UPDATED Japan’s Tourism Problem | 20 Things to Know Before Traveling to Japan |Travel Guide for 2024
Hi, I’m Toshi from Japan and tourist guide for foreigners. In this video, I'll show you 20 Things to know before you go about Japan’s tourism problem. Before I dive into the main content, I'd like to provide an overview of what to expect in this video discussing the challenges faced in Japan's tourism sector.
The Japanese government and the locals, eagerly await and strive to ensure that foreign visitors have a fantastic time when they come to Japan. However, presently, there are several issues impacting travelers here. In this video, I'll be explaining these issues under three main categories—price hikes, scams, and overtourism—bringing forth 20 key aspects that directly affect travelers exploring Japan. By watching this video, you'll gain a deeper insight into these challenges, empowering you to travel to Japan comfortably and with peace of mind, ultimately enhancing your overall travel experience. Stick around till the end for valuable insights. So, let’s get started.
Price hike No1 is Entrance Fees for Tourist Attractions. First of all, I'am diving into the changing landscape of prices at popular tourist spots in Japan. Let's talk about theme parks first—Disney Resort has recently increased its admission fees by 1500 yen since October 2023, with peak days hitting 10,900 yen ($73). Similarly, Universal Studios Japan hiked prices by 600 yen since August, now at 10,400 yen ($70) for the highest tier.
Shifting to cultural sites, the iconic Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, which most of foreign tourists visit, raised its entry fee by 100 yen in April 2023, now standing at 500 yen ($3.5). These are just a few examples; numerous other attractions and services have seen price hikes. It's crucial for travelers planning a trip to Japan to keep tabs on these changes, as costs may rise beyond expectations.
For the most accurate information, staying updated is key. My channel is dedicated to sharing the latest travel updates for Japan. Make sure to subscribe to stay informed and get the most out of your trip! No2 is Cost of Eating Out.
When it comes to dining experiences in Japan, it's often a significant highlight for travelers. However, it's important to note that many well-known chain restaurants in Japan have implemented price hikes starting from 2023. Specifically, among eight popular restaurant chains, ones that almost every Japanese has likely dined in, there has been an increase of approximately 20% in their menu prices.
It's worth noting that besides these major chains, there are several smaller restaurants where price increases haven't been publicly announced. In my estimation, though, approximately 70% of restaurants seem to have raised their prices since 2023. While these hikes may vary among restaurants, this widespread increase in dining costs might significantly impact your overall budget when dining out in Japan. Considering these adjustments in restaurant prices, it's advisable to plan and allocate your budget accordingly when exploring dining options during your trip to Japan. No3 is Accommodation Fee. During my recent domestic travels to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, I've personally experienced a noticeable surge in hotel prices.
At times, the hotels I wanted were fully booked, making it challenging to find accommodation. As I've mentioned in previous videos, this surge is a result of both overtourism and labor shortages within the hotel industry. Now, let's delve into specific data comparing hotel prices pre-COVID in 2019 and the post-COVID scenario in 2023. Prices vary from city to city due to differing costs of living. Focusing on Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto – popular destinations for foreign tourists – all three cities have seen increases since 2019.
Tokyo has risen by about 25%, Osaka by around 20%, and Kyoto by roughly 30%. It's crucial to note that the post-COVID data is up until May 2023, and prices have likely surged further since then. In my estimation, it feels like there's been an increase of over 50%.
However, do consider variations due to timing and weekdays. In my previous video, I discussed the times to avoid due to price hikes during trips to Japan. The surge in hotel prices is a reality impacting travelers, so planning your trip considering these changes is essential. No4 is Tourist Tax. Recently, there's been an introduction of what might seem like additional taxes at popular tourist spots.
These 'taxes' are essentially price increases for entry into certain destinations. For instance, take Miyajima, one of Japan's iconic locations, part of the Three Views of Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since October 2023, visitors need to pay a 100-yen entry tax to access this scenic spot. Similarly, in Okinawa's beloved Taketomi Island, since April 2023, there's been a 300-yen entry tax, with considerations to raise it to 2,000 yen in 2024.
The government is exploring various avenues to collect more from tourists. These charges might add up, impacting your travel budget. If you're aiming for a budget-friendly trip to Japan, I'd suggest considering an earlier visit before these changes become mandatory. No5 is Transportation Expenses. Let's discuss the recent increases in transportation costs affecting travelers to Japan, focusing on two key perspectives.
Firstly, let's revisit the JAPAN RAIL PASS, which has been immensely popular among foreign travelers for providing unlimited access to JR trains, including Shinkansen. However, as I've mentioned in previous videos, since October 2023, there's been a substantial hike in its price, shooting up by around 60%. Moving on to the second viewpoint, let's talk about trains in the Kanto region, including Tokyo. Major railway networks such as Tokyo Metro, JR East, Tokyu, Odakyu, and Tobu lines have increased their fares by 10 yen, totaling 180 yen since April 2023.
While these increments might seem nominal, in Japan's train-centric society, small price hikes can accumulate and significantly impact your overall travel expenses. The price surge in both the JAPAN RAIL PASS and the Kanto area's train fares is something to consider while planning your travel in Japan. It's essential to factor in these increased transportation costs when budgeting for your trip. No6 is Transportation Discount Service Ended. Let's talk about the recent discontinuation of a cost-effective transportation pass affecting travelers, specifically the discontinuation of the 'Kyoto 1day Bus Pass,' which I've discussed in a previous video. This pass, which allowed unlimited rides on buses within Kyoto's city center for 700 yen, has been discontinued since October 2023.
Introduced in 1995, this pass was incredibly convenient for getting around Kyoto and was quite popular among tourists. However, it often led to long queues at bus stops, making it challenging for locals to use the buses. In an effort to alleviate congestion and promote the combined use of buses and subways, Kyoto City announced the cessation of the one-day pass sales at the end of September 2023. They've replaced it with the 'Subway and Bus One-day Pass' priced at 1,100 yen for adults, aiming to encourage the use of both bus and subway systems. However, from a traveler's perspective, this move seems more like a simple fare increase than an improvement in service. So, if you're planning a trip to Kyoto in the future, it's essential to consider this change while budgeting for transportation.
No7 is Air fare. Let's delve into the pricing of flights to Japan, an essential aspect for most tourists visiting this island nation. As I've previously discussed the resurgence in flight demands and route expansions, this time, let's focus on the prices themselves. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in flight costs Both major Japanese airlines, JAL and ANA, have announced a rise in fuel surcharge fees starting from October 2023 due to increased fuel costs. While specific amounts may vary by region, this increase translates to around a 5000-yen surge for a one-way flight from the United States to Japan, roughly a $33 hike.
The increase in flight costs impact budget planning for travelers intending to visit Japan, particularly those booking flights from certain regions. So, planning your trip considering these changes is essential. No8 is Japanese Currency Weak. I have explained the situation where Japan has experienced price increases in most categories. However, I have some very good news for you here.
As I mentioned in previous videos, the Japanese Currency is currently weak. Japan is experiencing a historic period of currency depreciation, marking approximately a 30-year low for the Japanese Yen. This amounts to nearly a 30% depreciation compared to pre-pandemic levels. So, what does this mean for you? Well, it's the perfect time to plan a trip to Japan! This substantial currency depreciation offers travelers significant cost savings. Whether you're exploring Tokyo's bustling streets, Kyoto's serene temples, or Osaka's lively markets, you can now enjoy everything Japan has to offer at an anticipated 30% discount from pre-devaluation prices. While price hikes persist in most categories, for foreign visitors, the impact of this currency devaluation presents an incredible opportunity to travel affordably.
Don't miss out on this incredible chance to explore Japan. Scam No9 is Begging Monks. Picture this: someone dressed as a Buddhist monk may approach you, and they might request money.
They often ask for donations for what they claim are religious or temple-related purposes. To make their story seem credible, they might even show you a book with a list of names and donation amounts from other supposed contributors. The problem is, those names and amounts are likely fake. In reality, any money you give will end up right in their pockets. These individuals are not genuine monks; they are running a scam.
It's a unique form of fraud in Japan that preys on foreign travelers, especially those less familiar with Japanese temple culture. This scam often occurs in Akihabara, Kyoto, etc. To protect yourself, it's advisable to avoid making any kind of donation to these individuals. If you genuinely want to support a temple or religious cause, it's better to visit established temples and make donations there. So, stay alert and don't fall for these deceptive tactics. No10 is Spiked Drink.
When you're in the area like Roppongi and Shinjuku, Tokyo, a vibrant entertainment district, the last thing you'd expect is to fall victim to a spiked drink scam. Here's how it works: You enter a bar, innocently place an order, and engage in conversation, either with the bartender or someone you've met there. Unknown to you, your drink gets spiked. After just a few sips, you black out. The purpose behind this scam is often to steal your passport or empty your wallet. When you wake up, you're confronted with an exorbitant bill you supposedly owe the bar. The staff may even resort to force to make you withdraw cash from an ATM, putting your safety at risk.
Sexual assaults have also been reported in connection with spiked drinks, making this a grave concern. To protect yourself, be extra cautious when entering bars in the area like Roppongi and Shinjuku. Don't drink alone, especially in less reputable areas. Always keep an eye on your drink, and never leave it unattended. By staying in a group and watching out for each other, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to this scam. Your safety is the most important, so please stay alert while enjoying the nightlife in Japan.
No11 is Scouting for Models. This is a scam that frequently targets young, attractive, and stylish female travelers in Tokyo's trendy neighborhoods, such as Shibuya and Harajuku. Here's how it works: A person with a camera may approach you, compliment your appearance, and ask to take one or two pictures of you.
Afterward, they might introduce themselves as modeling scouts and try to gather more information about you. Now, Japan is undoubtedly a fashion hub, but it's essential to be cautious. It's highly unlikely that a stranger on the street would approach you and ask to take pictures. Victims of this scam have sometimes experienced harassment, assault, or even coercion into the adult entertainment industry. Your safety is of utmost importance.
If someone approaches you with such a request, decline politely and walk away. Avoid sharing personal information with strangers, and always trust your instincts. No12 is Disaster Scam. You might be approached by middle-aged women who speak decent English, carrying pamphlets claiming to be for a noble cause.
They mainly target foreigners, rarely approaching Japanese locals. Their pamphlets often highlight recent natural disasters in Japan, like floods or earthquakes. They'll politely request you to make a donation to help the victims.
Now, these women may appear well-dressed and extremely courteous, but it's a scam. So you should absolutely refrain from making any donations. If you genuinely wish to contribute to disaster relief efforts in Japan, it's always best to do so through established and reputable organizations or charities. So, please stay alert and avoid falling for these deceptive tactics.
Enjoy your time in Japan with confidence. No13 is Bars Rip you off. This scam often happens particularly in areas like Kabukicho in Shinjuku and Roppongi. You see, these areas are known for their vibrant nightlife, but they're also hotspots for a certain kind of scam.
It usually starts with street touts who promise unbelievably cheap drinks or all-you-can-drink deals to lure you into their bars. When it's time to pay, you might be hit with an exorbitant bill, and things can take a dark turn from there. Some unfortunate visitors have faced intimidation, threats, or even violence when refusing to pay. Many people, both Japanese and foreigners, have experienced these scams.
So, I often found police officers along the street, and announcements warning against these scams. But to stay safe, here's what you need to do: never follow these street touts into bars. And, do some research on bars and clubs beforehand. Check out their reviews and reputation. So, please keep these tips in mind and enjoy your time in Japan. Safe travels! No14 is Money Scams.
Regrettably, as a foreigner, you might encounter situations where you're overcharged or receive incorrect change. Let me share a recent personal story to illustrate this point. My friend from Korea had a troubling experience. While enjoying the sights at a popular tourist spot, he ordered food from a stall. The staff at the food stall at the tourist spot purposely charged him a 10,000 yen bill instead of a 1,000 yen bill. Unfortunately, such incidents targeting tourists do occur, particularly in well-visited destinations like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
One of the key factors contributing to these scams is the culture of Cash is king in Japan. To protect yourself, it's essential to familiarize yourself with Japanese currency. Learn to recognize different bills and coins before you come to Japan. And, please, always make it a habit to double-check your change when you got it. By doing this, you can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to these scams. No7 is “Friendly” Bar Friends.
Picture this: you're strolling through these bustling nightlife districts, and a friendly Japanese woman, who you might have met via a mobile app or just on the street, invites you for a drink. Sounds harmless, right? Well, not quite. You may find yourself in a bar, having a great time, when suddenly, your new 'friend' disappears, usually with excuses like needing to use the restroom or make a call.
And then, here comes the catch: the bar staff swoops in and hands you an outrageous bill, sometimes for just a few drinks. It's a classic bait-and-switch. To avoid falling for this scam, be cautious about accepting random invitations, especially if they seem too good to be true. And, as I mentioned in the previous chapter, when visiting nightlife spots in big city like Tokyo and Osaka, it's always a good idea to stick to reputable bars and clubs, perhaps ones you've researched or read reviews about online. So, keep your wits about you, stay safe, and enjoy your night life in Japan.
No16 is Orphanage Scam. This scam often involves well-dressed individuals, primarily found in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, who approach you under the pretense of collecting money to help orphans. Now, helping those in need is always a noble cause, but it's essential to ensure the credibility of such requests. Recently, this type of scam has been occurring primarily in Tokyo's Harajuku area. Polite individuals may approach you, presenting various pamphlets asking for donations to support orphanages. It's essential not to be misled.
To protect yourself from such scams, it's advisable to research and verify the legitimacy of the organizations or individuals requesting donations. Authentic charitable organizations in Japan are registered and can provide transparency about their activities. Remember, it's important to help those in need, but doing so through established and reputable channels. Overtourism No17 is Over Tourism is Back. According to the Japanese government's recent announcement on October 18, 2023, inbound tourism is making a remarkable comeback. In September 2023, around 2,184,300 tourists visited Japan, which is an impressive 96.1% recovery when compared to the pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.
Notably, countries like South Korea, the United States, and Singapore have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 283.4%, 123.1%, and 130.7%, respectively. However, China, which used to top the charts, is still at 39.8%, affected by the ongoing Japan-China relations. The revival of tourism is great news, but it's also raising some concerns, especially in places like Kyoto, where the influx of tourists has led to issues like overcrowded public transport and even the discontinuation of the 1-day bus pass ticket. Additionally, the JAPAN RAIL PASS has seen price increases, as I discussed in a previous video.
If you are interested, please check out the previous video. The hope is that as relations with China improve, the number of Chinese tourists will rise. However, this could also accelerate 'Over Tourism,' leading to potential limitations in various aspects of travel. I'll continue to provide you with the latest information on this evolving situation.
To stay updated, make sure to subscribe to my channel, and don't forget to check out my previous videos. No18 is Labor Shortage. With the impact of the pandemic, many people working in Japan's tourism sector faced a significant downturn in their employment. However, as I mentioned in the previous chapter, tourism in Japan is making a remarkable comeback.
Now, there's a new challenge at hand - a severe labor shortage. Private surveys have revealed that around 70-80% of hotels in Japan are grappling with labor shortages. This problem doesn't affect hotels alone, it extends to the entire tourism industry. Some hotels have had to restrict the occupancy of rooms due to limited staff, resulting in a situation where demand often outstrips supply.
What this means for you, as a traveler, is that even if you're in Japan and want to stay at a particular hotel, you might find that they're fully booked. So, I strongly recommend making your hotel reservations well in advance. Planning ahead will help you secure accommodations and have a more enjoyable experience during your visit to Japan.
No19 is Flight Occupancy and Route Change. According to the latest information from the Japanese government, international flights are making a remarkable comeback. As of the summer 2023 schedule, about 60% of pre-pandemic flight frequencies have been restored. What's even better is that this trend continues with more and more flights being added, especially in East Asia. But that's not all! The good news is not just limited to major cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
Airlines have started flying to regional cities across Japan. For example, you can now find flights from Thailand's Bangkok to Hokkaido, from South Korea's Seoul to Saga Prefecture, or from Taiwan's Taipei to Kumamoto Prefecture. So, the impact of the pandemic is fading, and Japan is becoming increasingly accessible. Now is a best time to come to Japan.
No20 is Explore Countryside As I mentioned in the previous chapter, with the commencement of international routes to regional destinations, And the Japanese government's concerted efforts to enhance tourism infrastructure, exploring the Japanese countryside has never been easier and more rewarding. Before the pandemic, many visitors were drawn to the well-known 'Golden Route,' connecting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. But in the post-pandemic era, the landscape is changing.
One notable example is Iwate Prefecture's capital, Morioka, which was featured in The New York Times' '52 Places to Go in 2023.' This is a testament to the growing appeal of regional destinations. Moreover, places like Tochigi Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture have already seen foreign visitor numbers surpass pre-pandemic levels as of August 2023, making them fantastic destinations to explore. So, why not venture beyond the usual tourist hotspots? Discover the beauty of the countryside, experience local cultures, and enjoy the charm of lesser-explored regions. Don't miss this opportunity to explore the hidden gems of Japan. How was 20 Things to know about Japan’s tourism problem? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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