A cheap trick to make extra cash, or a man pushed to breaking point?
Not all Chinese tourists behave unruly, but the ones that do get so much public attention that it casts the rest in a bad light. Just to be on the safe side, China even launched a program to discourage such behavior.
Such misconduct has forced the hand of an unlicensed leisure equipment rental store owner at a Miyakojima beach in Okinawa Prefecture. A sign advertising the rental of a beach parasol set for 2,000 yen (US$18) had been erected, with another line stating “For Chinese: 20,000 yen”.
Unless the parasol came with air conditioning and a personal butler, no sane person would fork out $180 to rent an umbrella for a day. The proprietor had been tending his store for 14 years, but only recently put up the sign in July. He had this to say:
“Chinese tourists have terrible manners. I tolerated them for years, but since I didn’t want to lend it to them this time, I decided to charge them ten times more.”
The sign quickly led to complaints of discrimination, to which the owner replied:
“I’ve experienced a case where five Chinese tourists sat on a chair meant for only one, breaking it in the process. I didn’t want to lend it to them simply because I didn’t want any more broken chairs. It isn’t discrimination.”
While we’re uncertain if his claims are true, it did seem that the sign was set up in frustration rather than for financial gain. Although asking for recompense for broken equipment would have probably been a better alternative.
Nevertheless, the owner did eventually take down the sign amid mounting criticism. However, we’re merely scratching the surface of an underlying issue.
Since beaches are covered by Japan’s Seacoast Law, they’re currently managed at the prefectural level. But with many unlicensed marine leisure stores (such as the one upcharging Chinese tourists) popping up unchecked at the beaches around Okinawa’s Miyakojima city, the city council demanded the prefectural government crack down on illegal operators. However, the prefecture argued that since every city’s beach is different, the cities should manage their own beaches instead.
In short, the city council wants the prefectural government to deal with (ie: pay for) getting rid of the illegal stores, while the prefectural government wants the individual city councils to deal with them.
All this pushing of responsibilities has the Miyakojima Tourism Board throwing up its hands in the air and basically telling the two sides to get their acts together and sort it out soon, though with more diplomatic words.
For the sake of both tourists and honest operators in Okinawa, we hope so too. In the meantime, perhaps Okinawa could take a page from Kyoto and create guidelines for ill-mannered tourists.