Street food is often encountered in many countries. When visiting a new city and walking around street markets people love to hop from food truck to food stall and enjoy savory dishes and sweet treats either while walking, near the food truck, or in parks. But this seems to be a great inconvenience in tourist popular cities like Kyoto and Kamakura where local officials are struggling to find ways to ask tourists to stop eating while walking.
Even though Nishiki Market has been known for over 400 years as the kitchen of Kyoto, the market association is now trying to stop tourists from eating while walking around the market. The municipal government estimates that around 30% of foreign tourists in Kyoto in 2017 visited the market that harbors 120 stores selling kyōyasai (heirloom vegetables), fresh fish or pickled vegetables, as well as foods that are easy to eat while walking, such as shichimi ice cream, senbei, and fried fish on sticks. The main issue caused by this practice is litter, as well as the concern that in crowded conditions pedestrians risk getting injured by sharp food sticks carried by others.
That is why the market association has asked stores since last October to display signs saying “No eating while walking” in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean, the policy is for now a request and not a rule, the city is asking visitors to cooperate rather than outright banning the practice. On its website, the association calls on people to eat their food at the shop where it was purchased. Katsumi Utsu, president of the association stated:
“We want to keep protecting the traditions of the market while showing care for foreign travelers. We want visitors to return home without any trouble.”
Another important tourist city where eating on the street has become a problem is Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture. The city is about 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Yokohama, being home to popular temples and gorgeous beaches. Here, the city’s Komachi-dori, a 360-meter-long street lined with eateries and shops, is visited by 50,000 to 60,000 tourists a day.
The city issued an official ordinance in April this year asking visitors to not eat while walking, aiming to improve street manners. The ordinance was posted in public areas and was meant to build awareness of the issue rather than to penalize travelers. However, not complying, similar to Kyoto, it does not come with sanctions, but it describes eating while walking in crowded areas as a public nuisance that can ruin other people’s’ clothes. Another concern is trash from packaging and leftover food which can attract animals and also makes a mess that locals will have to clean up.
Plus, many Japanese people believe it is poor manners to walk or do other physical activities while eating because it means you’re not appreciating your food properly. Meanwhile, Norikazu Takahashi, president of the Komachi store association states that the ordinance is merely a polite suggestion that visitors follow: “We can’t ban the act of eating while walking, as this is one of the ways to enjoy sightseeing. We want to make the street a place where both travelers and residents can feel good.”