Peru’s special allowance for Japanese tourist sees Machu Picchu get its only visitor since March


It took a pandemic for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu in Peru to entertain exclusively a special tourist who is perhaps one of the few for whom the coronavirus crisis has not spelled just disaster. That lucky fellow happens to be a young Japanese man, 26 year old Jesse Katayama who has been stranded in Peru for most of an abominable 2020.

The most visited tourist attraction in Peru, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu featured prominently on the bucket list of boxing instructor Katayama, as it does with almost everyone who set their foot on the American country. With his entry ticket and the permit in hand, Jesse’s long standing dream could have come true as early as in March if it had not been for the ravages of the COVID-19 that prompted an urgent lockdown in most parts of the world. Seven months later however, Jesse Katayam indeed did live his dream and how!

“The first person on Earth who went to Machu Picchu since the lockdown is meeeeeee,” posted Katayama on Instagram as Peruvian authorities facilitated an early reopening of the site a couple of days back exclusively for him. With Katayama set to return to his home country on October 16th, it indeed has been a special gesture by Peru’s Ministry of Culture who granted him permission to enter the site ahead of its probable official reopening in November. As a couple of days planned trip to Peru turned into a seven month staycation for Katayama, it only was worth his time in the country that the young man did not have to return without doing what every visitor to Peru would unfailingly do.

Accompanied by the chief of the site of Machu Picchu and two photographers who documented the entire ‘solitary’ experience, Jesse finally could witness up close and personal a site forever fancied but one that he had been witness from afar every day during his extended stayover at Peru’s Aguas Calientes. Also exploring local attractions like Putucusi Mountain and the Calientes Waterfalls, Jesse made sure that his time in Peru wasn’t one spent idle. He even gave boxing classes to some kids during his stay, something that he believes would bode him well when he opens his own boxing gym upon his return home.

Accessible to tourists since 1948 and closed down just once in 2010 for a couple of months when a flood destroyed the railway tracks connecting the historic 15th century site to Cusco, Machu Picchu is a buzzing tourist attraction with 675 people allowed on a daily basis, a number that is likely to come down to a mere 30% when the expected reopening commences later this year. With the highest per-capita mortality rate of the COVID 19 outbreak anywhere in the world and also one of the strictest global lockdowns, Peru sure wasn’t the most ideal of countries to find himself in during the crisis but Jesse Katayama still had a great time there. And with his happy wandering experience in the ruins of Machu Picchu of what is an exclusive privilege granted to him, the Japanese native sure would return home with even fonder memories of the country.