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Website launched in Kyoto to forecast tourist congestion based on Wi-Fi use

A screenshot from the "Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide" website shows a tourist congestion forecast at noon on Nov. 26, 2018 for the entirety of Kyoto's Arashiyama district.
Many tourists walk across Togetsukyo Bridge in Kyoto's Ukyo Ward, on Nov. 16, 2018. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)

KYOTO -- An experimental website displaying tourist congestion predictions based on Wi-Fi access by mobile device users is in operation for the popular Arashiyama district of this western Japan city, known worldwide for its beautiful autumn foliage.

The project is intended to alleviate overcrowding with foreign tourists during autumn, and to shore up businesses in other parts of this ancient capital by inviting visitors to those locations. It is implemented by the land ministry's Kinki District Transport Bureau with support from the Kyoto Municipal Government and its tourism association.

The demonstration, utilizing visitors' Wi-Fi usage, is the first of its kind in Japan, according to city officials. The website is also promoting the allure of early-morning tours and interesting attractions not typically on visitors' itineraries.

To access the "Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide" website available in both Japanese and English, users select the date and duration of their visit, and choose a location among eight areas in Arashiyama, including Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Grove. Users are then presented with a bar chart indicating the hourly estimated congestion from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The site introduces "recommended routes based on ease of sightseeing," from various themes such as "photogenic spots in Arashiyama," and "girls trip." Congestion forecasts for all eight areas are displayed on the website's map feature. The map lets users know which areas are likely to be less crowded at certain times.

Prior to the test, the municipal government set up monitors in mid-September to gather data on the number of tourists and other people accessing Wi-Fi from their mobile devices. They monitored 13 locations in and around the Arashiyama district, including temples and accommodations.

The system can predict tourist congestion for any day of the week based on data collected in the previous week. The municipal government also incorporated the results of a survey conducted in October asking around 1,100 tourists about where they visited and at what time. They have also included predictions on the best time to see autumn leaves.

The offices of Ebisuya Rickshaw Japan Arashiyama now receives inquiries from customers viewing the website over if they should "push their appointment forward" to avoid congestion. Ebisuya's rickshaw drivers have faced crowds too dense to pull a rickshaw through many times in the past. "We'd appreciate if (customers) spread rides out in the morning or in late afternoon, when there's relatively fewer people," said one Ebisuya official, voicing high hopes for the website's impact.

The "Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide" website will be live until Dec. 17. Operators will decide its future use based on answers to user questionnaires and other data. A Kyoto Municipal Government official stated, "We want (tourists) to visit areas that are not well known in order to enliven the entire Arashiyama district."

The English "Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide" website in English can be found at the following link:

(Japanese original by Yusuke Kaite, Kyoto Bureau)

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