Fukushima beach opens for first time in 8 years

Several beaches ravaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan have been reopened for bathing for the first time in 8 years.

Haragamaobama beach in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, was opened to the public on Saturday.
Seawalls on the beach were badly damaged by the tsunami 8 years ago. But the reconstruction work has been completed.
A ritual was held to pray for safety, and a group of local residents released balloons into the sky before the beach was officially declared open.
Children then jumped into the water all at once.Local diners have opened beach houses to offer shaved ice with syrup on top, as well as other food and drinks.
A woman in her 30s said she is happy to once again be able to swim in the sea, where she would come every year before the disaster.A teenage boy said he has been looking forward to the opening of the beach. He said he wants to fully enjoy himself with his friends.
Four beaches in Fukushima Prefecture have reopened since the disaster including in Iwaki and Soma.

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Japan takes top spot on global passport rankings

Japan has taken the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, now offering its citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a record total of 189 destinations.

Following closely behind Japan are Singapore and Germany in joint second place, with 188 destinations accessible without a prior visa.

Third place is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden).

While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations.

With close to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments since the start of the year, passport-holders around the world go into the summer season with greater collective access than ever before.

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Mount Fuji climbing season opens

The Mount Fuji climbing season opened on Sunday morning on the Yamanashi side.

About 150 climbers were at the summit to view the sunrise at 4:28 a.m., Fuji TV reported. The Shizuoka side will open to climbers on July 10.

Huge numbers of climbers are expected in July and August. Last year, more than 220,000 people climbed the 3,776-meter mountain, according to Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectural government officials.

As they did last year, the prefectural governments are asking climbers to pay a fee of 1,000 yen on a voluntary basis. The money will be used to help preserve the area’s natural beauty.

Hordes of trekkers have flocked to Mount Fuji since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 in recognition of its status as a symbol of Japan. Local officials have been struggling to improve traffic access and other facilities with the big increase in visitors.The climbing season will end on Sept 10.

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Overcrowded sites, packed buses the main complaints of Kyoto tourists as record number of visitors flock to city

The city of Kyoto once again saw record levels of tourists in 2017, with 15.57 million foreign and Japanese visitors spending at least one night in the former capital, city officials said Wednesday.

But both foreign and domestic visitors continued to complain about overcrowded tourist sites and traffic jams, while an increasing number of Japanese said the bad manners of foreign tourists on the streets and on buses and subways was a negative aspect of their trip there, according to the city.

The total number of visitors to Kyoto last year, including overnight visitors and day trippers, was 53.6 million, a 2.9 percent decrease compared to 2016. Foreign visitors spending at least one night at registered Kyoto hotels and inns accounted for 3.53 million of that total, up 11 percent from 2016.

Visitors from Asia accounted for 58.8 percent of foreign tourists who stayed in Kyoto in 2017, while 17.1 percent came from Europe and 10.9 percent were from North America.

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Mount Fuji trails in Shizuoka open for this year’s climbing season

The climbing season for Mount Fuji got fully underway Tuesday with three trails in Shizuoka Prefecture opening to the public.
The season began earlier this month when a trail in neighboring Yamanashi Prefecture opened on the 3,776-meter mountain, Japan’s highest peak, which attracted over 284,000 climbers last year. The trails close on Sept. 10.While not mandatory, climbers are asked to pay ¥1,000 ($9) per person to support the upkeep of the mountain, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.

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