Japan considers raising prices to counter over-tourism and weak yen

Tourism in Japan is experiencing a resurgence, with the number of tourists exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO). In May alone, tourist numbers increased by 9.6% compared to May 2019, marking the third consecutive month where visitor numbers surpassed 3 million. This surge in tourism has contributed significantly to the local economy, with a projected ¥5 trillion in visitor spending for 2023, as reported by Reuters.

However, some businesses and attractions have faced challenges in managing the increased tourist traffic. To address these issues, various solutions are being considered, including pricing adjustments.

One notable change is the introduction of a mandatory fee to climb Mount Fuji through the Yoshida Trail. From this year, climbers will be charged ¥2,000, in addition to the voluntary ¥1,000 donation for conservation and maintenance purposes. The Yamanashi prefecture has also limited the number of climbers to 4,000 per day.

In Hyogo, the Unesco World Heritage Site Himeji Castle is contemplating a two-tiered pricing system for admission. While the current fee for adults is ¥1,000, the mayor of Himeji is considering reducing this fee for local residents and increasing it for international tourists. Under the proposed plan, the revised admission price for foreign visitors would cost ¥4,000.

In high foot traffic areas, restaurants are raising their prices to offset the increased operational costs. For instance, Nadai Fuji Soba, a restaurant chain known for its affordable meals, has revised its menu to feature dishes costing as much as ¥2,300. In response to this, other restaurants in popular districts are introducing two-tier prices on their menus, offering discounts to local residents.

In anticipation of Expo 2025, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura is discussing the introduction of a fixed fee for inbound tourists who plan on staying overnight in the prefecture. This fee, if approved, may be implemented in April 2024, ahead of the expo. The fee would be in addition to the current accommodation tax of ¥100 to ¥300 per night on rooms costing above ¥7,000.

In related news, the life-size Gundam from Yokohama will be moving to Osaka for Expo 2025. Other notable developments include Tokyo neighbour Saitama hosting three fireworks shows this summer, Shinjuku’s projection mapping show now serving food and drinks on weekends, and the opening of Line Friends Square Shibuya featuring works by Takashi Murakami and Min Hee-jin. To stay updated on the latest happenings in Tokyo and Japan, sign up for Time Out’s newsletter.

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