Japan’s iconic sightseeing hub facing its overcapacity -both people and locations. Here is why.

1000 of temples, wooden town house, beautifully dressed Maiko. You can feel Zen atmosphere once you stepped into garden. Kyoto, west of Japan, is cited as a must-visit for foreign visitors. The tourism has boosted their economy and the city seems to be enjoying its taste of juice. Not only in these prefectures, the whole Japan also records greater numbers of visiting tourists as compared with the past, tourism is functioning as economy boost that closes the economy gap between small cities and big cities.

However, the locals are not seeing this as good as it seems to be despite Kyoto is called one of the inbound hubs in Japan. For the past 6 years, the prefecture has had large amount of visitors. According to survey held by the prefecture, Kyoto had approximately 87 million visitors in 2018, which went up by about 10 million in the past 6 years.

Ultimately, the number caused mass crowded at notable spots and the streets, which the city had not experienced. As such keeps labors continuously working restless and places to be booked up. According to the same survey, the figure of non-Japanese tourists who stayed in Kyoto shows 3.6million people in 2018, which is 4 times the 2012. Yes, there’s certainly lack of availability of hotel rooms and manpower. The capacity of manpower and area certainly have not caught up with the demand.

“The situation keeps us restless, but there’re not enough staff” one hotel manager said.

Although Kyoto has been “tourism champion” for a long time where every students visit on their school trip, why did such a dramatic change happen?

The huge factor is Japan’s government promoted inbound tourism internationally.

Why the government suddenly started focusing on inbound tourism?

Here is why;

  1. High aging society decelerates the domestic consumption, which puts Japan in need of alternative way of spending within the country

  2. The government sees tourism as alternative key industry besides manufacturing car and electric appliance, which have been stabilizing Japan’s economy after WW2. As above, the fact that the population is getting shrink is also the reason

Ultra fast high aging rate is one of the big issues in Japan. As reported by Statics Bureau, Ministry Internal Affairs and Communications(in Japanese), almost one third of the populations are 65 year-old or over, which is the highest figures in Japan's history. Speaking of which, the situation accelerates the need of foreign workers in certain industries. Now, in the field of nursing care, construction, and restaurants are demanding help from foreign workers.

Considering the demographics of our country, I could understand our government’s direction to stabilize the economy. As above, the locals are calling for giving respects to preserve their tradition, historical heritage and not to disturb their ordinary life.

While Kyoto is becoming well-known place more and more, it has lost its so-called “Kyoto brand”-preserving traditional Japanese vibe that wouldn’t be seen anywhere else in modern Japan- instead. One local said, “famous Bamboo forest no longer has spiritual atmosphere the forest used to have. Temples, where people are supposed to be quiet in order to pray and feel Zen, wouldn’t be suitable for calling such atmosphere. They are all related with the mass crowded and I want the tourists to give some compassion”. Although tourists also should give respect for local’s life, the prefecture is called for taking actions to sort the issues out with numerous figure, but quick change is not promising yet.

The numbers of visitors are expected to increase more as Japan hosts Rugby world cup 2019 and Tokyo Olympics 2020.

So far it is undoubtedly functioning as next key industry for Japan, but what could sort the locals’ suffering out would remain unsolved.