TOKYO, Japan – Complaints have been pouring in about a growing number of large buses carrying foreign tourists, with drivers and locals saying they are a nuisance because they park in the street.
Those involved have been seeking ways to rectify the situation amidst a surge in buying sprees, especially among Chinese tourists known for “bakugai” or “explosive shopping,” but the problem remains due to a lack of parking spots in the Japanese capital.
In early January ahead of the Lunar New Year in February when Chinese travelers flock to Japan, some eight tour buses occupied the left traffic lane of a four-lane road on a main street in the posh Ginza shopping district.
The buses parked there were awaiting tourists who had finished shopping at department stores and boutiques. On the sidewalk, Chinese tourists holding shopping bags were instructed by store security to open a path for pedestrians.
“I usually stop here because there aren’t any other places,” a bus driver said. “If we are lucky, we can leave here around 15 minutes behind schedule but a 30-minute delay is not unusual.”
A number of seats in the bus remained empty even 10 minutes past the meeting time.
Buses usually leave the site for a while after being cautioned by police but return to the same spot later.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of visitor arrivals in Japan last year reached a record 19.74 million.
The Tsukiji police station that exercises jurisdiction over the Ginza district said for about the past two years it has received numerous complaints about parked buses blocking the streets.
Buses that block streets have also been on the rise in other popular destinations for foreign tourists such as around Sensoji temple in Asakusa and the Kabukicho area in Shinjuku, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Some bus drivers have been ticketed for parking violations, the police said.
There is a concern that such buses not only cause traffic jams but will also lead to accidents.
“The central and the Tokyo metropolitan governments need to take the initiative to provide more parking spaces if they are going to promote tourism,” said a leader of a local business association for the Ginza shopping area.
The environment policy division of Tokyo’s Chuo municipal office plans to suggest that the metropolitan government that owns Tsukiji Fish Market use the site as a parking lot after its relocation to the Toyosu waterfront in November.
As the number of foreign visitors is expected to rise further with the approach of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the MPD is carrying out talks with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the metropolitan government on how to secure enough parking spaces and disperse tourist crowds.
“Instead of tightening regulations, we would like to unite with municipalities and stores to decide on appropriate rules to welcome tourists together,” said an MPD official.