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Machu Picchu all to yourself? Japanese tourist gets special solo tour of ancient site

Culture ministry gives Jesse Katayama access after being stranded in Peru for seven months because of coronavirus

Peru’s culture ministry opened up the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu at the weekend for a Japanese tourist who has been stranded in the country for more than seven months.

Jesse Katayama, a boxing instructor from Nara, was due to visit Machu Picchu in March but the Incan citadel was shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the BBC, Katayama ended up stranded in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes after Covid-19 travel restrictions were put in place.

The culture minister Alejandro Neyra said in a virtual press conference that the Japanese visitor was granted access after submitting a special request to the local tourism authority. Katayama posted on Instagram that “Machu Picchu is so cute!... I thought I couldn’t go but [many people] asked the government… I’m the one who went to Machu Picchu first [after lockdown].”

The last statement posted on the Machu Picchu website, dated from July, says that “the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Trade and Tourism are coordinating the prompt reopening of Machu Picchu”.

The statement adds: “Neyra stressed that the reopening of Machu Picchu is important for Peruvians, as a symbol of national pride and also as a budget issue, because it is one of the places that generates the most income for the culture sector.” The BBC reports that the Inca stronghold, a Unesco world heritage site since 1983, is expected to reopen at reduced capacity next month.

More than 1.5 million people make the pilgrimage to the Inca city annually. In 2017, Unesco threatened to place the famous ruins on its list of endangered heritage sites because of fears about overcrowding; Peruvian authorities subsequently brought in measures to control the flow of tourists and visitor numbers were capped at around 2,240 daily.