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Sightseers in Japan Poke Holes in Barrier That Was Installed to Keep Them Away

3 minute read

Locals in a Japanese town frustrated by overtourism had a plan to keep unruly sightseers away, but people are already poking holes in it. Literally.

A week after a giant black mesh barrier was mounted in Fujikawaguchiko to block a popular view of Mount Fuji in the background of a convenience store, local authorities are reporting that around 10 small openings have been made in the barrier.

“It’s about manners. It’s a shame,” a local official told Agence France-Presse—though he added that the finger-sized holes seemed too small to actually take good photos. “I tried to put a camera up to one of the holes,” he said. “In fact, I think the net came into the frame.”

Mt. Fuji photo spot
A hole made in the large black screen that was set up earlier in the month to block the view of Mount Fuji.Kyodo News/Getty Images

The barrier, measuring 2.5 meters (8 feet) high and 20 meters (22 yards) wide, was put up last week after local residents and business operators were driven to their wits’ end by camera-toting tourists seeking to capture their own version of a social-media famous shot of Japan’s tallest mountain peeking from behind a Lawson store—usually taken from across the road.

Lawson Mount Fuji
A car passes in front of the famous Lawson convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko.Lim Weixiang—Zeitgeist Photos/Getty Images/iStock

The virality of the photo spot became a headache for locals as tourists parked their cars without permission, left litter behind, and frequently jaywalked. “It was frightening because many tourists would jump out onto the road,” one resident told Kyodo News

Some tourists even climbed onto the rooftop of a nearby dental clinic to try to get the best shot. “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,” the dental clinic said in a statement earlier this month. 

“They've come from across the world, so I want them to get good photos, but I can't put up with this situation,” the head of the clinic, who had installed his own fence to deter tourists, told Japanese newspaper the Mainichi.

Before the barrier was erected, the convenience store had put up signs in multiple languages warning tourists not to jaywalk. Security guards were also stationed in the area to try to maintain orderliness.

Lawson store in front of the Mt Fuji.
Warning signs printed in multiple languages in front of the Lawson store, which has become a tourist hotspot.LewisTsePuiLung—Getty Images

The barrier came as a last resort, and authorities said they would attach to it QR codes directing visitors to alternative photo spots nearby. Some tourists have already found other places to flock to, including a different Lawson that offers a similar view.

Japan has recently experienced record tourism numbers amid pandemic recovery and a weakened yen. But the influx of visitors is posing some problems for locals, including driving up food prices and overwhelming certain popular locations. Officials overseeing trails up Mount Fuji implemented a daily cap on hikers earlier this month.

In Fujikawaguchiko, during the days leading up to the installation of the barrier, tourists rushed to the site to catch a final glimpse of the view. Now that the barrier has gone up, however, it may not be the panacea local residents had hoped for: some tourists are instead paying visits to the black mesh itself, which has garnered international media attention. But all things considered, the official told AFP, “we have achieved the purpose of discouraging people from staying there.”

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