Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Japan forced to impose new rules to tackle overtourism at world-famous landmark

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New rules have been placed of anyone who wants to climb one of the world’s most famous mountains.

Amid overtourism and littering those who want to climb one of the most popular trails of the iconic Japanese Mount Fuji will now have to reserve ahead and pay a fee.

The picturesque stratovolcano has also recently struggled with those who attempt rushed “bullet climbing,” putting lives at risk.

The Yamanashi prefecture said it has introduced new rules for the climbing season, starting July 1 to September. 10 for those hiking the Yoshida Trail on the Yamanashi side of the 3776 meter- (nearly 12,300 feet-) high mountain, designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013.

It comes as the nearby Japanese town of Fujikawaguchiko constructed a large black screen on a stretch of a sidewalk to block the view of the mountain and put off unruly tourists taking part in a social media phenomenon known as “Mt. Fuji Lawson.” This has inconvenienced locals and disrupted their businesses and road traffic.

Only 4,000 climbers will be allowed to enter the trail per day; 3,000 slots will be available for online booking at a fee of 2,000 yen (about $18), and the remaining 1,000 can be booked in person on the day of the climb.

A group of hikers climb to the top of Mount Fuji just before sunrise as clouds hang below the summit Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in Japan (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Climbers can book their slots via Mount Fuji Climbing’s official website, jointly run by the Environment Ministry and Mt. Fuji’s two home prefectures Yamanashi and Shizuoka.

Mt. Fuji is divided into 10 stations, and there are four “5th stations” halfway up the mountain from where the four trails — the Yoshida, Fujinomiya, Subashiri, and Gotemba — start to the top.

Under the new system, climbers need to choose whether they will do a day hike or stay overnight at the several available huts across the trail. Once they input their information and the day of the climb, they are given a QR code to be scanned at the 5th station. Those who have not booked an overnight hut will be sent back down and not allowed to climb between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m., mainly to stop climbers who rush to the summit without adequate rest, raising safety concerns, authorities said.

Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki thanked people, in a statement, for their understanding and cooperation in helping conserve Mt. Fuji.

The Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Mt. Fuji, where climbers can also access the mountain, has sought a voluntary 1,000-yen ($6.4) fee per climber since 2014 and is considering additional ways to balance tourism and environmental protection.

A foreign tourist poses in front of the Lawson Kawaguchiko Ekimae convenience store (EPA)

The number of Mt. Fuji climbers during the season in 2023 totaled 221,322, according to the Environment Ministry.

Over-tourism has also become a growing issue at other popular tourist destinations such as Kyoto and Kamakura as foreign visitors have flocked to Japan in droves since the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted, in part due to the weaker yen.

Last year, Japan had more than 25 million visitors, and the figures in 2024 are expected to surpass nearly 32 million, a record from 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

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