Tensions between Japan and China are not confined to remote islands and historical disputes it seems – now an unlikely activity is causing tension between the two Asian powerhouses. Shopping. Japanese police are reportedly receiving increasing numbers of complaints about the surge in buses carrying Chinese shoppers who are causing parking chaos in Tokyo’s retail districts.
The issue taps into the booming number of Chinese tourists indulging in intense shopping sprees in Tokyo, whose surge in prevalence has prompted the creation of the new Japanese buzzword “bakugai” (“explosive shopping”).
From Ginza’s upmarket boulevards lined with department stores to the historic lanes of the old Asakusa area, large buses ferrying retail therapy-loving Chinese shoppers have apparently been causing parking chaos across the capital.
On one recent occasion in the run up to Chinese New Year, a total of eight tour buses reportedly caused mayhem after blocking the left traffic lane on one of the main streets in Ginza, according to Kyodo News. Store security on the Ginza street also reportedly became involved in the retail chaos, asking Chinese shoppers laden down with bags outside the buses to step aside to allow other pedestrians to pass.
One of the bus drivers said: “I usually stop here because there aren’t any other places. If we are lucky, we can leave here around 15 minutes behind schedule but a 30-minute delay is not unusual.”
Japan’s economy received a welcome bolster from a surge in overseas visitors in 2015, with a record 19.73 million overseas tourists arriving in the country, many of whom were intent on shopping. Fuelled by a then-weakened yen, foreign tourists visiting Japan last year spent around 3.08 trillion yen – an increase of one trillion from the previous year, according to finance ministry figures.
However, the rise of shoppers – in particular groups of voraciously-consuming Chinese shoppers – has gone hand in hand with increasingly complex parking problems across the capital, according to Kyodo News. Japanese items coveted by Chinese shoppers range eclectically from swishy Japanese techno lavatories and rice cookers to designer handbags and green tea-flavoured KitKats.
As the city braces itself for further increases in visitors in the run-up to the Olympics, retail associations are urging local authorities to help find long-term solutions to the problem.
“The central and the Tokyo metropolitan governments need to take the initiative to provide more parking spaces if they are going to promote tourism,” one leader of a local business association for the Ginza shopping area told Kyodo.
An official for the metropolitan police department added: “Instead of tightening regulations, we would like to unite with municipalities and stores to decide on appropriate rules to welcome tourists together.”