KANAZAWA, Japan - Tourists are being requested to refrain from eating while walking through the historic Higashi Chaya District in Kanazawa. The request, introduced about three months ago, has drawn mixed reactions, but a group consisting mainly of local merchants is asking people to understand their efforts to preserve the district, which features traditional chaya teahouses from the Edo period (1603-1867).
In connection with the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line scheduled for March next year, the group said, "We aim to make a high-quality sightseeing spot by protecting the beautiful landscape."
The group, named Kanazawa Higashiyama: Higashi no Machinami to Bunka o Mamoru-kai (Kanazawa's Higashiyama group for protecting the landscape and culture of Higashi) started asking tourists not to eat while walking in June, putting up notices in Japanese and English.
As the district is crowded with tourists enjoying local ice cream and wagashi confections on weekends, food containers and other litter tossed onto the street and into ditches have aroused concern among local people and led to the request.
Quaint chaya with latticed fronts line the street in the Higashi Chaya district, which is part of an area designated as a national important preservation district for groups of traditional buildings. To protect the landscape, the group has placed restrictions on the locations of vending machines and outdoor ads, and established criteria for the size and colour of store curtains since 2003. After the group explained its request to avoid eating while walking to local stores selling confectionery and souvenirs, it gained their understanding.
Most tourists now eat food at or in front of stores, as the signs requesting them to do so are very effective. A government worker visiting from Nagoya appreciated the group's effort, saying, "The street is really beautiful without garbage, though it would be more comfortable with more places to sit."
However, since the request has no mandatory power, some people still eat while walking and ignore the notices. A 23-year-old female office worker from Tokyo who was eating an ice cream while walking with her family, said, "I don't cause trouble to anyone."