Japanese officials erect barrier in front of Mount Fuji to obstruct tourists from taking pictures

ITV News' Sam Leader reports on Japan's tourist crackdown.

The Japanese town of Fujikawaguchiko has erected a giant black net to block views of Mount Fuji after what residents described as “a series of nuisance illegal activities”.

The small town in Yamanashi prefecture has become the centre of the latest tourism controversy in recent weeks.

A specific viewpoint at the foot of Mount Fuji and near the starting point for one of the most-used trails up the mountain, became so popular with visitors that it was causing problems for locals.

Local businesses like The Ibishi Dental Clinic, located in the building next door to the photo spot, have raised concerns over the behaviour of tourists seeking the perfect selfie. 

Workers set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk at Fujikawaguchiko town. Credit: AP

According to the clinic, their employees and patients have had to deal with harassment by tourists.

“There was a series of nuisance illegal activities such as leaving rubbish, trespassing on the premises, smoking, eating in the parking lot or under the roofs of private homes, and trespassing on the rooftop, which often resulted in a call to the police,” the clinic said in a statement.

“It became not uncommon for people to shout insults at us or to throw away their cigarettes while they were still lit when we asked them to move their cars,” it added.

The clinic said the photo spot “attracts a constant stream of foreigners from early morning to late at night, and even local residents are unable to communicate with them when they caution them in Japanese.”

The 8ft high, 20 metre long black screen obscures the famous Mount Fuji photospot. Credit: AP

Since Japan reopened to foreign tourists after the pandemic, they’ve been inundated with travellers eager to visit the country and its most popular attractions. 

More than three million people per month visited in March and April 2024, a record for Japan’s tourism numbers. This seems on track to continue as North American and European tourists plan their summer holidays.

Fujikawaguchiko’s story is notable for several reasons. It’s not a specific attraction bringing masses of visitors - it’s a viewpoint where people like to take pictures of Mount Fuji.

The vantage point is in front of a convenience store, with people needing to stand in the road to get the best shot.

Most visitors do not spend the night in Fujikawaguchiko, but stay in busier Tokyo,  just 100 kilometres away.

This means there’s no money coming in, from entry tickets, museum passes, or hotel fees to balance out the damage caused by thousands of visitors or the rubbish and traffic issues they bring with them.

As a result, the town of just 10,000 people has struggled to cope.

Lawson’s, the shop in front of Mount Fuji that is often featured in social-media pictures of the mountain, has said it will take measures to stem the flow of badly-behaved tourists.

“We offer our sincere apologies to local residents, customers of these stores, and others for inciting inconvenience and concern due to the popularisation of the Lawson Kawaguchiko Station Branch,” the company said in a statement earlier this month.

Lawson’s added that it would hire private security guards for the Kawaguchiko store and put up signs in multiple languages asking tourists not to litter or block roads.

Top 10 British Tourist Hotspots:

1. Barcelona (48%)

2. Canary Islands (45%)

3. Amsterdam (41%)

4. Balearic Islands (37%)

5. Venice (32%)

6. Florence (24%)

7. Athens (22%)

8. Istanbul (21%)

9. Padstow (21%)

10. Seville (20%)

*Data from a Censuswide survey conducted by Staysure Group from 14-18 March 2024 of 2,000 UK adults who have been abroad in the last 12 months

Other areas of Japan are also taking measures to curb tourism amid local residents' criticism of bad behaviour.

After complaints from residents, Kyoto recently announced tourists would be banned from certain streets in the geisha district of Gion.

This follows reports of overcrowding and visitors taking photos and touching local geishas without their consent. Tourists now risk a fine of 10,000 yen (£50) for breaking the new rules.

Around the world, pushback against overtourism is a growing concern as cities struggle to cope with the increasing numbers of foreign visitors. 

Venice recently made headlines after deciding to charge an entry fee for day visitors during their busiest times.

Large amounts of people gather to protest the number of tourists in the Canary Islands. Credit: AP

Large protests have also been seen in Tenerife over concerns raised by local residents about the effect mass-tourism is having on the island.

On April 12, campaigners from the group Canarias Se Agota, which means ‘The Canaries Have Had Enough’, staged a hunger strike, calling on officials to act. 

Nearly 12% of Spain’s economy comes from tourism but one Instagram post by Canarias Se Agota, said the Canary Islands are "exhausted" because of the "excessive tourism" and the "lack of attention to the basic needs of the population".

Data suggests these new ‘anti-tourism’ measures could have the intended effect. A recent survey by travel insurance provider Staysure found 51% of Brits say they’d be less likely to travel somewhere if they had to pay a tourist tax, with 16% saying they wouldn’t visit at all. 

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…