Everyone staying indoors means no one is going sightseeing.

Coronavirus is becoming more serious in Japan by the day. Some areas are currently in the middle of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, and residents are being strongly urged to stay indoors. Tokyo, for example, is eerily desolate now that non-essential businesses such as karaoke joints, game arcades and Internet cafes have been temporarily closed down. However, there are still some areas in Japan that are not yet in a state of emergency. Kyoto Prefecture, for example, though it asked to be included as one of the emergency areas, currently has less infected people than other prefectures like Osaka and Hyogo.

Kyoto is a prefecture well-known for its beautiful sightseeing spots, and on a usual day there are likely to be many tourists there. And while we previously reported that the tourism business in Kyoto was really taking a hit due to the outbreak, that was before coronavirus had really become a problem here in Japan. Now that there are new cases being reported daily, how are tourist spots fairing?

At Arashiyama in Ukyo Ward. Arashiyama is an area that is popular for its beautiful cherry blossoms and gorgeous fall leaves, and is also home to many famous landmarks. Within Arashiyama is the Togetsukyo Bridge, a famous landmark. There are many souvenir shops near the bridge, and Tenryuji Temple and Nomiya Shrine are close by too. With an abundance of things to see, Arashiyama is usually super crowded, especially on weekends. And with April bringing the cherry blossom season, it would be hard to even walk around due to the sheer amount of people.

▼ The Togetsukyo Bridge is usually full of tourists.

We also checked out the row of souvenir shops on the main street. On a regular day, there are so many people on the sidewalk that they overflow onto the road. Today… not so much.

▼ The souvenir shop street was empty.

Many of the restaurants were open as usual, but there were no customers, so business was slow. We couldn’t even see any of Kyoto’s famous rickshaws – the streets were totally deserted.

As you can see from the pictures we took, the weather was pretty lousy. “Who would want to go sightseeing on such a day anyway?” you might say. But bad weather or not, this was the first time we’d seen Arashiyama so quiet on a Sunday. We checked all the local spots – the Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji Temple, and Takebayashi – but the situation was the same wherever we went. Completely deserted. 

You may be thinking “why visit a tourist destination in the middle of a pandemic?” Well, Arashiyama is a really popular tourist spot. It’s well-known throughout Japan and many visitors go there a lot. But it’s 100-percent a tourist spot, meaning if tourists don’t come, it’s going to be empty.

In big cities like Tokyo, where the ‘stay home’ guidelines have been issued, it’s still common to see people out and about in the street. Maybe they’re an essential worker, maybe they’re getting groceries. Maybe they just don’t want to stay at home. It’s hard to tell how many people are really staying at home. But in Arashiyama, where the only people you’d see out and about are tourists, there’s no one there. By seeing the state of Arashiyama, you can see how seriously people are taking the emergency declarations.

Hopefully everyone taking this seriously means that the coronavirus pandemic can be solved sooner rather than later, which will allow us to see places like Arashiyama once more. It’s a real shame that people aren’t able to enjoy Arashiyama’s beautiful cherry blossoms, but thanks to the Internet, you can have the next best thing in the comfort and safety of your own home.

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