How a sightseeing livestream of Kyoto sparked a controversy online

·1-min read
Arashiyama, in the Kyoto region of Japan
Arashiyama, in the Kyoto region of Japan

In this time of pandemic, cities and monuments worldwide are trying a variety of means to keep in touch with potential future tourists. To showcase the beauty of the region of Kyoto in Japan, train company JR West and e-commerce giant Alibaba organized a virtual tour of several of the area's nature sites for the Chinese market. However the move sparked ire among residents, as a Japan Today report shows, with local Japanese populations fearing that Chinese tourists will flock en masse when the archipelago reopens to foreign tourism.

To help relaunch tourism in Kyoto, JR West and Alibaba chose to livestream a visit on video platform Taobao Live, strolling through Arashiyama, one of the most popular sites in Kyoto among tourists. Chinese internet users were able to discover through their screens the natural wonders of this pristine site. The virtual tour attracted over 100,000 live viewers, a real success!

But the extra publicity wasn't unanimously appreciated in Japan. Many web users complained about JR West's involvement in this virtual visit, noting that Kyoto already suffered from overtourism before the pandemic, and that the region and the city didn't need huge numbers of tourists to flock in and endanger its fragile ecosystem.

Kyoto is one of the favorite destinations for tour operators in Japan, and its environment has suffered from this huge popularity in the past. Arashiyama features many natural wonders, from cherry blossoms (sakura), to maple trees (momiji) and giant bamboo forests.