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Curtains come down on Mt Fuji view for Japan's tourists

Updated: 2024-05-22 09:25

A worker installs a barrier to block the sight of Mount Fuji emerging from behind a convenience store in the town of Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Tuesday. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP

FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Japan — A Japanese town mounted a large mesh barrier at a popular viewing spot for Mount Fuji on Tuesday, in an attempt to deter photo-taking by an ever-growing number of tourists.

Japan's most famous sight can be seen for kilometers around, but Fujikawaguchiko locals are fed up with streams of mostly foreign visitors littering, trespassing and breaking traffic rules in their hunt for a photo to share on social media.

Parking illegally and ignoring a smoking ban, they would cram a pavement to shoot the snowcapped mountain, which soars photogenically into the sky from behind a convenience store, residents said.

"I'm really happy that foreigners are coming to our town," said Kikue Katsumata, 73, a lifelong resident of Fujikawaguchiko. "But when it comes to taking pictures from Lawson, the road is a bit narrow and it can be dangerous when people dash across without using a crosswalk."

Workers began putting the black netting measuring 2.5 by 20 meters in place on Tuesday, and they were already done by late morning, an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene said.

"I think it's disappointing that they are putting it up. It's obviously an iconic shot," said Christina Roys, 36, a tourist from New Zealand.

"But it's completely understandable. We were here last night, managing to get the last shot before they were putting up the wall, and there were so many people."

March and April set all-time records for visitor arrivals, which have been driven by pent-up demand after the pandemic and the yen's slide to a 34-year low has made Japan an irresistible bargain. That has been good news for the economy, with travelers spending a record $11.2 billion in the first three months of this year, according to the tourist agency.

But as in other tourist hot spots, such as Venice in Italy, which recently launched an entry fee trial for day visitors, the influx has not been universally welcomed.

In Japan's ancient capital Kyoto, locals have complained of tourists harassing the city's famed geisha.

And hikers using the most popular route to climb Mount Fuji this summer will be charged 2,000 yen ($13) each, with entries capped at 4,000 to ease congestion.

Mount Fuji is covered in snow most of the year. But during the July-September hiking season, more than 220,000 visitors trudge up its steep, rocky slopes.

Many climb through the night to see the sunrise, and some attempt to reach the 3,776-meter summit without breaks, becoming sick or injured as a result.

Regional officials have raised safety and environmental concerns linked to overcrowding on the active volcano, a symbol of Japan and a once-peaceful pilgrimage site.

Residents near other popular photo spots in the region, including the so-called Fuji Dream Bridge, have also reportedly complained about overtourism in recent weeks.

One tour operator that offers day trips from Tokyo to the Mount Fuji area told AFP they are taking visitors to another Lawson store nearby where a similar view can be seen, but there are fewer nearby residents.

Agencies via Xinhua

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