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Sick of tourists, Japan town to put up barrier blocking Mt Fuji

Tourists take pictures of Mount Fuji from opposite a convenience store in the town of Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi prefecture
Tourists take pictures of Mount Fuji from opposite a convenience store in the town of Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi prefecture - Copyright AFP Kazuhiro NOGI
Tourists take pictures of Mount Fuji from opposite a convenience store in the town of Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi prefecture - Copyright AFP Kazuhiro NOGI
Caroline GARDIN

A Japanese town was set Tuesday to mount a large mesh barrier across the road from an Instagram-famous view of Mount Fuji in an attempt to deter badly behaved tourists.

The plan made headlines last month when it was announced by officials fed up with what locals said were unending streams of mostly foreign visitors littering, trespassing and breaking traffic rules.

Since then, poles have been put up in preparation for a screen measuring 2.5 by 20 metres (eight by 65 feet) to block the sight of Japan’s highest mountain emerging from behind a Lawson convenience store.

On Tuesday morning, workers in hard hats were putting the finishing touches to the metal poles in preparation for attaching the barrier at the photo spot in Fujikawaguchiko town, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Snaps of this visual juxtaposition taken from a narrow stretch of pavement across a busy road from the Lawson, a ubiquitous Japanese chain, have been widely shared online.

But construction of the barrier itself was initially delayed due to problems getting the right materials delivered, giving tourists a few more days to chase the perfect shot.

Local officials and residents have said the town welcomes visitors, but complain that those who cross the street non-stop, ignore red lights, park illegally and smoke outside of designated areas have proved a nuisance.

“It’s regrettable we have to do this, because of some tourists who can’t respect rules,” a town official told AFP in April, saying that traffic signs and warnings from security guards had failed to improve the situation.

The measure is also meant to protect a nearby dental clinic where tourists sometimes park without permission and have even been seen climbing on the roof to take pictures. 

– Online bookings –

Record numbers of overseas tourists are coming to Japan, where monthly visitors exceeded three million for the first time in March and then again in April.

But as in other tourist hotspots, such as Venice — which recently launched a trial of entry fees for day visitors — the influx has not been universally welcomed.

In Japan’s ancient capital of 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.

A new online booking system for the mountain’s Yoshida trail opened on Monday to guarantee hikers entry through a new gate, although 1,000 places a day will be kept for day-of entries.

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-metre (12,388-foot) summit without breaks and become 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 which 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.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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