswoman Ms Ishido told the ABC.


Posted Yesterday at 2:07amWed 8 May 2024 at 2:07am, updated 5h ago5 hours agoThu 9 May 2024 at 4:02am