The Reality of Tourist Overcrowding

Tourists at Kinkakuji - Kyoto, Japan

Tourists at Kinkakuji – Kyoto, Japan

If you look at the nearly pristine images of Kinkakuji that I posted yesterday, you probably don’t realize how much as changed around the famous tourists sites in Japan.

That’s the biggest thing that surprised me on my trip to Japan this year. There’s always been tourists, especially around the top sites, but I was shocked by the huge crowds that now flock to these places. The photo above is a really good example.

Kinkakuji has always been iconic, but Fushimi Inari-taisha, which was virtually deserted when I last visited 5 years ago, is now completely packed.

Much of this is due to newly affluent Asians, especially from China. But it’s a mix from different places. I heard Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and English with what sounded like a Filipino accent. All of this is generally positive. More people in the world are rich enough to travel. And having people visit other countries is always good for increasing cross cultural understanding.

Japan’s economy is also boosted from all the extra tourism, which I’m sure helps. After all, Japan’s been in the economic doldrums for the better part of 25+ years.

The slight downside, especially for photographers, is the challenge of making images without all the extra visual distractions. It gets harder to make pristine landscapes. But I’m opting to use this challenge to improve my photography and become more creative.

Can I incorporate the people in interesting ways? Can I still make photos from different angles which excludes unwanted people? Perhaps, I should go to new places where the typical tourists don’t go.

But this phenomenon of people at famous places is not isolated to just Japan. It’s getting crowded everywhere. Even in Austin, where once, not too long ago, almost nobody went to see, now it’s packed with visitors.


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14 thoughts on “The Reality of Tourist Overcrowding

  1. “Generally positive ” yes but I was shocked to see so many Chinese tourists shouting in the streets or even inside the shops , crowding the shops and generally ill behaved.

  2. One more advantage of the M4/3 cameras with swing-and-swivel LCD screens and IBIS — the ability to hold your camera directly overhead and still compose the shot as you want it.

  3. Going on international vacations just isn’t a socially responsible thing to do for the planet. People should stay home, conserve carbon, stop ruining the world with their unfettered tourism.

  4. Garry is really good at making people part of the picture. I think it’s all those years of doing news. He seems to look for them and wind the pictures around them. Of course, we have the opposite problem of there rarely being more than a few people anywhere except maybe the supermarket!

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