Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Eiffel Tower. Trash. The Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe. Rudeness. The River Seine. Dog poop. Shopping on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. You may be wondering why these famous Parisian sites and unpleasant realities are all jumbled together. Well, they are the target of the nine largest Japanese tour operators in the City of Lights. France, in particular Paris, is causing such extreme levels of disappointment to Japanese tourists, that change is necessary.
For the last decade, Paris has been among the most popular tourist destinations for Japanese vacationers. On average during those ten years, around 600,000 people visited France’s capital city. Unfortunately, numbers have plummeted over the last year. Part of this is due to the terrorist attacks carried out in November 2015. However, another reason for the steep decline in tourists is that Japanese visitors find the urban center to be filthy, especially when compared to the cleanliness of Japan’s cities. In an effort to drum up the tourist trade, the Japanese tour operators located in Paris are headed to some famous attractions to make sure they are free of litter. Over the next two weekends, they will be cleaning around the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero Gardens.
Undoubtedly, the hundreds of people employed by the tour operators will encounter dog poop during their cleaning endeavors. According to Yves Contassot, the former environmental chief of Paris, the Japanese are particularly sensitive to the amount of animal feces in the city. Going all the way back to 2001, when the French capital was a candidate to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the Japanese delegates on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) discredited the bid by stressing the city was incapable of hosting, due to its excessive amount of dog poop.
As disturbing as that poop may be, Japanese tourists are bothered even more by the rudeness of the French. Many visitors to France comment on this, but the Japanese have taken it a step further. The locals’ hostility, coupled with the city’s failure to meet the visitors’ romantic vision of the area, leads to a psychiatric breakdown, referred to as ‘Paris Syndrome.’ According to the Japanese embassy, around one dozen people, mostly women in their 30s, experience this syndrome each year. There is such great concern surrounding this ‘syndrome’ that the embassy staffs a 24-hour helpline for anyone who experiences culture shock and needs either hospitalization in France or immediate transport back to Japan.