Kyoto sightseeing livestream for Chinese viewers becomes controversial; sparks ire in locals

By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

With coronavirus still a threat around the world, tourism in Japan is at an all-time low. One of the hardest hit cities is Kyoto, which relies heavily on the industry for the economic prosperity of both the city and its residents. With fewer foreign tourists than ever, the streets of Kyoto have become empty and many businesses have suffered, so the city has attempted a number of promotions to try to preemptively reignite its tourism industry.

One of those campaigns is a collaboration between JR West and Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, which held a virtual tourism event for Chinese viewers in the form of a live-streamed tour of Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing spots. The video featured Japanese resident and Chinese native Tokyo Archie, an influencer with over one million Chinese followers who posts content on sightseeing spots and eateries in Japan. It was live-streamed on Alibaba’s video service, Taobao Live, on Nov 9.

▼ Nearby Arashiyama’s Nonomiya Shrine


The virtual tour, which lasted two hours, started with an introduction of the Sagano Scenic Railway, then proceeded to visit several sightseeing spots around Arashiyama, and even included a ride in a rickshaw. At one point over 100,000 viewers tuned into the livestream, likely making it a very successful project.

The idea was to instill interest in Kyoto, to inspire travelers to visit again once travel restrictions have been lifted. According to an Alibaba representative, Kyoto was selected because Japan always ranks top among desirable travel destinations for Chinese travelers, who do, in fact, make up much of Japan’s tourist numbers–and who are the biggest spenders.

▼ The Togetsukyo Bridge, which connects Arashiyama to the rest of Kyoto


But Japanese netizens were frankly stunned that JR would host such an event. Many complained that Kyoto had already been suffering from overtourism before the pandemic, making the city and its sighsteeing spots too crowded with “rude” international travelers. No one wants to go back to those days of overstuffed buses and fully booked hotels, so many were scathingly critical of the event.

“Are you kidding me? Just as Kyoto was starting to get back to its beautiful self…Just please stop.”

“No…Kyoto, you really haven’t learned your lesson, have you?”

“They really don’t learn. If you rely on China the same thing will happen as before.”

“Why are they relying so much on international travelers? They never learn. If you’re going to do something like this, why not offer it domestically?”

“Just stop it! [Tourists] ruin the city and are annoying!”

“I just get depressed when I think about all those crowds coming back again. This plan hasn’t considered the residents at all.”

“You idiots can’t see past the short-term profits. The only people who think we need inbound tourism is you.”

“This is the last chance for Japanese people to go to Kyoto.”

▼ The famous bamboo forests of Arashiyama are also considered a “victim” of international tourists, who’ve carved their names into the trunks of the bamboo trees.


It’s important to note that, though a good portion of the crowds in Kyoto do come from China, the overtourism problem is a result of too many international tourists in general, as well as an overabundance of Japanese school groups, who are significant contributors to the overcrowding of the city as well. If you’ve been to Kyoto in the last few years, you’ll understand why was it voted by international travelers as the top big city in the world to visit for 2020…but you’ll also understand why some say the city really doesn’t need to promote itself any more than it already has.

*Source: Kyoto Shimbun via *Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Kyoto tourist crowds disappearing due to coronavirus outbreak, creating travel crisis/opportunity

-- Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto “crying” as tourists vandalise trees

-- One thing NOT to do in Kyoto if you’re headed there during the vacation period

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I hope the tourists don't return. Their money would be more welcome in other places.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I hope the tourists don't return.

What - all tourists? As a four-time visitor to Kyoto, I've seen the numbers increase from perfectly manageable (2012) to nightmarish (2019). People want to visit Kyoto (and Japan) but you get too many people at one time and you risk destroying the charm and appeal that brings in visitors in the first place. Some kind of cap on visitor numbers would seem reasonable. Other cities have either done it, or are considering doing it.

Kyoto is a world treasure. You can't just stop people coming in. Do I also have to bring up how many local people rely on the tourist trade for their livelihoods?

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Sure Kyoto had a bit too many tourists, but something tells me these angry netizens aren't the ones whose livelihoods depend on tourism either. There's a lot of small shops aged owners who need that tourism money to live

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Kyoto tourism dropped from 80 million pa to zero for months since April. Loss of ¥1.3 trillion. Higher taxes coming for locals.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Arashiyama has that nice scenic railway, other than that I struggle to get my head around why it's so popular.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Arashiyama has that nice scenic railway, other than that I struggle to get my head around why it's so popular.

I have that feeling a lot when I'm in Kyoto. Its easy to understand why the big temples and shrines are popular, but its hard to get your head around why some of the other places are.

The Philospher's Path is a good example. Its in all the guidebooks and is a major tourist destination but I cannot understand why. Its a pleasant enough stroll, but I live in suburban Nagoya (not exactly a tourist mecca to put it generously) and I have numerous walking courses near my house that are about as pleasant.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Arashiyama is one of the best places to view the autumn red leaf. We went one season but the crowds were huge.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What - all tourists? As a four-time visitor to Kyoto, I've seen the numbers increase from perfectly manageable (2012) to nightmarish (2019). 

I haven't been since 2008 and it was completely different to my first visits in the 1990s. It was definitely manageable, but back in the 90s most tourists were Japanese. By 2008 Chinese seemed to dominate. Given your description, I won't be going back anytime soon.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Now is a great time to visit Kyoto. No big tourist crowds.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I've been to Kyoto a number of times over the past decade.

2013, it was manageable. 2015, I noticed an increased compared to the last time, but still okay for the most part. But 2018 was the worst experience, due to how overly crowded Kyoto had become compared to my prior trips.

Haven't been back since, and if I did, it would only be during the months of January/February. Other than that, I'll much rather enjoy the sakura and Koyo seasons in the Tohoku region!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Kyoto is over romanticised and overrated. I have been 4x to convince myself i was wrong the first 3 times. But i wasn’t.

nice golden temple, the first restored one burned down again in the 1960’s i think. But i felt i was the only non Chinese in the park.

hard to find good food as the locals complain but do not mind to take the tourists money and offer crap.

Nara is 10x worth Kyoto.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Over the years there have been many good art exhibitions we travelled to view. We have found good restaurants including non Japanese, like Thai.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I understand all of your Hate on Kyoto because you have been there few times and everytime u've visited, u have already seen it and now with more crowd. But the first time it Wowed u.

So how many times or whatever u hate about Kyoto, nothing stops the First Timers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One of those campaigns is a collaboration between JR West

But Japanese netizens were frankly stunned that JR East would host such an event.

JR East don't operate in Kansai.

Agree though, now's the time to get your real life visit in before unruly hoardes return.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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