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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 27 - April 2  > Local residents in Kyoto overwhelmed by excessive catering to tourism industry
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2019 March 27 - April 2 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Local residents in Kyoto overwhelmed by excessive catering to tourism industry

March 29, 2019
Local residents in downtown Kyoto City have been troubled in recent years by the upsurge in the numbers of tourists leading to soaring land prices due to a hotel construction boom and by the overall increase in deregulation measures and development. They are facing difficulty in conducting ordinary household activities under the Kyoto city government which just follows the Abe government's lackadaisical attitude toward tourism.

Soaring land prices

The number of rooms in accommodation facilities in the city totaled about 30,000 in 2015, and it is expected to increase by 1.8 times by 2020. Accordingly, land prices are going sky-high in some areas in the city.

Many people complain that building homes in these areas is no longer affordable. Some are even about to be evicted from their homes for the construction of profitable lodging facilities.

A man in his 70s who lives in a leased house said, "Our landlord wants to force out the tenants and intends to remodel the houses into private lodging facilities." His area is within walking distance of popular sightseeing spots and has good transport links. More and more private inns and hotels have been built in his neighborhood over the past few years.

In late 2014, his neighbors and he were told that they will have a new landlord. In the spring of 2015, they were asked to move out by the new owner and a new real-estate company. In the autumn of 2016, the rent of the remaining residents was raised to 82,000 yen from 35,000 yen. The tenants who refused both the eviction notice and the rent increase have been taken to court. The man said, "My family has been living here for 90 years since my parents' generation. I am an old man now. It's going to be difficult for someone like me to look for a room and move out, and all my neighbors are in the same boat."

Buses too crowded

Inner-city route buses, both public and private, are an important transportation option for local residents. However, these days, the buses have become too crowded for daily bus users to try to get on.

Uehata Ikuko, 84, said that arriving buses are already so packed with tourists that only one or two people, despite having been waiting in a long line, can climb aboard. She said, "To go to the hospital, my 80-year-old friend one day had to put off riding five buses." Uehata also said that many tourists do not know how to pay the bus fare and that sometimes it takes more than 30 minutes to go to a place where it used to take just ten minutes to get to.

For residents-friendly tourism

The Abe government in its tourism strategy sets a numerical target of 40 million inbound travelers in 2020 and 60 million in 2030. The Japanese Communist Party in Kyoto City warns that this strategy could lead to a state of overtourism with an unbearable number of visitors surging into Kyoto.

The JCP in Kyoto proposes that the central government reconsider its present numerical target in order to control the number of accommodations to be built and traffic volume for the safety of both local residents and tourists. The JCP also calls for a halt to excessive development and deregulation.

Total volume control needed

Nakabayashi Hiroshi, professor at Kobe Shoin Women's University, defines tourism as important recreational events to set people free from compulsory working hours and regain their humanity. He pointed out that most problems pertaining to the increase in the number of tourists are brought about by the system in Japan, not caused by the tourists themselves, and that it is impossible for Japan to keep good quality in the tourism sector without adequate volume measures.

The professor said that the Kyoto City government, as the JCP proposes, should also set regulations on the number of accommodations as well as on the automobile traffic so that the city can achieve a sound development of tourism where local residents can enjoy their everyday lives in peace and quiet.
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