Overtourism Overruns Mount Fuji in Japan
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Overtourism Overruns Mount Fuji in Japan

Mount Fuji, once a peaceful pilgrimage site, is now witness to millions of visitors every year. The route is now filled with buses, supply trucks, noodle shops and fridge magnets. The authorities are now saying that number of hikers trekking on the world-famous volcano has reached a dangerous level ecologically.

“Mount Fuji is screaming,” the governor of the local region said last week. 

UNESCO added the “internationally recognised the icon of Japan” to its World Heritage List in 2013.

But as has happened in places such as Bruges in Belgium or Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain, the designation has been both a blessing and a curse. 

Visitor numbers more than doubled between 2012 and 2019 to 5.1 million, and that’s just for Yamanashi prefecture, the main starting point. 

The stream of people does not trudge the mountain just during day. Even at night, long lines of people can be seen making their way up to see the sun rise in the morning.

The starting point is a car park. It can only be reached by taxi or buses.

Before the walkers set off for their trek, they can access a complex of restaurants, sovenier shops and more.

They are powered by diesel generators and the thousands of litres of water they use has to be brought up in lorries. Trucks also take all the rubbish down. 

Masatake Izumi, a local official, told AFP that very high number of people has increased the risk of accidents.

Some people who climb at night “get hypothermia and have to be taken back to first aid stations” he said.

This week government ministers met to discuss measures to tackle what Kenji Hamamoto, a senior Japan Tourism Agency official, called “overcrowding and breaches of etiquette” across heavily touristed sites. 

Authorities announced last month that crowd control measures will be imposed if paths get too busy. If this happens, such measures will come into effect for the first time.

Yamanashi’s governor Kotaro Nagasaki said last week Japan needed to take measures to ensure Mount Fuji did not lose its UNESCO designation. 

One solution, he said, could be constructing a light rail system to replace the main road leading to the main starting point for hikers. 

“We firmly believe that with regard to Mount Fuji tourism, a shift from a quantity approach to a quality one is essential,” Nagasaki said.

Source : WION