Japan turns to technology to tackle overtourism

Japanese organisations are adopting the use of more technology to cope with overtourism amid the country’s rapid inbound travel rebound.

In 2023, 25.1 million international travellers arrived in Japan, a dramatic uptick from the 3.8 million in 2022. Recovery has been particularly strong since September, when arrivals were only 3.9 per cent less than the number in September 2019, culminating in December data which was an 8.2 per cent increase on the number of arrivals in December 2019.

Smart bins have been installed to prevent littering at popular tourist spots such as Dotonbori in Osaka, pictured

With the world’s attention on Hiroshima in 2023 due to the G7 Summit, and an uptick of visitors since April, Hiroshima City plans to introduce an online ticket system for its Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as early as March. The museum will also extend its opening hours by two hours for visitors who book online, in a bid to ease congestion.

From April to November 2023 alone, museum visitors totalled 1.5 million visitors, not far off the 1.8 million who visited over April to March 2019.

Osaka is also using technology to tackle some of the negative effects of the tourism rebound, using a subsidy from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to install ‘smart bins’.

Some 20 solar panel-enabled bins have been installed to combat the increase in rubbish at popular tourist districts in the heart of the city such as Dotonbori, a growing problem as Japanese municipalities tend not to install bins, preferring people to take their rubbish home, even in areas where street food sellers are prolific.

The solar panels will sense when rubbish is building up inside the bin and compress the garbage by about 20 per cent. The bin can also send alerts to workers for it to be emptied before it is full, thereby reducing the chance of litter polluting the streets and protecting the urban environment.

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