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Recently there are many news stories about "overtourism" in Japan:

Whilst Japan’s promotion as a tourist destination is incredibly important, JNTO is aware of cases of ‘overtourism’ in which local residents of some tourist hotspots have been affected by a surge in the number of visitors from overseas.

More than one-fourth of Japanese municipalities have expressed concerns about possible future problems resulting from a surge in the number of foreign visitors to the country

Question: As a tourist in Japan, how can I avoid these places?

For instance, I heard from friends living in Matsue and Aizuwakamatsu that both of these small cities are desperately trying to attract foreign tourists, and are suffering from being out of the beaten path. So I went there and had a great time. I also noticed the absence of foreign tourists, indeed if these friends had not told me, I would have not known about these places.

Is there perhaps a kind of website or map or app where I can check whether a given place currently welcomes tourists or not? Ideally based on the local population's sentiment about the topic.

  • 1
    "indeed if these friends had not told me, I would have not known about these places." There are things called maps; I hear they're even online these days... – fkraiem Aug 27 at 12:28
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    @fkraiem: I sometimes book a train ticket for the weekend just by choosing a point on a map. The results have been VERY variable. Sometimes I am extremely lucky (last weekend), but sometimes the place does not even have accommodation :-) Listing all villages you see on the Japan map and then looking up information about each one is a very time-consuming process, if that's what you are suggesting. – nic Aug 27 at 13:47
  • BTW Over-tourism isn't just limited to Japan. Many places around the world are struggling with it - especially those with "iconic" locations. – Peter M Aug 27 at 14:22
  • @PeterM: Any answer addressing the whole world would be fantastic. I chose Japan because country-specific solutions are probably available (Japan has collaborative database websites for almost every imaginable topic), and also because it is expected to receive a huge amount of visitors next year around the Olympics. – nic Aug 27 at 14:34
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Some statistics on how many tourists each prefecture receives can be found here.

There's a little English language summary of some key findings here.

Last year, the top ten prefectures for overnight stays by foreigners were:

Tokyo Osaka Hokkaido Kyoto Okinawa Chiba Fukuoka Aichi Kanagawa Yamanashi

The ten least popular prefectures were:

Shimane (one of my personal favourites) Kochi Fukui Yamaguchi (another underrated gem) Tokushima Akita Fukushima Yamagata Tottori Saitama

Basically if you want to avoid the crowds then Tohoku and Shikoku are your best bets.

I visited Japan last year after four years away and was really shocked by the sheer amount of visible foreigners in Tokyo these days. Tokyo has always been full of English-speakers but the change in 4 years is amazing.

I went up to Fukushima and Yamagata though and the only visible foreigners I saw were one elderly British couple. The stats confirm it isn't massively popular with other Asians either.

Map showing hotel rooms occupancy rate in 2018, the deep blue prefectures have less than 55% occupancy, which probably means that you can go there without worrying too much about contributing to overtourism:

enter image description here

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    Thanks for the Tohoku+Shikoku tip! I am probably asking for something impossible, but it would be marvelous if there was a place where such information is 1) Updated from time to time 2) Available at city-level granularity :-) – nic Aug 27 at 11:20
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    I took the liberty to to your answer a map found in the document you linked to. I find it particularly informative, but feel free to revert if you don't think it brings value to your answer. – nic Aug 28 at 2:53
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    +1, but bear in mind that Japanese prefectures are quite large, and tourists by and large stick to the city cores. Tokyo stretches hundreds of km west into the mountains and has an island chain covering literally thousands of km south. Even in cities tourists tend to huddle: I have relatives living right off the main Tokyo-Narita train line, and their city/suburb has zero tourists. – jpatokal Aug 28 at 9:36

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