In Travel on Thursday 7th Mar, 2019

Japan considers banning non-Japanese tourists from popular sites

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The famous Nanzoin temple was the first to start banning tourists from abroad. Source: Getty.

Japan is known as one of the most respectful countries in the world so it’s no surprise those working in the tourism industry are more than fed up with the overly offensive behaviour coming from large groups of foreign visitors.

Tourists from abroad have given themselves such a bad name that many tourism spots in Japan are now banning all non-Japanese visitors from entering their facilities, the Asahi Shimbun reports. Even though exclusively allowing locals entry could be seen as discriminatory, tourism operators say they have tried everything to stop the unruly behaviour but they can’t allow it to hurt their business and reputation any more than it already has.

One of the first tourist attractions to take this step was the Nanzoin temple in Sasaguri. The temple is an important place of prayer in Japan and is most famously known for its huge reclining Buddha, however problems with tourists started around 10 years ago and have only gotten worse. Tourists would flock to Nanzoin blaring music, splashing in the water that was meant for Buddhism training, and even climbing roofs on the temple grounds.

Despite endless verbal warnings, the only thing that really deterred visitors was removing all the information about the destination from travel agencies and tourism websites as well as erecting a number of signs out the front of the temple letting foreigners know they are not welcome in the sacred spot. Chief priest at Nanzoin, Kakujo Hayashi says the behaviour was driving away local worshippers.

“I want to accept all worshippers, but there are limitations to our capacity. We have no choice but to take measures to protect the place of prayer on our own,” Hayashi says.

The temple will still welcome solo foreign travellers as smaller groups are less likely to partake in unruly behaviour and the temple also clarified that bad behaving Japanese tourists will also be asked to leave.

Along with Nanzoin, the Yatsushriogu shrine temporarily closed its gates to all worshippers entering the sacred premises on specific days when cruise ships were arriving. The closures didn’t last long however, as the city government forced the shrine to welcome all tourists no matter where they come from.

Even the owner of an “izakaya” pub in Kyoto said he would always lie and say his restaurant was fully booked when groups of five or more foreigners were looking to dine in.

Racial discrimination is the biggest concern for those tourist spots looking to deny entry to foreign visitors however, multicultural society expert Professor Noriko Matsunaga says refusal of entry can’t be considered discrimination if individual foreigners are still allowed access.

Matsunaga says there’ll be cause for concern if the banning trend catches on and locals lose their desire to welcome foreigners, adding: “What is important is enhancing mutual cultural understanding in line with the central government’s policy to welcome foreign tourists.”

Tourist numbers in Japan are only expected to rise in the coming years as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games where an expected 40 million visitors per annum have been predicted.

Do you think it’s fair to ban foreign visitors? Do you agree with the ban?

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