Japanese town overrun with tourists puts up view-blocking barrier near Mount Fuji

May 21, 2024, 8:42 PM

Workers started erecting the eight feet tall black screen on May 21. (Kyodo News/Getty Images via C...

Workers started erecting the eight feet tall black screen on May 21. (Kyodo News/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Kyodo News/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — The Japanese town of Fujikawaguchiko has erected a giant black net to block views of Mount Fuji, a reaction to the town’s huge popularity on Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It is regrettable that we had to take such measures,” a local official told CNN last month, when the town’s council decided to block the most popular Fuji views with a 66-foot-long (20-meter) black screen, which was erected on May 21.

The small town in Yamanashi prefecture has become the center of an international controversy in recent weeks. A specific viewpoint in Fujikawaguchiko, which is at the foot of Mount Fuji and near the starting point for one of the most-used trails up the mountain, became so popular with visitors that it was causing problems for locals.

The situation has gotten so bad that even businesses with no connection to tourism have weighed in. The Ibishi Dental Clinic, located in the building next door to the photo spot, is one of them. According to the clinic, their employees and patients have had to deal with harassment by tourists.

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“There was a series of nuisance illegal activities such as leaving garbage, trespassing on the premises, smoking, eating in the parking lot or under the roofs of private homes, and trespassing on the rooftop, which often resulted in a call to the police,” said a statement issued by the clinic. “It became not uncommon for people to shout insults at us or to throw away their cigarettes while they were still lit when we asked them to move their cars.”

The statement added that the photo spot “attracts a constant stream of foreigners from early morning to late at night, and even local residents are unable to communicate with them when they caution them in Japanese.”

The Ibishi Dental Clinic confirms that it was one of the businesses that asked Fujikawaguchiko officials to deal with the problem.

Japan’s overtourism problems

Since Japan reopened to foreign tourists after the pandemic, “revenge travelers” have swarmed the country and its most popular attractions. More than three million people per month visited in March and April 2024, and the record-shattering trend seems on track to continue as North American and European tourists plan their summer holidays.

While overtourism is an issue around the world, from Paris to Hawaii, Fujikawaguchiko’s story is notable for several reasons. In this case, it’s not a specific attraction bringing hordes of visitors – it’s a viewpoint where people like to take pictures of Mount Fuji. The vantage point is in front of a convenience store, with people standing in the road to get the best shot.

Most visitors do not spend the night in Fujikawaguchiko, preferring to come in for a day trip but stay in busier Tokyo – just 62 miles (100 kilometers) away – at night.

This means that there’s no money coming in – from entry tickets, museum passes, or hotel fees – to balance out the damage caused by thousands of visitors or the erosion, trash and traffic issues they bring with them. As a result, the town of just 10,000 people has struggled to cope.

“I’ve seen people walk into roads, people using electronic [scooters] without following traffic rules and getting into accidents. There have been many accidents involving foreign tourists recently,” Haruhito Tsuchiya, a 49-year-old local who works in the tourism industry, told Reuters.

Lawson’s, the convenience store in front of Fuji that is often featured in social-media pictures of the mountain, has also said it will take measures to stem the flow of badly-behaved tourists.

“We offer our sincere apologies to local residents, customers of these stores, and others for inciting inconvenience and concern due to the popularization of the Lawson Kawaguchiko Station Branch,” the company said in a May 5 statement.

Lawson’s added that it would hire private security guards for the Kawaguchiko store and put up signs in multiple languages asking tourists not to litter or block roads.

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Japanese town overrun with tourists puts up view-blocking barrier near Mount Fuji