Tourists in world-famous city banned from taking photos after ‘treating area like theme park’

By Staff

Authorities in Gion, part of Kyoto City, Japan, are trying to ensure its tourism trade is sustainable – but generating income while managing residents’ needs is proving tough

Tourists are banned from taking photographs – and entering alleyways – in part of a Japanese city after “treating it like a theme park”.

Authorities in Gion, part of Kyoto City, are fed up with visitors chasing traditional street performers through the district. Local media says the scenes have resembled those in theme parks and so an association made up of local residents and shop owners has introduced a tough new rule.

It means anyone caught taking pictures of the performers – known as geisha – or even entering private alleyways or roads, often secluded and narrow, will be fined up to 10,000 yen (£52). The alleyway ban is the newest of the rules, which one councillor says have been implemented because “livelihoods are at threat”.

One geisha in Gion had part of her clothing torn and another had a cigarette butt inserted into her collar in unpleasant incidents in recent years. Sora News, a Japanese publication, states: “One area struggling more than most is Gion, which, despite being a place of work and residence for many locals, has been treated like something of a theme park by tourists, who have been known to chase and photograph geisha and maiko (trainee geisha) in the area.”

The alleyways in question are owned and maintained by individuals or corporations and designed to only be used by those who live or work on the road, unlike public roads, which are owned by the government and open to the public. Signs have been put in place across the historical district warning anyone who uses these alleyways they’ll get into trouble.

Isokazu Ota, Gion Southside District councillor, said: “Livelihoods (are) now threatened” and so the association had no choice but to implement the rule. In addition, he said roads are narrow and can easily become overcrowded, posing a danger to both residents and tourists, especially in the presence of “maiko paparazzi,” the informal name given to tourists who follow local maiko and geisha and wait outside teahouses where they work.

Maiko and geisha live and work on these roads and apprentice geisha are often 16 to 17 years of age, so concern is growing for their safety. They have often been hounded by strangers can be frightening, and potentially dangerous, for them.

The alleyway ban will come into effect from 1 April, and the council says signage will make it clear which roads are public and which are not. It added the rule was introduced carefully after six months of discussion. Gion has a big tourism industry and welcomed more than two million foreign visitors in January alone, it is believed.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *