Machu Picchu opens to give stranded Japanese tourist 1-man tour

Kyodo -- Oct 17
A Japanese tourist left stranded for over 200 days at the foot of the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu due to the coronavirus pandemic had the site all to himself when he was finally able to visit this month.

Jesse Katayama, a 26-year-old boxing trainer from Nara Prefecture in western Japan, received special permission from the Peruvian government to visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site last Saturday after his plight caught the attention of the country.

"I didn't think I would really be able to go. While the ruins were, of course, amazing, I was extremely touched by all the people that made it happen," Katayama told Kyodo News.

He had a ticket to enter Machu Picchu on March 16 and arrived at the village at the foot of the ruins two days prior. It was meant to be his last stop on a trip around the world.

But the Peruvian government on March 15 declared a national state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus, closing its borders and restricting movement within the country. The ruins were closed as part of the shutdown.

While a charter flight was arranged for Japanese nationals left stranded in Peru, Katayama chose not to use it as the cost was too high and getting to the airport difficult.

He stayed on in the village instead, teaching boxing to children and learning yoga from the owner of his place of lodging.

Then, just as he had given up visiting Machu Picchu due to needing to return to Japan to take a qualifications exam in November, a local newspaper published a story about him with the headline "Machu Picchu's last tourist."

Katayama soon found himself flooded with messages and support from Peruvians saying they would ask the village mayor let him enter the site. It worked, and Katayama received special permission to visit.

- Kyodo