(CNN) – Like many travelers around the world, Jesse Katayama found his dream trip frustrated by the spread of Covid-19.
He already had his ticket and permission to enter the UNESCO World Heritage site on March 16, but that was when the Peruvian government chose to close the site. Katayamawas stranded.
Since then, the 26-year-old boxing coach Katayama has become a local of Aguas Calientes, having rented a small room for the past seven months.
Although the border closures prevented him from visiting other countries in South America, he made the most of his experience by exploring local attractions such as Mount Putucusi and Calientes Waterfalls. He even taught boxing lessons to some local kids and made friends in his occasional new hometown.
Katayama told CNN that his goal was to open his boxing hall when he returned to Osaka, so he used the lockdown period to practice his moves.
“I go running every morning and I can see Machu Picchu from afar,” Katayama told CNN. “I thought I would never reach Machu Picchu since I was expecting it not to open during the year. But I was okay with that because I had a great time here.”
An Inca castle in more typical conditions.
Chris Boronckel / AFP / Getty Images
In a celebratory post on Instagram, Katayama wrote: “I thought I had never come (to Machu Picchu) but everyone asked the government and the city and played with me a very special permission.” He added: “The Peruvians are very kind. Thank you very much!”
He told CNN that he will leave Peru for Japan on October 16. As he prepares to return home, he says goodbye to the townspeople who have become friends with him over the past months. Several local children drew Katayama pictures and made a doll out of toilet paper rolls for him.
“I will definitely cry,” he says of his farewell to Aguas Calientes. “These seven months were very special for me. I discovered a new part of me.”
“The Japanese citizen entered with the president of our park so that he could do so before returning to his country,” Peruvian Culture Minister Alejandro Nera told reporters.
Neira added that there are plans to reopen Machu Picchu to visitors at 30% capacity, but did not specify an exact date.
CNN’s Yuko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.