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Tourists stream through the iconic torii gates of Fushimi Inari shrine, in Kyoto in March. Foreign visitors to the city jumped more than fivefold between 2012 and 2017. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
The Big Story

Japan gets more than it bargained for with tourist boom

Can the country welcome 60 million visitors a year without losing its culture -- and its mind?

ERI SUGIURA, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO/KYOTO -- Yuko Kato, a 50-year-old housewife, was raised in Kyoto and has lived there all her life. Going to the 1,300-year-old Nishiki Market, known as "Kyoto's Kitchen," to buy fish, pickles and seasonings used to be a weekly habit for her, but that has changed over the past five years.

These days, the traditional retail market, which covers five blocks of narrow laneways lined with shops, is overrun by foreign tourists, many of them eating skewered shrimp and other local delicacies as they stroll, making it difficult for daily shoppers to go about their business. Posters saying "No Eating While Walking" are pasted everywhere, but are largely ignored.

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