Japan tourism: The polite Japanese are finally getting sick of tourists

Japan's traditional sense of "omotenashi", meaning wholeheartedly looking after guests, is wearing decidedly thin.

Residents of many of the nation's must-see tourist spots are increasingly expressing their frustration at loud and disrespectful foreigners, crowded public transport and poor etiquette among visitors.

The problem has become so bad in some cities, such as the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Kamakura, that local people are complaining to the authorities about "tourism pollution".

Japan's tourism agency is frantically encouraging tourists to get off the "Golden Route" that links Tokyo with Kyoto and Osaka and to explore more remote parts of the country.

That campaign appears to be having some impact, but most travellers - especially first-time visitors - still want to experience the skyscrapers and bright lights of the capital, the cultural and historic delights of Kyoto and the cuisine, entertainment and shopping in Osaka.

More than 20 million tourists arrived in Japan in the first eight months of the year and the annual total is expected to break the 30-million barrier, up from 28.7 million arrivals last year.

That is a remarkable turnaround from the 7.1 million arrivals in 2011, the year in which north-east Japan was hit by a major earthquake and a tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis.

The number of Australia visitors to Japan has also surged in the past 10 years, up 340 per cent, with more than 80,000 Australians heading there in the past two months.

And while hotels and businesses that rely on the tourist trade have welcomed the influx of foreigners, residents are less enthusiastic.

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In Kyoto there has been a surge in complaints linked to the rise in tourist numbers. Locals say it is difficult to get on buses that go near the most famous sights in the city, while demand for accommodation has encouraged unscrupulous landlords to lease out unlicensed properties.

Foreign tourists are also often unaware of local customs - such as meticulously separating rubbish before it is collected - which has added to the friction. The city's tourism authorities say they are aware of the problems and are taking measures to reduce discord.

"Undoubtedly, the increase in tourists has had an influence on the daily lives of the citizens of Kyoto," said Shuhei Akahoshi, head of the city's department of conventions and tourism. "But we have several ongoing advertising campaigns that promote better manners among tourists."

The city has partnered with TripAdvisor on a guide to manners for tourists and is using magazines to get the same message across. Travel authorities are also encouraging people to visit outside of the peak season, or to see sights at less popular times of the day.

"For a long time, Kyoto has experienced various issues as our tourists have increased," said Mr Akahoshi. "Our goal is harmonious coexistence and mutual benefit between our citizens and our guests. For us in Kyoto, we do not think of things in terms of confrontation or conflict, but instead we believe in achieving harmony through careful work."

The Telegraph, London

See also: I've found the next Japan for Australian travellers

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Japan

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