Eyes Wide Shut

The value of your currency is dropping like crazy. Your country is suffering from low domestic demand, low consumer spending, and high inflation; so you desperately need money from outside, money from tourists, but because you are at your innermost core, a very close-minded society, you are insular, you see what is “in” as “us” and what is “out” as “them” as a result, in your heart of hearts, you really hate those tourists bringing cash, those barbaric foreigners and their strange ways, so what do you do?

You make it difficult for them to visit. Record numbers of overseas tourists are travelling to Japan, where the number of monthly visitors exceeded 3 million in March for the first time. But in reality, you can’t stand those outsiders though you love the money they bring, so you take steps to make life difficult for visitors. You raise the price of hotels and train tickets in addition to charging people for trekking up Mount Fuji and now you are even going to build a big black barrier to block views of the mountain.

Mount Fuji, Japan’s loftiest peak, offers picturesque vistas from numerous vantage points in the charming resort town of Fujikawaguchiko. One such spot has garnered significant attention for its unique appeal: the iconic silhouette of the majestic and still-active volcano framed behind a ubiquitous Lawson convenience store. This juxtaposition has fueled a social media frenzy, with the location earning a reputation for its quintessential Japanese charm and undeniable Instagram-worthy allure, drawing visitors seeking the perfect photo opportunity.

Construction of the barrier – 2.5m (8ft) high and the length of a cricket pitch at 20m (65.6ft) – will begin as early as this week.

It is said that the measure is also aimed at safeguarding a nearby dental clinic from the intrusion of tourists who occasionally park there without authorization. There have even been reports of individuals climbing onto the roof of the clinic in pursuit of the ideal shot, further emphasizing the “necessity” of such moves.

Japan lacks any law which prohibits racism and many tourists often face discrimination. The homogenous, taciturn, chauvinistic, bigoted and xenophobic Japanese are not foreigner friendly. Don’t be fooled into thinking that their reticence and all that bowing are signs of politeness and courtesy. The truth is that most Japanese resent and loathe foreigners with a passion that burns deep and tourists descending on Fujikawaguchiko provides a perfect justification to curb their numbers. Some restaurants even practice “ichigensan okotowari” meaning they don’t accept first-time customers. How’s that for being hospitable?

And some won’t serve non-Japanese!

Other destinations are also struggling with “over-tourism” – a term they throw up when these places lack the requisite infrastructure to support a decent tourism industry. Bhutan has long imposed a minimum-spend daily amount and last week, Venice began charging day-trippers to enter the city, while the week before, tens of thousands of people across the Canary Islands – in fact, all across Spain – called for a freeze on visitor numbers. Amsterdam issued a new directive urging tourists to stay away and in Athens, locals have launched anti-tourist campaigns to make sure that foreigners know in no uncertain terms how unwelcome they are.

Yup, go ahead, shoot yourselves in the foot, you stupid idiots.

I will go where I am made to feel genuinely welcomed, and no amount of bowing can fool me.

Let me end with this insight:

When locals are blaming tourists for bad behavior, it’s not about the tourists. “It’s a sign that the tourism management has failed,” said Antje Martins, a trainer for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and a PhD candidate in the tourism discipline at University of Queensland Business School, Australia.

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