Kamakura, Japan, asks tourists not to eat while walking

Officials concerned over packaging from food

By Lilit Marcus, CNN
POOL via CNN

Kamakura is home to Japan's largest Buddha.

Street food is a staple of many countries. But does that mean you should both buy and eat your food in the street? Japan is struggling to answer that question, particularly when it comes to popular tourist areas.

Kamakura, in the prefecture of Kanagawa, is one of them.

In April, the city issued an official ordinance asking visitors not to eat while walking.

One major concern is trash from packaging and from leftover food, which can attract animals and make a mess that locals will have to clean up.

Kamakura is about 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Yokohama. It's home to some of the country's best-known temples, as well as for gorgeous beaches.

A representative from Kamakura city told CNN that the ordinance -- which is posted in public areas -- was created to build awareness of the issue rather than to penalize travelers. There are no fines or citations for people who violate the request.

In particular, Komachi-dori, a busy street with lots of shops, has been a focus of attention when it comes to eating outside.

The street is a stop on many local food tours, despite also being a commercial area.

Japan Today reports that 50,000-60,000 people visit Komachi-dori every day, which seems even more overwhelming when you realize the street is only 350 meters (1200 feet) long.

However, concerns about eating while walking are not just about potential spills and messy clothes.

Many Japanese people believe it is poor manners to walk or do other physical activities while eating because it means you're not appreciating your food properly. For some, this belief has its roots in World War II, when food was scarce and it was something to be treasured, not treated casually.

The issue of tourists eating in the street isn't a concern isolated to Japan.

In Florence, Italy, a section of the city center has an outright ban on chowing down "on sidewalks, roadways and on the doorsteps of shops and houses." It's not just about hygiene -- this is an extremely busy and crowded part of the city, and people sitting on sidewalks makes it even harder for others to walk around.

In Florence's case, the restrictions come with steep penalties -- namely, a €500 ($581) fine.

Meanwhile a city with arguably the world's best street food, Bangkok, has been trying to figure out what to do with its outdoor markets and food stalls for some time.

Some locals want restrictions or even closures because of the ever-growing crowds of people, but others believe there can be a happy medium between a vibrant street vendor culture and not getting in the way of everyday life, such as blocking of traffic lanes.

CNN's Junko Ogura contributed reporting to this piece.

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