Photo/IllutrationThe Togetsukyo bridge in the Arashiyama district in Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward on Oct. 29 (Yoshinori Mizuno)

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KYOTO--Fall leaf watchers headed for the famed Arashiyama district here can avoid the massive crowds through a trial website forecasting tourist congestion that utilizes data from their Wi-Fi smartphones.

The land ministry and Kyoto city and tourism officials jointly started the experiment on Nov. 10, which will continue through Dec. 17, for eight spots in the Arashiyama district, famed for beautiful fall foliage, such as Togetsukyo bridge.

“We want visitors to visit hidden areas which they didn’t know existed before to revitalize the entire Arashiyama district,” said an official of Kyoto's tourism office to promote meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE).

The official said the system could be extended to other tourist areas in Kyoto after seeing the test results. The Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide, which started Nov. 10, is at: (https://arashiyama.fun/?_submit=2018-11-12&type=all&lang=en).

According to the land ministry, data from visitors’ Wi-Fi smartphone usage is being used in the test, the first of its kind in Japan.

What the website shows is not a real-time congestion update, but a prediction for a specified day based on data collected on the same day of the week, a week before and earlier.

First, users select a date and one spot among eight locations in the Arashiyama district such as the Togetsukyo bridge, a bamboo grove or Matsunoo Taisha shrine. Then, an hourly prediction graph is displayed for the hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. When choosing a map page, the map shows a congestion forecast for the eight spots at a glance.

It also recommends routes to avoid the heaviest congestion.

From September, the data was accumulated through 13 sensors installed in the Arashiyama district that collect data on smartphones compatible with Wi-Fi. In October, a survey was conducted of 1,106 visitors coming to Arashiyama who were asked where and what time they visited there. In addition, the number of visitors to the district itself was examined.

The prediction of the best season for fall foliage viewing is also combined with that information.

The ancient capital has faced difficulties in easing congestion due to the increasing number of visitors from overseas.

In November 2017, about 4.93 million sightseers visited Kyoto. According to Kyoto officials, in the Arashiyama district, the number of visitors surged greatly during autumn and traffic concentrated in specific areas such as the Togetsukyo bridge.

The number of visitors in Kyoto, including foreigners, set a record in 2015 of 56.84 million, which is nearly a 10 million increase from the 47.27 million recorded a decade ago.

However, the numbers decreased in two consecutive years to 55.22 million in 2016 and 53.62 million in 2017, due to a drop in Japanese visitors.

“Probably because of the image that Kyoto is congested, the number of Japanese visitors on day trips decreased,” a city official said.

According to a comprehensive survey on the city’s tourism conducted in 2017, when Japanese visitors were asked about what was most regrettable about visiting Kyoto, the highest, 17.1 percent, chose the category that there are too many people and it is congested.

Of the foreign tourists surveyed, 6 percent chose the same category.