Kyoto, Japan's beautiful old imperial capital, is going broke fast

cbsnews.com -- May 21
The glorious ancient monuments, Zen temples and soaring pagodas of Kyoto have made it a major tourist draw for decades.

The Japanese city's population is only about 1.5 million, yet it boasts 17 individual UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But the bucolic scenery belies a painful reality: Japan's magnificent imperial capital city is running on empty.

Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa minced no words at a shocking news conference last year: "We're facing a crisis situation, with the prospect of bankruptcy within a decade."

Without steep cuts in public services, it was forecast that the city will fall $2 billion into debt, with all reserve funds exhausted, within just five years.

Japan's continuing ban on tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic has hit Kyoto especially hard. The city drew a whopping 88 million visitors in 2019 alone, but tourism has now dwindled to a trickle of mostly-domestic visitors. Japan's overall inbound tourism plunged to about 250,000 people last year, the lowest since record-keeping began in 1964.

But pandemic-related expenses and the collapse of tourism have merely exposed decades of fiscal mismanagement in the city. The red ink started flowing 30 years ago, when Kyoto built a second subway line at a cost that eventually ballooned to $4 billion. The Tozai line has never managed to meet its daily passenger targets. ...continue reading