There are plenty of exceptional places to travel in the world, but we’d like to think that Japan is one of the best. Beautiful landscapes, delicious food, friendly people, extensive history, and quirky culture make Japan an ideal travel destination not only for us, but for people across the world. In fact, Japanese cities have been voted as the world’s Best Big Cities by readers of the travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler for the past five years.
This year, as part of Condé Nast’s Readers’ Choice Awards, Kyoto was chosen as the Best Big City in the World, replacing Tokyo, which had claimed the top spot for the last four years. Tokyo still remains a top choice, though it dropped to number six, beaten out by Lyon, Singapore, Sydney and Vienna.
▼ Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, one of the most popular sightseeing spots
But Kyoto has also been a popular travel destination for almost a decade. It was consistently ranked as the most or one of the most popular cities in Asia for almost 10 years, and in 2015, finally broke the top 10 in the world. After that it was quickly recognized as one of the best of the best, since it climbed to second place the next year, and since then it has been hovering just behind Tokyo in popularity among Condé Nast readers, claiming the second or third spot for the last four years, until finally reaching number one.
Of course, we can’t deny Kyoto’s appeal to world travelers. The sheer amount of history and amazing architecture alone are worth the trip, but there are also plenty of delicious food options (according to Condé Nast, there are about 100 Michelin-starred restaurants), beautiful landscapes, and lots of traditional culture to explore.
▼ Arashiyama, another popular tourist location
The mayor of Kyoto, Daisuke Kadokawa, was touched to hear how much international travelers love his city, despite the coronavirus’ affect on tourism.
“I am extremely happy to hear that Kyoto is a desirable travel destination, even though at this time the world is still unable to suppress the spread of the virus and we are all unable to travel due to bans around the world.
In the future, once the travel restrictions are lifted, I plan to dedicate my energy to promoting a safe and secure style of sightseeing, in order to assure the safety of both our visitors and our citizens, and to allow everyone who loves Kyoto so much to enjoy visiting it once again.”
▼ Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
Responses from Japanese netizens were a little bit mixed, however. Due to Kyoto’s popularity as a tourist destination, the city has become almost unbearably crowded with travelers in recent years, so some netizens weren’t excited to hear that more people want to visit. Others were proud to see Kyoto and Japan rank so highly among international travelers.
“I would prefer it not to be number one. It’s so crowded it’s irritating. Now that these rankings are out, doesn’t that mean more people are coming?”
“I’m so touched, I could cry. As expected from Kyoto.”
“It is beautiful, if you go for sightseeing only.”
“I think the scenery is appealing. But its climate, public transport, and ease of living are trash. (It’s too hot and humid in summer, and the winter is penetratingly cold. Public transportation is so packed with tourists and school trips that you can’t even get on.)”
“This year, thanks to the corona disaster, it’s become a much better place to live since there are less tourists.”
“I want to go back to Kyoto.”
“Ooh! My hometown, Kyoto, took down Tokyo! Good job!”
“Oh wow. I didn’t know Japan was this high-ranking.”
▼ Ninnaji Temple. Cherry blossom season and the changing of the leaves in fall are extremely popular times to visit Kyoto.
Due to travel bans around the world, very few travelers have been able to visit Kyoto this year, turning popular sightseeing spots into ghost towns. In July, in fact, the city saw a 99.8 percent decrease in the number of foreign guests at hotels, compared to recent years, a fact which has had a devastating impact on the local economy, though it appears to have made the locals a little happier.
Hopefully next year we will have the pandemic more under control, and, as Japan begins to open its doors again, the number of tourists will return to a prosperous but safe and manageable level.
Sources: Condé Nast Traveler, Asahi Shimbun via livedoor news via Hachima Kiko, PR Times
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