Fuji City’s Great Dream Bridge becomes a nightmare for local residents.

Last week, the town of Fujikawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture erected a blackout screen to block a view of Mt Fuji that had become overcrowded with tourists after it gained fame on social media.

The screen was designed to protect local residents, who found it hard to walk and drive in the area, tourists, who put themselves at risk by flouting rules, and a local business that was impeded by the crowds. It was a bold decision to erect the screen, but it appears to have encouraged another city to take action, with deterrents now being set up at a different viral Mt Fuji photo spot in neighbouring Shizuoka Prefecture.

The site, known as “Mt Fuji Yume no Ohashi” (“Mt Fuji Great Dream Bridge“), is a regular overpass for locals, but it’s a sought-after photo spot for tourists, who are dazzled by the way Mt Fuji looms large over the road, and on the stairs that lead up to the roadside walkway.

▼ The stairs leading up to the overpass, with Mt Fuji in the background.

As the Google Street View image above shows, there’s not much here in terms of tourist facilities, and that’s become a problem. With no large parking lots or toilets in the vicinity, residents’ lives have been disrupted by people leaving trash, parking their cars illegally, sometimes even on their property, and foreigners knocking on the doors of houses asking to use the bathroom.

▼ This report shows some of the problems occurring around the site, which extends to illegally entering the median strip on the overpass.

As the above video shows, tourists aren’t satisfied with just taking photos from the stairs and walkway, choosing to jump over the concrete barrier on the overpass and cross over the road to get to the median strip. The news report below shows just how many people enter the roadway, which is meant to be off-limits to pedestrians, with little regard for the traffic or their own safety.

▼ One person dances on the median strip, another rolls a suitcase along the road and a group walks beside the cars.

While “No Crossing” signs are posted along the walkway, the tourists interviewed said they either weren’t aware of the rules or thought it would be okay to cross over. While it might be common to flout pedestrian rules overseas, in Japan it’s rare to see anyone cross a road unless it’s at a designated crossing, and even then it’s customary to always wait for the green pedestrian light, even if there’s no traffic approaching. Because people in Japan abide by these pedestrian rules so stringently, the sight of people crossing or entering a roadway like this is shocking, prompting drivers and residents to lodge complaints with the local council.

As a result, the city has moved in, erecting a barrier to prevent people from entering the road on the overpass. Installed on 29 May, the barricade stretches 400 metres (0.25 miles) along the middle section, and in mid-July, a 1.8-metre (5.9-foot) high fence will be erected as a more permanent deterrent.

As for countermeasures back down on ground level, residents have been placing traffic cones with ropes in front of their houses to keep people from parking on or entering their properties. A number of reports showed tourists entering private land to look around, and one even posed for a photo on the front porch of a house without permission from the owner.

The mayor of the local ward, Masatoshi Matsumoto, has been responding to resident complaints with the help of Fuji City Exchange and Tourism Division Manager, Takenori Matsumura. Together they helped to quickly construct a parking area to alleviate the parking problems, but as the cued-up moment in the below video shows, parking is limited, so it doesn’t entirely solve the problem.

One resident told reporters it was frightening to have strangers doing U-turns in their driveway, while another female resident said the loud voices were a problem. With the weather warming up, she’d like to open the windows to her house, but tourists arrive before 6 in the morning and they don’t keep their voices down, so it’s become a problem.

If this were a busy city neighbourhood, the din of the crowds wouldn’t be half as noticeable but as this is a quiet residential area, the disruption is easily discernible. The local ward has set up signs in English and Chinese as a countermeasure, asking people not to litter and to respect the local residents.

▼ The signs, seen here, read: “Don’t park on the road or in private areas!! Keep quiet as it may disturb the neighbourhood!!

The ward says that on a busy day, there can be over 300 tourists visiting the neighbourhood, and sightseeing buses have also been spotted in the area. The ward is doing its best to address complaints as they come in, but Mayor Matsumoto is requesting that tourists mind their manners when visiting the neighbourhood. He says that if foreign tourists display good manners, the residents will be more accepting of them, creating a more pleasant experience for everyone.

With Kyoto’s Gion recently restricting access to private roads, if tourists don’t abide by the rules and requests, it may pave the way for tighter restrictions to come.

Sources: NHK, Chunichi, TV Shizuoka, FNN
Top image: Pakutaso
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