Jesse Katayama, 26, had the whole historical site all to himself after waiting to visit it since March.
Not many people get to witness the magnificent structure that is the 15th-century Incan city of Machu Picchu and cross it off their bucket list. Traveler Jesse Katayama was just about to pay the site visit when the UNESCO World Heritage site was closed off from public visits due to the pandemic. This left Katayama stranded in a small town in Peru from the months following his entry to the country in March. And he did not even get a chance to take a look at Machu Pichu. But earlier this week, Katayama had the honor of getting an exclusive entry to the historical site.
Katayama, a native of Osaka, Japan, arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town from which most people begin their Machu Picchu expeditions, on March 14. He had his entry ticket and permit to visit the Incan citadel in the Andes Mountains, on March 16. This was also when the Peruvian government opted to close the site down leaving Katayama in the lurch, reported CTV News. But the 26-year-old boxing instructor made the best of the dire situation and became a part of the town for the following months. He rented a small room in the town since the border restrictions did not allow him to travel to neighboring South American countries.
Instead, he assimilated into the culture of the town and took the opportunity to explore local attractions like Putucusi Mountain and the Calientes Waterfalls. "I go to run every morning and I could see Machu Picchu afar in distance," Katayama told CNN. "I thought I would never make it to Machu Picchu as I was expecting it won't open within this year. but I was OK with it because I had a great time here." While he waited, he started giving boxing classes to the children in Aguas Calientes and had made great friends in the town. He took this time to work on his boxing moves since he wants to open his own boxing gym when he returns to Osaka.
But Katayama was quickly running out of money and was also losing hope of actually getting to visit Machu Pichu. That's when Andean Roots Peru, a local tour company came to his rescue. With help from the national Ministry of Culture, Takayama was given special permission to enter Machu Picchu. He had the whole site, which would be full of tourists, all to himself. But he was accompanied by Jose Bastante, the site's chief along with two photographers who documented the experience. “He had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter,” Alejandro Neyra, the minister of culture said in a virtual press conference. “The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.”
Katayama uploaded pictures of him beaming in front of the site with the caption, "The first person on Earth who went to Machu Picchu since the lockdown is meeeeeee." He also thanked the Peruvian and said, "I thought that I wouldn't be able to go, but thanks to all of you who pleaded with the mayor and the government, I was given this super special opportunity." He will now be on his way back to Japan. "I will definitely cry," he says about his farewell to Aguas Calientes which has been a home for him all these months. "These seven months have been very special to me. I have discovered a new part of me."