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Top tourism spots threatened by surge in visitors

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TOKYO >> The rising number of foreign visitors to Japan is expected to benefit the nation’s economy. But there also are concerns about the return of overtourism and just partial success of countermeasures.

Earlier this month, crowds were seen around a railroad crossing near Kamakura Koko Mae Station on the Enoshima Electric Railway, which runs along the Shonan beach area in Kamakura. The spot was made famous by the basketball manga “Slam Dunk,” with many visitors snapping shots of trains passing the crossing — a scene depicted in the manga.

“Lots of people began to come after the pandemic,” said a local resident. “Not everyone follows the rules, so I’m worried about accidents.”

Traffic is heavy in the vicinity, and local drivers looked annoyed as visitors stepped onto the road for a good shot.

Balancing tourism and residents’ daily lives has been a challenge at Kamakura tourist spots such as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine and the Kamakura Great Buddha, located near residential areas.

The resurgence of tourism has affected residents’ commutes, especially on city buses, an important mode of transportation for getting to shops and hospitals.

“Sometimes I couldn’t get off because there were so many tourists. So, I rode to the last stop and then took another bus back,” said an 86-year-old Kyoto man.

The city’s transportation department has increased weekend bus services to tourist spots and will stop selling one-day bus tickets — 90% of which are used by tourists — at the end of September.

Transfers from the bus to the subway will be released in the fall to channel travelers to the subway system.

In the Hokkaido town of Biei, famous for its “patchwork hills,” tourists have disrupted farms by entering fields to take photos. To prevent their crops from being trampled, in 2019 farmers selected four scenic spots and posted signage to guide visitors there. The town also enacted an ordinance on tourism etiquette, which went into effect in April.

Results have been mixed. This summer, foreign visitors were again seen in the wheat fields during harvest season.

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