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Friday, July 07, 2017

Incarcerated in Kyoto

Incarcerated in Kyoto.

Residents of Barcelona sometimes refer to their ultra-popular destination city as "Carcelona." It is a play on the name of the city and the verb to be incarcerated.

Much of this joke cum lament is due to the hordes of tourists that make daily life difficult for residents.

Kyoto has yet to reach that level of tourism, but the Japanese government is pushing us inexorably in that direction.

The Abe government is using the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a pretext for many changes in Japan: from English language learning in schools to constitutional revision, rewriting the law books to boosting tourism.

For those of us who reside in Kyoto, all of the above is cause for concern. However, like Barcelonans, perhaps the most worrisome is tourism.

Last year, Japan enjoyed a record 24 million inbound tourists. By 2020, the government hopes to double that. Elementary school math puts that at 40+ million confused, sweaty, camera-toting visitors.

At current levels, Kyoto's services are already stretched to the limit in many places. As much as possible, we already do not ride city buses that pass within several hundred meters of any famous site, we avoid Kyoto Station altogether, we refuse to go to Kiyomizu Temple or its environs, we will not step foot in Gion.

For those few who are raking in money - temples and their Buddhist caretakers, hotels, bars and restaurants, airbnb owners - hats off. For ordinary citizens, though, the positives are few and negatives legion.

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