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Japan implements tourist tax at famous ‘floating shrine’ to combat overtourism

By Lilit Marcus, CNN

(CNN) — Japan’s popular Itsukushima Shrine has now become slightly more expensive to visit.

The bright-orange torii gate that appears to float in a lake is one of the country’s most beautiful and recognizable photo spots.

Located in the town of Hatsukaichi, in Hiroshima prefecture, the torii – a shrine gateway – is part of a 1,400-year-old Shinto complex that’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its striking appearance has made it one of the most recognizable attractions in Japan – even President Joe Biden visited earlier this year.

However, that popularity has come with a downside. Hatsukaichi has long struggled with overtourism, prompting officials to implement a tourist tax, which came into effect on Sunday. The tax was originally scheduled to roll out in 2021 but was delayed by the pandemic.

Each visitor to Miyajima, the island access point for the shrine, is now charged 100 yen (67 cents). If a traveler is interested in making multiple visits, they can purchase a 500 yen ($3.33) pass that is valid for one year.

The funds will go toward building and improving tourism infrastructure, like public bathrooms, maintaining the shrine’s architecture and encouraging ecotourism in the area.

“We feel the need to create a hospitable environment for tourists, while securing the livelihood of islanders,” says Shunji Mukai, an official of the city’s planning department. “We hope that tourists will become stakeholders who join us to protect Miyajima by sharing responsibilities.”

An initiative called Another Thousand Years is behind the efforts to care for and preserve Miyajima and the Itsukushima Shrine.

“We hope that future visitors will become guardians of the island just like the residents,” reads a mission statement posted on the initiative’s website. “Why don’t we start doing what we can do now with pride? An island that enshrines the gods, we will cherish it for another thousand years.”

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