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Japan's Kyoto Temporarily Bans Rude Tourists from Taking Photos of Geisha Without Consent

Repeated incidents of misbehavior from rude and impolite tourists involving trespassing and misbehaving with Geisha has compelled Kyoto to take a stand.


Updated:October 28, 2019, 6:05 PM IST
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Japan's Kyoto Temporarily Bans Rude Tourists from Taking Photos of Geisha Without Consent
A Geisha walks Kyoto in March, 2009 | Image credit: AFP (Representational)

Japan has decided to crack down on tourists visiting the historic Gion neighborhood in Kyoto, home to the Japanse Geisha.

Millions of tourists flock to Kyoto every year to take a step back in time in the well-preserved, old-timey culture and local flavour of the city. However, repeated incidents of misbehavior from rude and impolite tourists involving trespassing on and photographing private property or grabbing Geisha and maiko (apprentice Geisha) off streets to forcibly take photos of or with them - has compelled the city to take steps against curbing such frivolity.

An association made of local residents and shop keepers in the city's Gion District have voted in favor of a temporary ban on tourists entering and photographing private streets, especially in the vicinity of Hanamikoji street. Residents have been printing and circulating fliers and posters reminding tourists of maintaining good etiquette when approaching with a Geisha or maiko while warning them to keep off private streets and property.

The new rules came into effect on Oct 25 and a fine of ¥10,000 (approximately Rs 6,500) has also been put in place. The pilot project, which will be in effect till December, is being carried out by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in co-operation with the Kyoto government.

According to NHK News, Mimiko Takayasu, the chief of the residents' body said that imposition of the ban was meant to preserve the culture and tradition of Gion.

In 2017, the quaint, temple-rich town of Kyoto received over 53 million tourists. As per new rules which are also being circulated among tourists via text messages, tourists are not allowed to snap photos of geisha without consent, touch traditional lanterns that fill Kyoto streets or walk from the middle of the road.

Geisha, traditionally dressed women skilled in the preforming arts with painted faces and elaborate hairdos are part of Japan's ancient culture. However, Hollywood and pop-culture have made the image of the Geisha a familiar (albeit misunderstood) figure in many Western countries.

It is important for tourists to remember that Geisha are not sponsored by the tourism department and when one of seen on streets, she is usually going about her life and is as much a consenting adult as the tourists who may not wish to be snapped by strangers or spoken to at any given time.

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