• Japanetic
  • Posts
  • Overtourism in Japan (in 5 stats)

Overtourism in Japan (in 5 stats)

Understanding overtourism in Japan better with stats between Kyoto and Paris.

I stumbled upon this post and I facepalmed… do you know why?

Because it only counts international tourists.

Include domestic tourism and it’s very easy to understand overtourism in Japan.

Localized overtourism

First, overtourism isn’t present all over Japan but only in popular spots like Kyoto, Mt Fuji, Kamakura, or Miyajima.

Tokyo doesn’t feel that bad because of better infrastructure and a higher density.

But Kyoto is another story.

Kyoto has more tourists than Paris

As France is #1 for international tourists and I’m French, using Paris for comparison is ideal.

Kyoto had 87.9m total tourists (domestic & international) in 2019. Paris had 50.6m and data I found included the whole Ile-de-France region (includes Disneyland, Versailles, etc).

Kyoto has a LOT more tourists than Paris!

73.7% more to be precise.

But there’s another factor that makes overtourism more visible in Kyoto.

Paris is denser than Kyoto

Kyoto (City) has a population of 1.6m while Paris has 2.1m.

Kyoto is 827km2 while Paris is 105km2.

Makes density at 1,800/km2 vs Paris at 20,238/km2.

With tourists, density is multiplied in Kyoto but it’s not in Paris.

Kyoto is very large, and some districts are pretty empty.

Other districts are much denser:

  • Kamigyō-ku at 12,000/km2 (Kyoto imperial palace)

  • Nakagyō-ku at 15,000/km2 (Nishiki market)

  • Shimogyō-ku at 12,000/km2 (Kyoto station)

Still, these districts are less dense than most districts in Paris.

Why are Japanese people only now complaining?

Locals always complain about tourism.

But why does it seem more vocal now?

Before the 2020 olympics, Japan was doing everything possible to attract more foreign tourists and now they’re realizing there are also economic downsides (e.g. infrastructure investments).

Also, the drop in tourism during COVID must have felt really nice.

Here is a chart on how COVID impacted tourism in Japan.

You can see there was a dramatic drop even though domestic tourism recovered quickly (government paid locals to travel).

Why domestic tourism in Kyoto is so high

School trips to Kyoto are inevitable. You can ask any Japanese, and you’re pretty much guaranteed they went to Kyoto with their school.

Every time I went to Kyoto, whatever the period, I saw groups of students.

It conditions domestic tourism to make Kyoto even more important as a tourist destination.

On the other side, I know a lot of French people who never went to Paris.

Overtourism in Japan is real

Unlike what that poorly written Facebook post was saying at the beginning, overtourism is real.

But like always, Japanese people are mostly blaming foreigners when it’s also locals who are part of the problem.

To combat overtourism, here are a few things Japan is doing:

Let’s be frank, you find these things in a lot of other countries. Japan is just late in implementing them.

They should have thought about it when they decided to attract more tourists.

But better late than never.

Going Further

Visually Pleasing

While we’re on the theme, here’s a really nice photo of Shinjuku by night. It’s always crowded there anyway.

I’ve got a link about it below, so here’s a couple of photos of Azabudai from my recent Tokyo trip.

Weekly Digest

Lots of recent news was about overtourism, so not a much to ass here I haven’t included yet.

I love the architecture of Azabudai Hills.

It was lackluster during inauguration at the end of last year as many shops were not opened, now most of them are opened so visiting the neighborhood should be on your list for next time.

I recommend when the sun is down.

A host club offers male companionship to female clients. No sex, just conversation and attention. Good depiction of the experience if you’re interested in understanding what it is.

A student in Osaka was charged for riding an electric suitcase on the sidewalk without a license. The suitcase can reach speeds of 13 km/h, classifying it as a vehicle requiring a license in Japan.