Visitors to Kyoto have plummeted, prompting a new series of ads showing sites like the Arashiyama bamboo forest totally devoid of people.

Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto is one of the country’s best-preserved areas, boasting a whopping 17 UNESCO world heritage sites that draw thousands of tourists to its historic streets year after year.

In fact, there have been so many visitors to the city in recent years that the area has been struggling with issues related to overtourism. However, following the coronavirus outbreak last month, which prompted the Chinese government to place restrictions on outbound overseas group tours, the city is now facing a problem on the opposite end of the spectrum — a drop in tourists so dramatic that local shop owners say they haven’t seen anything like it in 30 years.

With Kyoto being one of the top destinations for Chinese tourists, who make up the largest contingent of foreign visitors to Japan, the restriction on travel is hitting businesses hard, and as the number of coronavirus cases in Japan continues to rise, a large number of locals and other international tourists are also avoiding travel, which is compounding the problem.

In order to tackle the issue, merchants around the Ukyo and Nishikyo wards in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district have begun a new advertising campaign to encourage tourists to visit the area. The slogan for the campaign is “Suitemasu Arashiyama“, which translates to “Empty Arashiyama“, and there are four images that have been produced for the promotion, each one showing a popular tourist spot in the area.

Accompanying each poster is a message, with the monkey poster (pictured top left) saying: “There haven’t been more monkeys than humans in a long time.” The image of the famous bamboo grove in Arashiyama (top right) comes with a series of hashtags that read: “#BambooGrove #Arashiyama #NoPeople #NowIsTheTime #Emotional”

The image of Arashiyama’s famous Togetsukyo Bridge (bottom left) looks bare without tourists, and comes with a line in Japanese that plays on the “sui” sound from the word “empty” used in the campaign. In English it reads poetically as: “Crossing easily…excuse me…”

The final poster in the series shows an image of the Hozugawa River Cruise, a sightseeing boat that takes visitors from Kameoka to Arashiyama and back again along the Hozugawa River. This one says, “If you come now, you can go down the river as many times as you like without waiting.”

▼ This news article in the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper shows a local merchant putting one of the posters up in Kyoto.

Store owners want people to know that now is the time to come and experience everything the area has to offer, as visitors can “savour Arashiyama as it originally looked” before the tourist boom.

With 300 of these posters produced for the campaign, which will be put up along shopping streets in the Kyoto area, as well as in the nearby travel hub of Hankyu Osaka Umeda Station in Osaka, here’s hoping they prove to be successful in attracting visitors. Because, as we know, there’s a lot to do and fall in love with in Arashiyama!

Sources: Kyoto ShimbunHachima Kiko
Top image: Flickr/Adashino Nenbutsuーji 
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