By Leika Kihara and Takahiko Wada
KYOTO, Japan (Reuters) – It’s peak summer holiday time in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto, when throngs of international tourists would usually be flocking to its famous temples and spending up large in the city’s hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Instead, streets are empty, shops are closed and hotels are struggling to survive as the coronavirus pandemic shuts off the supply of visitors and ravages the economy.
“This is far worse than during the Lehman crisis,” said an 80-year-old taxi driver, referring to the financial crash of 2008. “Some days I would earn just 2,000 yen ($20). I won’t make any money once I buy lunch and pay my gas bill.”
The plight of Kyoto and other cities in the western Kansai region has exposed the vulnerability of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strategy that sought to revive local economies with an influx of