Kyoto wants to add extra charges for tourists to use city buses – Kyoto Prefecture
Compared to other large Japanese cities, Kyoto’s city centre has remarkably little rail service. With no train lines running through the downtown area, and only two subway lines, if you want to get somewhere in Kyoto using public transportation, oftentimes buses are your only option. That option might be getting more expensive for a lot of people, though, as Kyoto’s municipal government is seeking permission to start charging tourists higher prices than locals for using city buses.
There seem to be two somewhat contradictory purposes for the plan. In an interview with Japan’s Kansai TV, Kyoto mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said that the primary objective of the proposal is to reduce crowding on city-operated buses in Kyoto.
However, in its documents outlining the proposal, the Kyoto City Transportation Bureau cites a 14.2-percent drop in Kyoto city bus ridership since the start of the pandemic, as well as having been operating in the red for the past three years, among the justifications for introducing higher bus fares for tourists. Taken by itself, raising rates would decrease ridership even more, but ostensibly the Kyoto City Transportation Bureau feels that will be offset, revenue-wise, by overall increases in the number of travellers as Japan continues to move towards a post-pandemic environment and higher fares are collected from those tourists who are riding the buses. The proposal follows an announcement in March that Kyoto will be stopping sales of its one-day unlimited-ride bus passes, which have been popular with tourists for years.
It’s worth noting that the revised system would not only charge higher prices for travellers visiting Japan from abroad, but also Japanese citizens/residents visiting from other parts of the country. Even people living in other parts of Kyoto Prefecture would be subject to the higher rates, as the proposal divides riders into two groups, Kyoto City residents and tourists.
As to how the new pricing system would be implemented, one idea the bureau is discussing is special cashless payment IC cards for residents, linked to government-issued My Number ID cards tied into the holder’s home address, which would charge the lower of the two fares. Another is designating certain vehicles in the fleet as “tourist buses,” which would ostensibly charge the higher rate to all passengers, though it’s unclear how/if that would prevent tourists from riding non-tourist buses and paying the lower rate.
Japan issues 1.3 mil visas in 2022, up 14-fold as COVID curbs eased – Nationwide
Japan issued 1.29 million visas to foreign nationals in 2022, marking a roughly 14-fold increase from the previous year after it eased COVID-19 border control measures, the government said. It is the first increase in three years, with the rise mainly down to a large increase in student and technical intern visas being issued, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The figure fell sharply during the pandemic, dipping to 1.12 million in 2020 when Japan began tightening border controls in an effort to curb coronavirus infections, and hit 90,306 in 2021, the lowest number since comparable data became available in 1999. While last year’s total is still far from the pre-pandemic record high of 8.28 million in 2019, the number is expected to continue to rise following the nation’s removal of COVID-19-related border controls in April this year for all arrivals.
In China, 186,577 visas were issued, accounting for 14 percent of the total, followed by Vietnam with 177,329, the Philippines with 134,607, South Korea with 104,937, Indonesia with 92,663 and the United States with 88,557.
Awa Odori dance festival to sell premium seats for ¥200,000 – Tokushima Prefecture
Organisers of the popular Awa Odori dance festival said they are offering premium seats priced at 200,000 yen per person to view the annual spectacle held in August in Tokushima Prefecture. The “Awaodori hospitality seat,” mainly aimed at wealthy foreign tourists, will include front-facing views of the dance, food such as locally produced chicken and sake and explanations from dancers immediately after they have finished performing via English interpretation. The ticket pricing is markedly higher than usual, as last year’s most expensive tickets cost around 5,000 yen.
The festival’s executive committee has said it wants to “offer various ways to enjoy” the festival.” The Aug 12-15 festival, which features several groups and traditional dances, will have 20 premium seats per performance. The sofa-style seating can hold four people and will be set up on an outdoor stage area. Tickets are available for reservation online, with organisers saying some seats have already been booked.