From high to low: How COVID has impacted Japan & Kyoto

In 2019, the city of Kyoto welcomed around 53 million travelers, marking the city’s biggest increase in tourism in four years. Crazy, right? Well, Kyoto was just getting started. The city was topping every must-see travel destination list for 2020, was featured in some of the biggest travel publications, and was preparing for a boost in visitors with the 2020 Summer Olympics. For a minute there, it seemed certain Kyoto would break new records, but then COVID struck.

Golden Temple, Kyoto Japan

Japan slips into an economic recession 

Japan slipped into an economic recession earlier this year due to major falls in domestic consumption and exportation, and the country continues to struggle with the effects of the pandemic. Japan’s economy also took a major blow after the cancellation of the 2020 Summer Olympics, which Japan has already committed 1.45 trillion yen ($13 billion) into organizing. According to analyst experts, with the cancellation of the Olympic games and travel ban, revenue from tourism was expected to drop by 75% in the first 6 months of 2020, and then by 50% in the second half of the year (Newsweek). Currently, Japan’s borders remain closed to international travelers, but the country has lifted some restrictions on domestic travel. The national government announced the “Go to Travel” campaign, which is an attempt to revive the Japanese economy by giving Japanese residents discounts on travel.

The impact felt in Kyoto

Nijo Castle, Kyoto Japan


Kyoto has also been rattled by the sudden stop of travel. Hotel accommodations were down by 99.7% year over year as of April. As you can imagine, small businesses, chefs, and artisans in the region are especially struggling during this time. Atsuko Mori, our Kyoto tea expert, shared that the impact of COVID has been “disastrous” to her tea shops, losing 98% of her business compared to last year. In our interview with her, she explains how she is in survival mode. Atsuko has been experimenting to find ways to people during this time, creating a pop-up tea shop to try and reach local Japanese residents, but it didn’t catch on, and is now offering online classes and making masks. Our Kyoto chef, Aya Igano, shares how they’ve closed down their Eat Kyoto and Eat Osaka cooking classes since this Spring. They are working on figuring out how to use the space for another business, and in the meantime, Aya has been helping her husband with his shop.

How you can help

As travel restrictions and regulations continue to persist, it’s so important for us to show our support for small businesses and artisans, like Aya and Atsuko. These chefs and artisans welcome us into their cities, their homes, and their cultures. Anything we can do to lift them up during this difficult time goes a long way! With every purchase of a TROVE box, 20% of profits go directly to the featured small businesses in our host cities. To learn more about what we’re doing visit us here.  

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