Like many travelers around the world, Jesse Katayama found his dream trip hampered by the spread of COVID-19.
But after an unexpected seven-month stay in Peru, Katayama is finally passing Machu Picchu visit outside his bucket list – and he managed to enjoy being the only tourist there.
Katayama, a native of Osaka, Japan, arrived in Aguas Calientes – the city from which most people begin their Machu Picchu expeditions – on March 14th.
He already had his entry ticket in hand and permission to enter the UNESCO World Heritage site, but that was when the Peruvian government decided to close the site.
Katayama was trapped.
Since then, the 26-year-old boxing instructor has become a native of Aguas Calientes, where he has rented a small room for the past seven months.
Although border closures have kept him from visiting other South American countries, he has made his best experience exploring local attractions like Putucusi Mountain and Calientes Falls.
He even gave boxing lessons to some of the local kids and has made friends in his new accidental hometown.
From a distance
Katayama says his goal is to open his boxing gym when he returns to Osaka, so he used his blocking period to practice his moves.
I go jogging every morning and could see Machu Picchu in the distance, Katayama said.
I thought I would never get to Machu Picchu as I expected it not to open within this year. But I was okay with it because I had a great time here.
However, as he began to run out of money, it seemed that Katayama would have to return home to Japan without ever using his Machu Picchu ticket.
Enter Andean Roots Peru, a local tour company.
With help from the National Ministry of Culture, Katayama was given special permission to enter Machu Picchu – and to have the crowded place normally almost all to itself.
He was accompanied by two photographers who documented the experience and by Jose Bastante, the webmaster.
In a celebratory post on Instagram, Katayama wrote, I thought I would never succeed (Machu Picchu) but everyone asked the government and the city and they were playing me super special permission.
He added: Peruvians are so good. Thank you very much!
Katayama will leave Peru for Japan on October 16.
As he prepares to go home, he is saying goodbye to city dwellers who have become his friends in recent months.
Some local kids have drawn pictures of Katayama and created a doll for her from rolls of toilet paper.
I will definitely cry, he says of his farewell to Aguas Calientes.
These seven months have been very special to me.
These seven months have been very special to me. I discovered a new part of myself.
The Japanese citizen has entered along with our head of the park so that he can do so before returning to his country, Peruvian Minister of Culture Alejandro Neyra confirmed to reporters.
Neyra added that there are plans to reopen Machu Picchu to visitors with 30 percent capacity, but did not set an exact date.
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