Spotted in Japan: What Are “Begpackers” And Why Are They Hated So Much?

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  • Tourism is a very important industry, bringing billions of dollars to the most visited countries. Japan has become a very important touristic destination in recent years, and as its popularity increases, a trend that has been on the rise around the world might be making an appearance in the Land of the Rising Sun. However, this trend has been infuriating locals in many cities and countries across the world: the so-called “begpackers”.

    What Are Begpackers?

    Begpackers or beg-packers are backpackers who beg for money in the countries the are visiting to fund their trips or adventures. Begpackers have gained a lot of criticism in many cities and countries, where their sight and antics have caused locals to feel annoyed and wonder why they decided to visit in the first place if they were not going to have enough money to complete their trips.

    What’s Other Countries Have Done

    The trend is very common in Southeast Asia, but it has recently been targeted by various governments that were fed up with all the tourists begging on the streets. One of these countries was Thailand, which used to be one of the most popular destinations among begpackers. Thai authorities decided to crack down on this type of unwanted tourist, requiring everyone entering the country to show proof that they have enough money to complete their trips.

    This is not a new concept since other countries around the world have similar policies. For example, Seychelles require all foreign visitors to have a return ticket, booking accommodations for the entirety of their trip, and a minimum of 150 dollars a day. Ergo, Seychelles makes it very clear that you are a tourist and cannot overstay your welcome and beg to fund your vacation.

    A few years ago, there was a storm of outrage due the increasing number of begpackers who would stand around crowded areas, including those were the poorest of the poor lived, asking for money to fund their trips. Locals became enranged because of the number of beggars that had plagued the city, and because they were doing so even in areas where people lived in conditions that exemplified the terrible wage gap that sees the richest Hongkongers making 44 times more than the poorest residents. In recent months, the number of begpackers and buskers has been decreasing after its peak in 2016, which is largely attributed to the public backlash and that begging in Hong Kong can lead to fines and jail time.

    What About Japan?

    There are signs that begpacking has reached Japan. Some users on Twitter recently posted on images showing that some foreigners were asking for money. The tactic in Japan has been a little different. In these cases, begpackers hand Japanese flags to locals. Once the person grabs the flag, the beggar proceeds to ask for money. Sometimes they will hand a card that states that they are deaf, and that by giving them 500 yen in exchange for the flag, the donors will be supporting the begpackers’ trips. In most cases, the card seemed to be a template, casting doubts on the beggars’ true situations.

    Clash With Japanese Culture

    As it’s to be expected, these recent encounters have been met with criticism. Particularly because of the way begpackers are conducting the transaction. By handing the flag and then asking for money, the begpackers are actually scamming people and pressuring them into buying the flag.

    The biggest problem is that, as a rule of thumb, Japanese are not confrontational. So victims can find it difficult to evade a begpacker’s antics. However, begging is frowned upon and Japanese, so the success of these encounters might not favor the begpackers.

    Future Repercussions

    Of course, this is purely hypothetical, but if begpackers start coming to Japan prior to or after the Olympics, we might see stricter entry restrictions. As of now, you may be denied entry if the Japanese immigration officers perceive that one doesn’t have the means to support oneself. This could change drastically to actually providing proof of funds, or going the Seychelles-way and asking tourists to show they have booked accommodations for the entirety of their trip.

    Additionally, a rise of this trend in the Japanese archipelago could bring something that would affect most foreigners: a bad impression on foreing visitors and/or xenophobia.

    Conclusion

    It is sad to see that there have been instances of backpackers asking for money so they can fund their trips. As of now, there don’t seem to be many cases, which could be due to Japan’s overall attitude on begging. However, if the numbers of begpackers were to increase, attitudes towards foreign tourists could gradually deteriorate, affecting future visitors and residents.