It might already be summer in Thailand, but in the Land of the Rising Sun, spring has not sprung until the cherry blossom front has advanced from the southernmost tip of Okinawa to Hokkaido’s cooler climes, its delicate pink petals adorning the branches of Yoshino cherry trees, Starbucks lattes and crisp packets in its wake. According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, this year’s sakura season is forecast to start on March 17, in Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu, heralding hanami (“flower viewing”) parties and peak tourist season across the country. Japan recorded 5.5 million international arrivals in March and April last year, numbers that are expected to increase as the nation tears towards a target of 40 million annual visitors in 2020. However, there is an issue; an increasing number of attractions (or should that be “repulsions”) are saying that they don’t want overseas tourists to visit. The English-language version of national newspaper The Asahi recently reported that a “no-foreigners policy” was spreading as “a growing number of tourism facilities in Japan are refusing to accept non-Japanese group travellers because of the bad manners and abhorrent actions of some visitors from abroad”. Nanzoin temple, in Fukuoka prefecture, is one such destination. Its priests have been complaining that an influx of tourists from cruise ships calling into Fukuoka has altered the atmosphere of the temple, famed for its 41-metre-long bronze reclining Buddha, with travellers splashing around in a waterfall within the grounds, blaring music from portable speakers and even climbing onto rooftops. By 2016, their transcendental patience had worn so thin that the priests asked a local tourism website to delete information on the temple. Visitors today will find signs in 12 languages telling non-Japanese groups that they are not welcome, according to The Asahi , although solo tourists are still allowed in, as they are believed to be better behaved. In Kumamoto prefecture, the Yatsushiro shrine has suffered a similar fate, having been overrun with day-tripping cruise passengers, while an izakaya owner in the overcrowded city of Kyoto admitted that he would lie about his establishment being fully booked when groups of five or more foreigners showed up. “I want Kyoto to stop staging promotional campaigns targeting foreign sightseers,” he told The Asahi . What the article does not tell us, however, is where these troublesome tourists hail from, although internet users have been quick to point the finger at China, which is largely responsible for the growth in Japan’s cruise sector. However, it does not seem fair to apportion blame entirely to travellers from the Middle Kingdom. Westerners have long been testing the limits of the Japanese philosophy of omotenashi , or hospitality, evidence of which can be found in an amusing series of responses to reviews left for a temple lodging in Mount Koya, to the south of Osaka. Shingon priest Daniel Kimura, who practises Buddhism at the Sekishoin guest house, is behind the somewhat impious clapbacks, which, he told British newspaper The Guardian , were born from a sense of frustration at “arrogant” foreign visitors. “Of course, they don’t speak one word of Japanese and they come here expecting everything to be handed to them on a platter,” he said. “You get impatient, even for a monk or a priest. I have to work on that.” Replying to one guest who had noted that the “strange” meals at Sekishoin were “quite unlike any food I’ve ever tasted”, Kimura said: “Yeah, it’s Japanese monastic cuisine you uneducated f***.” The comment has since been removed from Booking.com, but it proves a timely reminder that respect for traditions and cultures we are unaccustomed to is essential when visiting somewhere new, and that if it isn’t extended, we have to be prepared for the consequences, whether that’s being cussed at – or even told to stay away. Monk at Buddhist temple lodgings on Japan’s Mt. Koya is 100% done with your tourist crap pic.twitter.com/W6SZ1Sktwk — Melissa Martin (@DoubleEmMartin) July 23, 2018 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Thailand considers blanket booze ban over Songkran The Thai New Year holiday of Songkran, which takes place from April 13 to 15, is famous for its water fights and big, boozy bashes. But this year, the government is considering drying things up, at least as far as alcohol consumption is concerned. According to an article in Phuket-based English-language weekly The Thaiger , Thailand’s Department of Disease Control is lobbying for sales of alcohol to be suspended on April 13 in an effort to reduce drink-driving accidents, which spike during the annual festival, with most taking place on the first day of festivities. The bid will go before the country’s National Alcohol Policy Committee for approval later this month, but not everyone is convinced. “What about tourists who do not drive?” asks a Bangkok Post columnist. “Why do they have to have their pleasure spoiled?” Anyone in Thailand on March 16, 17, 23 and 24 should note that alcohol sales will also be banned on those days, as voters go to the polls for the general election, presumably to ensure that ballots are cast with a clear head. No flip-flops, Italy’s Cinque Terre tell tourists The Cinque Terre are a string of five fishing villages on the picturesque Italian Riviera, a Unesco World Heritage Site and a tourist honeypot, drawing the crowds to Instagram the houses’ colourful facades and hike the clifftop trails. But only those appropriately shod. Anyone attempting to take to the walkways this summer in flip-flops could face a fine of up to € 2,500 (US$2,810). English-language digital news site The Local Italy reported that rescuers were fed up of having to go to the aid of ill-prepared visitors who had become stranded on the mountainous paths. “We use the helicopter to rescue a lot of holidaymakers,” a pilot from nearby Genova told The Local. “Usually they’ve fallen down along the road of the Cinque Terre or they’ve injured themselves because of a lack of experience or equipment.” Regional Italian newspaper La Genova Repubblica reports that the Cinque Terre are expecting 750,000 visitors between April and October, up from 450,000 in the same period last year. So, maybe the best advice is to not go at all, at least in peak season. And to pack water, sunscreen, a hat and proper hiking boots when you do. After all, this isn’t the Dragon’s Back.