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Once Overcrowded Kyoto Now Longs for Foreign Tourists in Japan

  • Pandemic dealt blow to the country’s struggling former capital
  • ‘Overtourism’ was a buzzword in the city until virus struck
Higashiyama Jishoji, known as Ginkakuji temple, in Kyoto last month.
Higashiyama Jishoji, known as Ginkakuji temple, in Kyoto last month.Photographer: Kosuke Okahara/Bloomberg

Once weary of hordes of foreign tourists crowding its narrow streets and ignoring etiquette, many in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto are longing for their return  -- missing the revenue they brought before the country largely shut its doors to overseas visitors two years ago due to the pandemic. 

That includes Shoei Murayama, a former city assemblyman and author of the 2019 book “The Day Kyoto Collapses From Overtourism,” in which he warned the travel industry would push out local businesses and residents. He compared the city to Venice, which has banned cruise ships and is set to introduce a tourism tax. Now, Murayama believes Kyoto needs a hefty flow of visitors to thrive.