City erects black screens to block Mt Fuji view in dramatic push against overtourism.

There are a few things that scream “Japan” for tourists, and two of them are convenience stores and Mt Fuji. This has led one scenic spot to become a nightmare for the town in which it’s located, because tourists make the trip here to capture a photo of a Lawson convenience store, which stands in front of Mt Fuji in such a way that you can fit them both in the frame with stunning results.

▼ The spot has become so famous it’s known by tourists as the “Mt Fuji Lawson”

However, this Lawson sits in a residential location in Fujikawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture, with narrow roads and footpaths that were never designed to accommodate large groups of people. This has led to the problem of overcrowding by tourists, the majority of whom hail from overseas, and many of them have been behaving badly, with little concern for the locals and businesses around them.

The main business at the brunt of it all is the dental clinic across the road from the Lawson, where visitors congregate for the best vantage point of the Japanese convenience store and famous mountain. However, this site is private property, and with scaffolding now surrounding the building for repairs, there are fears that visitors who come into contact with the scaffolding may cause injury to themselves.

▼ The narrow, 70-centimetre (2.3-foot) wide footpath where the woman is walking on the left of this 2023 image is the designated public walkway, but people gather all the way up to the shutters of the clinic, which is private property.

A two-foot wide footpath beside a busy road is no place for a tourist site, and officials are particularly concerned about safety, especially as visitors have proven time and again that their own safety and the safety of others is of secondary importance to capturing the perfect photo. With many crossing the road illegally in front of the Lawson, without checking or stopping for cars at a point where there’s no pedestrian crossing, the town resorted to hiring security guards in an attempt to get visitors to obey the local traffic rules, but violations continued.

This report outlines some of the issues faced by the dental clinic, including mini vans that stop in its carpark to load and offload tourists, and some people conducting business on the site, selling photos for 300 yen (US$1.89) a pop.

Problems such as littering, smoking (smoking outside of designated areas is prohibited in Japan), and unauthorised parking in the clinic’s parking lot have been continuing for the past two years, propagated by the area’s increasing popularity as a photo spot on social media apps like Instagram. With no stop to the bad behaviour, and in response to complaints from local businesses and residents who felt they couldn’t use the footpath or drive safely, the local municipality was forced to act, announcing that they will install a black screen outside the clinic to block the view from photographers. This vinyl blackout sheet will be 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) high and 20 metres long, and will be installed as early as 1 May, with construction set to begin on 30 April.

▼ The location and look of the screen can be seen at this cued-up point in the report below.

The act of using screens to block views of famous sites in overcrowded areas isn’t unprecedented, with the Austrian city of Hallstatt erecting a wooden fence last year to deter photographers in an area that’s gaining popularity as the rumoured inspiration behind Disney’s Frozen movie.

Overtourism is a problem Japan has long been dealing with, and it’s on the increase nationwide, with Japan receiving the most foreign tourists in history in March 2024 alone. As other Japanese areas implement their own countermeasures against overtourism, such as Kyoto’s Gion banning tourists on private streets, it’s yet to be seen whether the blackout screen in Fujikawaguchiko will be able to curb visitors and stop them from congregating in the area. The town says that blocking the view was a last resort they didn’t want to implement, but they are hoping it will be effective and it will remain up until the situation improves.

Sources: Sankei, Asahi
Featured image: Pakutaso

● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!