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Mt. Fuji no more: Japanese town erects huge black screen to deter crowds of selfie-seeking tourists

Workers set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan Tuesday, May 21, 2024.
Workers set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Copyright Kyodo News via AP
Copyright Kyodo News via AP
By Ruth Wright with AP
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Camera-sized holes have since appeared in the screen, which officials are working to repair.

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A town is Japan has got so fed up with tourists that they have built a huge fence blocking the view of the attraction they are coming for - the famous Mount Fuji.

The 20-metre long and 2.5-metre high fence is covered with a black mesh net, not the most social media-friendly backdrop to the selfies that visitors flock here for.

But small holes have appeared in the screen, which tourists are exploiting to snap the iconic view. Within just a week of the fence being built, officials had found around 10 holes, all at eye level, and all apparently just the right size to fit a camera lens through. They are working to repair them.

Mt. Fuji is seen through a hole on a black screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan on 24 May 2024.
Mt. Fuji is seen through a hole on a black screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan on 24 May 2024. Kyodo News via AP

Fujikawaguchiko is known to offer some of the best views of the Japanese mountain. But locals have had enough of tourists blocking pavements and stopping traffic to get the perfect shot.

A particularly popular photo location was outside a Lawson convenience store, from where a photograph taken at a particular angle would make it seem as if Mt. Fuji was sitting atop the shop's roof. The tourists, mostly foreigners, even dubbed the spot “Mt. Fuji Lawson.”

Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on 30 April 2024
Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on 30 April 2024Kyodo News via AP

"Kawaguchiko is a town built on tourism, and I welcome many visitors, and the town welcomes them too, but there are many things about their manners that are worrying,” says Michie Motomochi, owner of a cafe serving Japanese sweets near the photo spot.

Motomochi mentioned littering, crossing the road with busy traffic, ignoring traffic lights and trespassing into private properties.

Workers set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan Tuesday, May 21, 2024.
Workers set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan Tuesday, May 21, 2024.Kyodo News via AP

The town spent 1.3 million yen (€7,700) to install the black mesh net, and additional fences along the sidewalk.

The screen has helped ease congestion in the area, according to officials.

A visitor tries to take a photo through a hole on a black screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko, Japan on 24 May 2024.
A visitor tries to take a photo through a hole on a black screen installed across from a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko, Japan on 24 May 2024.Kyodo News via AP

Where else can tourists get photos of Mount Fuji?

Still, there are other places tourists can find their sweet photo spot.

The Yamanashi prefecture, also home to the Yoshida Trail - the most popular of the four routes to summit the 3,776-metew high mountain - introduced a booking system ahead of this year's Fuji climbing season to ease overcrowding, littering and safety risks.

Under the new plan, only up to 4,000 climbers will be allowed to enter the trail per day for a hiking fee of 2,000 yen (about €18), with an option of donating an additional 1,000 yen (about €9) for conservation during the climbing season, which starts 1 July and runs until 10 September.

Designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013, Mt. Fuji used to be a place of pilgrimage.

Today, it's popular among hikers who climb the summit to watch the sunrise. But tons of trash left behind, including plastic bottles, food and even clothes, have become a major concern.

Where else is trying to crack down on overtourism?

Kawaguchiko isn't the first place to try and reclaim their home from tourists, though theirs is one of the boldest pushbacks we've seen so far.

Also in Japan, the Geisha district of Kyoto has closed off some streets to tourists after "misbehaviour".

Menorca's most popular tourist attraction, a small town with white-washed houses, has introduced visiting hours in a bid to quell visitor numbers.

Venice, one of Italy's most popular destinations, has been ona. years-long battle to manage visitors, who often outnumber residents. They have recently introduced a daytripper fee as well as banning loudspeakers.

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